customer centricity

Five Proven Practices for Customer Experience Mapping

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Customers are the most important part of any business, and keeping them happy should be at the top of your list of priorities. If your organization is among those that have created customer experience maps, kudos to you and your team! If not, and this is an itch you want to scratch, read on for five (5) tips to help you undertake this important initiative.

Before we offer advice for mapping the customer experience, it might be useful to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of what we mean by customer experience. At VisionEdge Marketing, when we refer to customer experience we mean the points of interaction between the customer and an organization. These touch points include, but are not limited to, interactions associated with pricing, purchasing, servicing, payment/billing, support, and delivery of your organizations offerings (goods and/or services).

How customers evaluate their experience is based on their perception of the actual performance of the organization at that point of interaction compared to the customer’s expectation. In 2005, James Allen from the Harvard Business School revealed that while 80% of businesses state that they offer a great customer experience, only about 8% of customers feel similarly about their experience. Understanding this perception versus the expectation, and the gaps across all experiences, enables you to create customer experience performance targets and key performance indicators.

Customer experience mapping is a vehicle for capturing the perceptions versus the expectations across all points of interaction, ideally for each customer segment and/or persona. The mapping process should enable you to develop processes and skills designed to deliver an experience that sets your organization apart in the eyes of your customers, hopefully resulting in customer loyalty and becoming advocates for your goods/services.

Many organizations often mistake creating a process map with creating a customer experience map. While similar, their focus is quite different. A process map describes your company’s internal processes, functions, and activities and generally uses the company’s internal language and jargon. A customer experience map describes the customer experience in, and only in, the customer’s language. What makes customer experience mapping challenging is the fact that the customer experience is typically quite complex, because it cuts across divisions, departments, and functions.

Here are five key steps to help you create your customer experience map:

1. Start with the universal touch points that can be applied across all your customers (you can create more specific experience maps as time goes on)

2. Make a list of all the touch points. For each touch point write a description, method of interaction, and customer expectation. We have found that this step is best accomplished by:

    • Involving as many people as necessary, including members of your customer advisory boards, to identify all touch points
    • Holding working sessions and conducting interviews to capture and incorporate the expected and actual emotional, experiential, and functional experiences for each touch point

3. Document your learnings and produce a visual illustration (map)

4. Use the map to identify areas working well and those that need improvement. Focus on those areas that are known as “moments of truth,” those crucial interactions that determine whether the customer becomes or remains loyal

5. Build a plan to address James Allen’s “Three D’s,” which he believes enables organizations to offer an exceptional customer experience:

    • Design the correct incentive for the correctly identified consumer, offered in an enticing environment.
    • Deliver the proposed experience by focusing the entire team across various functions.
    • Develop consistency in execution.

Sometimes organizations  need help with this, which is why there are experts out there! Don’t be afraid to ask for help–this is an area you do not want to ignore.

Four Models Every Marketer Should Master

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We know–models can be intimidating. But as the need to add analytics and science to our work continues to increase, models have become one of the primary vehicles every marketer needs to know how to develop and leverage. If you’ve already dived into the deep end on models, congratulations. On the other hand, if you’re just dipping your toe into the water, have no fear, because while there may be a bit of a current, it is time to venture forth.

Mathematical models help us describe and explain a “system,” such as a market segment or ecosystem. These models enable us to study the effects of different actions, so we can begin to make predictions about behavior, such as purchasing behavior. There are all kinds of mathematical models-statistical models, differential equations, and game theory.

Regardless of the type, all use data to transform an abstract structure into something we can more concretely manage, test, and manipulate. As the mounds of data pile up, it’s easy to lose sight of data application. Because data has become so prolific, you must first be clear about the scope of the model and the associated data sources before constructing any model.

