Sales cycles differ from industry to industry – and they can also differ among a company’s products and services. A smaller-value item, for example an HPLC column, may have a short sales cycle, while the sales cycle for a big-ticket instrument such as a mass spectrometer may stretch months or longer. Layered on top of this are the opportunities for deeper sales. For instance, the lab manager who ordered a new HPLC column may also be interested in an updated HPLC system with new, useful features.
Sales cycles need to be constructed and managed in a consistent and cohesive way around those additional sales and outreach opportunities. For B2B companies, it’s all about relationships.
The last two years have seen B2B relationships go digital, as in-person facetime plummeted. McKinsey and Co. noted this in The B2B digital inflection point: How sales have changed during COVID-19: “Looking forward, B2B companies see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions.”
Today, driving the sales cycle forward and building and maintaining those customer relationships is less likely to happen on a tradeshow floor and more likely to occur somewhere in the digital domain. That means it has become more important than ever to map out the customer journey and keep prospects and customers engaged year after year.
How Do Marketing Automation Platforms Work?
Marketing automation, through its integration with a CRM, performs monotonous (but crucial) routine marketing tasks. It’s one of the first things we take a deep dive into when we work with a client.
Marketing automation helps put the right content in front of the right prospects at the right time, and it also helps optimize what sales is doing. This is especially important in the all-important nurturing phase as we move marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs).
By providing immediate feedback on performance, marketers learn whether they are hitting their goals and if their messaging is resonating. You can waste a lot of time (and money) churning out content, but if it isn’t getting the job done, you’re just spinning your wheels. Marketing automation enables you to do A/B testing at scale to find out what approaches work and which ones don’t.
According to HubSpot, 76% of all companies use marketing automation. Nearly 90% of companies who use marketing automation say their strategy is successful, and 80% of companies report an increase of leads after implementing marketing automation.
Marketing Campaigns Via Marketing Automation
When we build marketing campaigns for clients who have a marketing automation platform, we build the campaign side-by-side with a call to action driving to the marketing automation platform. All the lead captures flow through the marketing automation platform and feed into their CRM. This allows us to track everything.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say we have an ad that’s going in four different publications over the next six months. These ads could be digital or print, or a combination of both. We build a landing page for each ad, each publication, and each publication issue so that we can customize the content. We can then track multiple things, such as:
- Which ad creative drove clicks?
- Which platform drove clicks?
- Which landing page converted?
- What did visitors do after reaching the landing page?
This helps us hone both the messaging and the distribution channels to improve performance and provide an optimal ROI.
But, best-in-class marketing automation platforms – especially those that integrate with your CRMs – can take it a step further. When someone fills out a lead gen form, downloads a whitepaper, or signs up for an email newsletter, they become part of the marketing database. Everything flows into the automation platform and the CRM, so you immediately know if someone is a first-time or repeat visitor.
Here are some ways our clients leverage marketing automation to streamline the lead nurturing and sales process:
Let’s pause a moment for some quick history here. It wasn’t that long ago that marketers would create a print ad and they would direct customers to a website’s homepage or product page. When they got there, however, they didn’t know what they were supposed to do next. In essence, we never finished the marketing message to drive them through the buying cycle.
The next iteration was to create vanity URLs. This gave marketers a better opportunity to track visits, but it still fell short of being able to see exactly what potential leads did or if the messaging drove them forward.
The point at which things started to click was when marketers began creating stand-alone landing pages. When someone clicked on an ad or responded to an email, they were directed to a customized landing page which provided a seamless marketing message. Once there, we were able to use a lead gen form to capture an email. This enabled marketing to build the email list.
This worked and still does work for smaller businesses. We have clients that use this method because they don’t have a marketing automation platform, and it works for them. But, there are pieces — and opportunities — that they are missing.
Today, with marketing automation platforms, personalized marketing and tracking is at a marketer’s fingertips.
Sequencing Marketing Messages
With a marketing automation platform, new visitor information is captured, and the nurturing and tracking process can begin. For repeat visitors, marketing automation can look at past behavior to identify buying intent and nurture those leads with personalized content depending on their stage of the buying process.
Marketing automation platforms, through A/B testing and optimization best practices, learn the sequence of messages that tend to perform best at each stage. This automates the nurturing process with data-driven decision-making to deliver the best possible message.
For example, if someone downloads a white paper, automation captures their email and can send them a case study or brochure or launch an email sequence created by the marketing team based on what they downloaded. As they engage (or don’t engage) with additional content, the automation continuously adjusts the sequencing of content based on past interactions.
Similarly, if someone requests a demo on your website, they can immediately be sent a relevant piece of content to digest while the process of scheduling the demo takes place. They can also be automatically sent into a nurture stream that sends them additional content spaced out over a period of several months to keep them engaged with your company long after the demo takes place.
Another key task performed by marketing automation is lead scoring. Lead scoring reduces the amount of time sales teams chase poor quality leads and helps increase conversion rates. Automation tracks each lead as they engage with content, emails, the website, and more, assigning points to each particular type of engagement. The accumulation of points triggers events, such as notification for a formal price quote from the sales team, when a prospect transitions from a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead.
Data, of course, runs the world, so the longer you use marketing automation, the more data it collects and the more effective it becomes. Over time, the platform should be refined and optimized continuously based on the results of the collected marketing data. Some variables might include whether:
- You opt to assign higher (or lower) point totals to specific actions.
- Leads taking specific pathways convert at a higher rate.
- Certain ranges of scores tend to convert more rapidly.
Of course, one of the biggest advantages of marketing automation is what happens after the lead gets to the sales team. The system has given them a head start towards relationship-building. The sales team already has a wealth of information about the prospect, including what content they have engaged with and where their interests lie. This allows sales teams to interact at a much deeper level earlier in the relationship.
Contact us to learn more about powering your marketing with marketing automation.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.