Remember the old car commercials that featured the tag line: “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile”? Or, how about the ads that proclaimed: “Orange juice — It isn’t just for breakfast anymore”?
These messages were clear. The advertisers were urging people to rethink the way they viewed classic products and to recognize the expanded possibilities they offered. Today, the same is true for marketing automation. How about:
“This is not your father’s marketing automation platform.”
“Marketing automation — It isn’t just for demand generation anymore.”
OK, maybe we need to work on those. But, in the meantime, the basic premise holds true. While marketing automation did originate as a way to drive interest in a company’s products or services (and leads!), today it can — and does — do so much more.
Yes, demand generation is important. But so are branding and customer retention and expansion. And marketing automation is an invaluable tool for managing all three essential marketing components.
A brief history of the universe of marketing automation
The first marketing automation systems, launched in the early 90s, were expensive and a bit “clunky,” i.e. not user friendly. It took almost 15 years before the automation gained significant traction.
But by 2012, the majority of enterprise companies had adopted marketing automation and much of the mid-market was flirting with the promise. Marketing automation was a game changer because it allowed marketers to track their programs and prove their contribution to value. MA and demand gen were the perfect fit and went together hand-in-hand.
Additionally, demand generation has the following characteristics:
- It’s a data-driven function. It gives marketers clear targets, and lets them prove the value of their programs and their contribution to revenue. (It’s hard to argue with good numbers.)
- It encourages the never-ending race for ever-bigger lead numbers. No matter what the marketing team delivers to sales this month, there’s constant pressure to top that number next month.
- It’s a metric valued by the brass, who value it the same way they do a sales number.
- As a function, it’s always evolving. Just as you’ve solved one problem, another one emerges.
- It can be a bridge (or a divide) between sales and marketing departments. Sales teams often believe that marketing doesn’t deliver the number of quality leads they need to meet their revenue number. In turn, marketing departments feel that sales doesn’t follow up on the leads they deliver. This too-common issue spans all industries and verticals.
It’s little wonder that demand generation became a media darling and a hot topic that pulled in readers and rankings for years.
In spite of all the hype, we weren’t convinced that demand gen was truly the king of the castle. So we commissioned a study of marketing leaders’ to see if marketing today really is all demand gen, all the time.
The results of our study may surprise you: Our study showed that 87% of marketing teams report dedicating at least half their staff time to functions other than demand generation.
Shocking. But true.
Harness the diverse power of MA
Now that we’ve established that there is life beyond demand gen, we must take a look at a problem. Unfortunately, many marketers who’ve used marketing automation solely for demand generation haven’t so far fully realized how to leverage their existing technology to extend to branding and customer marketing needs.
Luckily there’s hope, though, and lots of it. The same tactics used for demand gen – trigger messaging, segmentation, scoring, nurturing – can also be applied to other marketing disciplines.
And this same MA technology makes your strategic execution consistent, repeatable, scalable, and measurable, while ensuring a consistent customer experience.
If you haven’t thought about pointing your marketing automation platform in the direction of brand and customer marketer, you may very well be leaving money and opportunities on the table.
Successful B2B marketers understand the need to allocate their time and resources across the entire spectrum of marketing and acknowledge that an effective marketing strategy requires more than just driving demand for sales: It must also deliver a great customer experience from end-to-end.
For the modern buyer, experience is everything. And with unlimited access to information and choices, customers’ expectations are higher than ever. The buyer’s journey is not linear; it includes a series of touch points from the beginning stages of research to the eventual purchase. Over the course of a lead’s lifetime they might come into contact with your sales, marketing, and customer success departments. However, from their point of view, they are interacting with one company, not multiple departments. This means that all touch points need to be consistent, and not just for first-time buyers. This also means you need to concentrate on branding and expanding just as much as you concentrate on generating demand.
Boost Your Branding
Branding relies on strategically communicating your brand’s voice and positioning. It’s the promise you make to customers, and it needs to infuse every stage in your company’s growth and your customer’s lifecycle. Marketing automation helps you get your messaging out, and keep tabs on how the market, press, and analysts engage with your brand. When it comes to branding, marketing automation can help you manage a host of tasks and assist you in reaching your goals, including:
- Influencer relations. Score press, analysts, and bloggers so you can see who your most engaged and interested influencers are. Be aware of the pages they visit on your site, what they’re interested in, and the emails (pitches, press releases, events) they are engaging with. Use this intelligence to prioritize who you pitch and what your talk track is.