So you’re ready to take the plunge–good for you! So, what models should be part of every marketer’s plan? Whether a novice or a master, we believe that every marketer must be able to build and employ at least four models:

  1. Customer Buying Model: Illustrates the purchasing decision journey for various customers (segments or persona based) to support pipeline engineering, content, touch point and channel decisions.
  2. Market Segmentation or Market Model: Provides the vehicle to evaluate the attractiveness of segments, market, or targets.  More about this in today’s KeyPoint MPM section.
  3. Opportunity Scoring Model: Enables marketing and sales to agree on when opportunities are sales worthy and sales ready.
  4. Campaign Lift Model: Estimates the impact of a particular campaign on the buying behavior.

These four models are an excellent starting point for those of you who are just beginning to incorporate models into your marketing initiatives. For those who have already developed models within your marketing organization, we would love to know whether you have conquered these four, or even whether you agree these four should be at the top of the list. As always, we want to know what you think, so comment or tweet us with your response!

Weaving Contextual Data into Models

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Many companies are developing opportunity scoring models which essentially assign a predetermined numerical score to specific behaviors or statuses within a database. The purpose of opportunity scoring is help sales people know which opportunities are sales ready and worthy, and therefore take priority. Often variables such as title, company, and industry, serve as the basis for the scoring model. However, behaviors can be used too, such as the completion of a contact form, visiting a particular page on the website, participating or viewing a demo, etc. Contextual data adds another dimension to the model by weaving in predisposition information that reflects content, timing and frequency-for example what products they currently use, the last time they purchased, their complete buying history, the types of keywords they used in their search, etc.

Keep in mind, timing is everything. To be effective, contextual data must be delivered to the right person, at the right time, within an actionable context. For example, the date of a key customer’s contract renewal is posted in your CRM system all year long, but that doesn’t mean you’ll remember or even see it. Think how much more useful that data becomes when your system automatically alerts you to the fact that it’s the customer’s renewal date. Sending email messages about renewals too early just creates noise at best and at worst suggests you don’t know their renewal date. Customers are more likely to respond to call to action when it is in context of their workflow. Communication that is contextual is more personal and as a result feels more authentic, shows value, and leads customers want to act. As a result, you can reduce the cost of customer acquisition and the cost of sales.

The end goal of contextual data is to connect with the buyer when they are most predisposed to buy. As a result, you can use contextual data to help build propensity to purchase models, for prioritizing opportunities to support opportunity scoring, to develop more personalized messages, and select the best mix of channels.

This same concept of contextual data can be used to build propensity to purchase models. By identifying the winning experiences associated with a particular segment, you can use this information to craft more relevant messages to similar targets to increase uptake.

Personalization is a compelling and challenging proposition. It’s a moving target and therefore requires a test and learn approach. By adding contextual data into the process you can make your personalization efforts more effective and more relevant.

3 Attributes to Extend Your CMO Longevity

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As 2013 winds down and we prepare to enter 2014, there are bound to be a few changes in the CMO line up.  You say, that’s not news, CMO tenure is always a bit tenuous. But actually, that is less true today than ever. In SpencerStuart’s 8th Annual CMO Tenure Study, it was reported that CMO tenure is now nearly 4 years, compared to just 2 years back in 2006.  While CMO tenure varies across industries, there are several attributes long- tenured CMOs share. First and foremost, these CMOs can demonstrate positive impact on the company and have impact beyond the “marketing agenda.” They also tend think more like business-people who are able to provide strategic direction and use data and analytics to make fact-based decisions.  

In addition to being an exceptional, technically proficient marketer, there are three attributes we see among successful long-term CMOs. 

1.   Customer-centric. These tenured CMOs connect regularly with customers. They do more than conduct voice of customer research, review customer data, or meet with a customer advisory board. They are actively and regularly engaged in customer conversations. Do you describe your customers for example as engineers with X years of experience in Y industries, Y accreditations, who attends B events, reads Y publications, and uses Z social media? If this example seems familiar you may be missing the mark. These long-tenured CMOs have a deeper understanding of their customers’ needs, wants, emotional state and motivations, what it takes to engage them, and the kind of experience that needs to be delivered. These CMOs serve as the window into the customer for their companies. They are relentless in their pursuit to know and understand the customer.   

