Implementing a Marketing Automation Solution

Jesse Hopps

According to the CMO Council’s Marketing Outlook 2008 study that polled over 820 senior marketing professionals, some of the top challenges for marketing leaders in 2008 include:

  1. Quantifying the Value of Marketing: measuring the impact of marketing programs and investments continues to be the top challenge for marketers.
  2. Increasing Credibility of the Marketing Function: while 79% of respondents are increasing the perceived value of marketing, 19% are losing credibility.
  3. Improving Marketing Department Efficiency: many organizations will be automating key marketing processes and implementing marketing ROI systems.
  4. Generating More Qualified Leads: emphasis on leveraging analytics to score lead quality, and lead nurturing strategies to incubate & develop prospects.

Definition of Marketing Automation

Marketing automation solutions incorporate business strategies, marketing processes, and automation technologies to generate, qualify, and develop leads along the entire sales cycle.

Key Marketing Automation concepts include: Lead Acquisition, Lead Scoring, Lead Nurturing, and Lead Assignment.

Following are definitions for each concept:

  • Lead Acquisition: leads are acquired when prospects inquire or respond to marketing campaigns such as tradeshows, email marketing, direct mail, cold-calling, search engine marketing, online advertising, etc.
  • Lead Scoring: leads are scored for quality based on explicit profile criteria (job title, company size, location, etc) and implicit behaviors (website visits, downloads, event registrations, form submissions, etc).
  • Lead Nurturing: leads are incubated until they are ready for follow-up by sales. Typically, nurturing involves a steady flow of communications designed to educate the buyer and align purchasing and sales cycles.
  • Lead Assignment: once leads reach a specified quality score, they are deemed sales-ready and are assigned to sales representatives for immediate follow-up.

In the past, marketers were using disparate systems for email marketing, website analytics, direct mail, online advertising, etc, making it extremely difficult to accurately track the results of integrated marketing efforts.

New advances in Marketing Automation technology are providing mid-sized enterprises with systems that can automate manual marketing processes and drive efficiency.

Most Marketing Automation solutions can be integrated directly with CRM systems to track leads from initial inquiry to sale, providing a closed loop reporting mechanism for marketing activities, enabling campaign ROI measurement.

Marketing Automation Solution Benefits

Implementing an integrated Marketing Automation infrastructure composed of skilled people, automated processes, and integrated technology provides numerous benefits, including:

  • Alignment of Sales & Marketing: alignment occurs when sales and marketing can agree on the definition of a qualified lead; systems are integrated to provide visibility into activities and results; and the loop is closed between lead source and revenue generated.
  • Increased Win Rates: leads that are scored and nurtured before being handed off to sales close at higher win rates as purchasing & sales cycles are more aligned.
  • Reduced Cost per Lead: when key marketing processes such as lead scoring, lead nurturing, and lead assignment are automated, less resources are required to manage new opportunities. Additionally, the use of a web/email-based approach can drastically reduce acquisition costs for new prospects and opportunities.
  • Improved Accountability & Credibility: marketing leaders can provide accountability for their spending once they are able to quantify the impact of their investments. When deployed properly, Marketing Automation solutions increase credibility by providing a system of record that tracks and measures marketing activities and associated business results.
  • Better Allocation of Resources: having detailed analytics on prospect behaviors and campaign ROI provides marketers with the insight needed to optimize spending on the most profitable marketing programs.

Marketing Automation System Components

At a high level, most marketing automation systems provide similar functionality: campaign measurement & reporting; marketing automation & lead management; individual web analytics & search engine marketing; direct marketing & database management; lead conversion & landing pages/forms; CRM/MS Outlook Integration.

If you are interested in marketing automation systems, consider researching the following vendors: Eloqua, Manticore, Marketo, Pardot, LoopFuse, and eTrigue.

For more information on key vendors, review Demand Metric’s Marketing Automation Vendors Matrix.

