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Taking the First Steps toward B2B Marketing Automation

By Stacie Susens, senior director, Marcom& PR, Kenshoo

Before making key business decisions, your potential customers are increasingly spending time researching online to educate themselves to make better decisions. According to Focus Research, 90 percent of B2B buyers prefer to consume content over the Internet. But even though they are researching more, they're often times only reading the "majority of an article."

This forces marketers to find new and innovative ways to connect and stay engaged with customers and prospects. With so many ways to reach out to current and potential customers - social media, search engine marketing, display advertising, email marketing, public relations, etc. – it quickly becomes evident that an automation tool that integrates your marketing efforts with your CRM system is key.

Imagine a prospective customer comes to your website and downloads a brochure that outlines your services and pricing. A good next step might be to send this prospect an email with a case study showing how one of your current customers grew their business by using your service. Wouldn't it be great if you had an automated system that could track this behavior and send this email automatically? This is the Holy Grail for B2B marketers, especially since many B2B companies have long sales cycles. Showing executives that your marketing efforts not only generated leads for the company, but also helped nurture leads into a customers is invaluable. Especially if you can show that you did it in an automated fashion that saved you time, enabling you to focus on the bigger picture of moving your business forward.

However, many B2B marketers are not capitalizing on this opportunity. According to the 2011 MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey, 76 percent of B2B marketers do not use a marketing automated solution. Is the daunting process of finding and implementing a solution holding you back? When done right, implementation can take roughly six months, according to Carlos Hidalgo at The Annuitas Group. So it's critical to start taking steps down that path today.

Here are two tips for getting started on the road to successful marketing automation:

  1. Map out buying stages

    Marketing and sales should sit down and map out the typical sales/buying stages for your product or service. Trace the path from initial lead to qualified prospect to actual customer. With this information, you can determine the best timing and marketing apertures needed to reach and nurture target customers. In turn, as you are evaluating marketing automation tools, you can use your ideal execution plan as it relates to the buying stages to determine what capabilities and functionality you need.

  2. Define buyer personas.

    After outlining the buying stages, work with your sales team to define the number of buyers in each deal and the motivations of each. Try to understand the persona of each buyer. Include job title, demographic characteristics, lifestyles, behaviors, etc. Having a solid understanding of the type of person you're trying to reach within each buying stage will help you determine the best content strategy. While a marketing automation tool can help you execute your plans efficiently, you still need relevant content (i.e., something to say) to make it effective. This takes a strategic plan centered around your target audience.

After the two exercises above, you should be ready to seek out a marketing automation tool to help you execute your marketing and content deployment strategy. With dozens of companies to choose from, start tapping your network for referrals and doing your own research to come up with a short list to evaluate. To begin, check-out Topseos.com for its ranking of the top 10 marketing automation software solutions ranked by factors such as ease of use, implementation time, support, etc.