- Press release attribution. Sales can come from press releases! Create trackable URLs for press releases to tie PR activity back the to lead-to-revenue process. Lookat multi-touch attribution and how press releases contribute to the sale.
- Corporate/internal communications. Create and execute internal newsletters, emails, and other communication tools, and be able to track employee engagement. Identify and nurture prospective employees.
- Brand identity management. As we’ve said, your brand should be consistent across all teams and all channels. Marketing automation helps your corporate marketing team control the visuals, including brand look and feel, logo usage, and header/footers. Create approved templates, then distribute them in your media library for other marketing and sales departments to use.
- Event management. Make the most of events. Know who to invite, and manage all communications before and after, with more precision and less effort. Create an automated workflow (save the date, official invite, seats are limited, registration responder and reminders) to make it easy, then re-use and refine the workflow for the next event.
Experience Excellence in Expansion
As the third key component in the mix, expand marketing includes customer onboarding, retention, loyalty and advocacy programs, and upselling. It can help you reduce churn, improve customer satisfaction scores, and increase customer lifetime value. It’s usually less expensive to keep an existing customer than to get a new one, so automating these processes can reduce costs and increase net profit even more.
A staggering 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers, according to Gartner Inc. Numbers like that are difficult to ignore. We think it’s a great indication that marketers need to be investing in that later stage of the lifecycle and continue to nurture that fruitful relationship.
Here are some essential expand marketing tasks that marketing automation can make smoother and more successful:
- New customer onboarding. Refine your onboarding to the most effective process and automate it with 30-, 60-, and 90-day onboarding drip programs.
- Help customers expand their use of your product. Use newsletters and new feature announcements to keep your customers in the loop and let them know their satisfaction matters.
- Use webinars to introduce new features or new ways of using existing ones. Help your customers become power users. Automate all the communications around these online events.
- Customer retention based on product usage. Measure product consumption and trigger communication based on feature/non-feature use.
- Satisfaction surveys. Deploy surveys and invite customers to analyze the results.
- Upsell/cross-sell. Leverage marketing automation, CRM, and ERP data to understand when a buyer is ready for an upsell. Look at pages visited, datasheets downloaded, and contract renewal information and payment history, and tie it to engagement data to understand when to reach out on an upsell or cross-sell.
- Advocacy/loyalty. Apply a score to customer behavior and engagement to understand who your advocates and most loyal customers are. As an example, you can apply a score for webinar attendance, event registration, social engagement, emails opened, references given, user groups attended, etc. The higher the lead score, the more likely that customer will be a brand advocate.
New Horizons, New Successes
If you’ve been using your marketing automation platform only for demand generation, you have a very pleasant surprise in store. With all of the data and insights from marketing automation, CMOs can understand their customers better. This helps you build more targeted retention strategies, which in turn helps you refine your buyer personas and improve your go-to-market strategy, in a virtuous circle of applied data.
And, yes, you will even do demand generation itself more effectively, as you target the right buyers at the right time with advanced segmentation features that allow you to pinpoint leads based on previous behaviors, profile characteristics, and fields from your CRM database. Use this intelligence to trigger email campaigns or fuel sales activity.
For many reasons – not least for consistency and coordination – the entirety of the customer lifecycle needs to be orchestrated by marketing. Sales still owns the human-to-human real-time contact that includes demos and deals, and customer success does the same for training and support. But marketing should be the source for the branding and messaging that moves the lead through the lifecycle.
Most importantly: Marketing is in the best position to turn the customer experience into a continuum of processes where one influences the other, rather than a series of siloed, disassociated touches. Alignment and consistency throughout all three functions of marketing is critical to the success of an organization. In fact, our survey showed that organizations whose brand, demand, and expand functions were “totally aligned” under a cohesive strategy and experience were much more likely to achieve greater levels of measureable success.
Ultimately, your integrated marketing workspace provides opportunities for marketing to engage with customers. It also helps to avoid missed opportunities, identify new business opportunities, and capture easier streams of reliable revenue.
And what marketer wouldn’t want all those good things?