Marketing Automation System Components & Functionality:

  • Marketing Automation & Lead Management: leads can be automatically scored based on profile criteria and behaviors; leads can be added to nurturing campaigns to align purchasing & sales cycles; prospects can be routed to the appropriate sales representative based on assignment rules; sales users can be notified of prospect behavior such as website visits or document downloads; auto-responder emails are sent when a prospect interacts with the website (completes a form, etc); automation rules can be configured to add/delete prospects from programs based on their activities.
  • Web Analytics & Search Engine Marketing: individual website visitor activity can be tracked and provided to sales users; paid search campaigns and online advertisement programs can be integrated to track original lead source; website search queries can be tracked and tied to prospects; natural/organic search traffic can be tracked and keywords used to find your website are identified; non-registered companies can be identified based on their corporate IP address.
  • Direct Marketing & Database Management: contact lists can be imported, stored, and de-duplicated; email marketing campaigns can be executed with tracked URLs to determine click-through rates; prospects from all channels (events, cold-calling, direct mail, etc) can be tracked by original lead source; variables such as “first name” can be dynamically inserted into email/direct mail collateral; bi-directional CRM system integration.
  • Lead Conversion, Landing Pages/Forms, & PURLs: web forms can be created by marketing without I/T support; unique URLs can be used to track leads from advertising, direct mail, or other offline campaigns; personalized URLs (PURLs) or landing pages can be created to provide more customized interactions with customers; data can be captured from web forms that were not completed or submitted; forms can block invalid/free email addresses (hotmail, yahoo, gmail, etc) to ensure leads are qualified; form fields can be customized and set up to capture additional information during subsequent web visits.

Implementing a Marketing Automation Solution

Developing an integrated Marketing automation strategy that is highly automated and measures return on investment is not reserved for Fortune 500 marketing organizations. In fact, there are many affordable Marketing automation solutions that can be integrated and implemented very rapidly.

If you are charged with generating measurable demand, follow these best practices to optimize your processes and leverage advances in Marketing Automation technology:

    1. Learn Best Practices: attend webcasts such as Optimizing Lead Generation or High Performance Demand Creation with industry thought-leaders. Alternatively, read blog postings from innovative marketing leaders in the Marketing Automation industry: Best Practices in Demand Generation, Lead Management, and Innovative Marketer.
    2. Understand Strengths & Weaknesses: complete our Marketing Automation Maturity Assessment to see how your current processes & systems compare to best practices and other mid-sized marketing organizations
  1. Develop a Marketing automation Strategy: use our Lead Generation Scorecard to set your strategic objectives, initiatives, measures, and targets.
  2. Agree on “Qualified Lead” Definition: use our Lead Scoring Index and Lead Acquisition Model to build alignment between sales and marketing on the definition of a “qualified lead.”
  3. Document Sales & Marketing Processes: define the stages in your sales pipeline and clearly document key marketing processes & campaigns for lead acquisition, lead nurturing, and lead assignment. For assistance, use our Marketing Automation Consulting RFP to hire a consultant to facilitate this initiative.
  4. Benchmark Key Metrics: if you don’t have historical data, establish benchmarks for the following metrics: Cost Per Lead = budget / total # leads, Win Rate % = wins / closed opportunities, Acquisition Cost = cost per lead / win rate, Lead Conversion % = # opportunities / leads, Lead Source % = # leads / # total leads , and Return on Marketing = pipeline value / spend.
  5. Research Marketing automation Systems: review key marketing automation vendors with our Marketing Automation Vendors Matrix.
  6. Select a Marketing automation Vendor: use our Marketing Automation System RFP to document your key business & system requirements. Next, use our Marketing Automation Vendor Evaluation Matrix to compare solutions based on your key requirements.
  7. Implement Marketing automation System: import contact lists; add tracking code to your corporate website; customize landing pages & forms for lead conversion; create marketing automation rules for sales alerts, lead scoring, lead nurturing, and lead assignment; integrate with MS Outlook, CRM system, and online advertising platforms; design HTML email templates for campaigns and “drip” programs.
  8. Post Value-Added Content on your Website: add content to your website to provide an incentive for prospects to register (complete form) and become leads. Some examples of great value-added content include: Whitepapers & Data Sheets, Case Studies, Business Cases & ROI Calculators, and Webcasts & Podcasts.
  9. Execute Integrated Multi-Channel Campaigns: leverage your websites new tracking capability to measure prospect behavior and buying signals. Add unique URLs to track ads & direct mail, or place tracked URLs in your email marketing campaigns to monitor response rates and individual website visitor activity.
  10. Monitor Results and Refine Processes: evaluate your programs to tweak lead acquisition, lead scoring, lead nurturing, and lead assignment processes. Report on improvements to key metrics and invest in programs that are providing a quantifiable return on investment.