2.  Outcome-oriented. It is clear to the leadership team that these CMOs have marketing well aligned to the business with metrics and performance targets focused on producing business outcomes rather than marketing outputs. These CMOs understand that outputs such as visitors, fans, followers, etc. create more contacts, connections and engagements that are important. They also understand that their job is to translate these outputs into something relevant and meaningful to the leadership team, such as how marketing’s contribution is reducing the sales cycle/accelerating customer acquisition, reducing the cost of acquisition or retention, and improving product adoption and win rates. These CMOs have an excellent handle on what touch points and channels are most effective and efficient depending on the needle that needs to be moved. 

3.  Alliance-savvy. There’s been a great deal of coverage on how important it is for the CMO to have solid relationships with their Sales, IT, and Finance colleagues, and our research shows that Best-in-Class CMOs do more than that. These CMOs have forged formal explicit partnerships with these counterparts. They invest in these alliances because they believe that the partnership will enable the organization to be more customer-centric and more competitive. As a result, these companies are able to enter new markets and bring new products and services to market faster. What is different about the alliances formed by these CMOs? They work with their colleagues to plan, form, design, and manage a formal working agreement that focuses on developing the right working relationship, taking into the account that each function most likely operates differently. They create and execute an agreement that emphasizes how the organization’s committed resources will achieve a common set of objectives, how to leverage the differences to the company’s advantage, and how these differences are designed to facilitate collaborative rather than competitive behaviors among all the members of each team. Performance metrics are established to support the alliance with a focus on both the outcome of the alliance as well as the process.   

Whether it be the stream of green lights you hit on the way to work or the person that holds the door for you as you juggle groceries, at the end of the day, we are most appreciative of the people and things that make our lives easier. Although technological innovation and automation have given us the ability to soothe many of our woes, we cannot forget that the human element is at the center of all things marketing. In light of this, we must ask ourselves, “Would I be satisfied as a customer or colleague in this process, and if not, how could I change it?” By exemplifying these traits of a successful CMO, the outlook of your operations will shift from being self-serving to philanthropic in nature.  

 

 

Does Your Marketing Team Have the Right Stuff?

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The 
Right 
Stuff,
 a
 1979 
book 
by 
Tom
 Wolfe, 
chronicled 
the 
sequence
 of 
events 
bridging 
the 
breaking 
of
 the
 sound
barrier 
and 
the 
Mercury 
space
 expeditions.
 The 
book 
(and 
subsequent
 movie)
 explored
 why
 the 
Mercury 
astronauts
 accepted 
the
 danger
 of
 space
flight,
 as 
well
 as 
the 
mental
 and 
physical 
skills
 required 
of 
them 
to 
do 
their 
job—in 
other 
words,
 the 
”right 
stuff.”Image

Recent 
studies 
suggest
 the 
need 
for 
many 
marketing 
professionals to
 re‐skill
 and 
re-tool.
 Only 
about 
5
 percent 
of 
marketers 
surveyed 
in 
a 
recent 
CMO 
Council 
study 
are 
highly
 satisfied 
with
 their 
levels 
of
 accountability, 
operational
 visibility,
 and 
marketing 
output. 
Most 
see 
plenty
 of 
room 
for 
improvement.

So what skills
 and 
tools
 are 
needed for 
your 
organization 
to 
have 
the 
right stuff?

Regardless
 of 
company 
size 
and 
industry, marketing 
teams 
(whether
 a 
team
 of
 one
 or 
more) 
are under 
increased
 pressure 
to
 drive 
top‐line
 growth 
and
 profitable 
revenue. 
For 
many
 organizations
 this
 means 
acquiring new
 skills 
related
 to 
marketing
 performance 
measurement
 and 
management,
 analytics, 
benchmarking,
 and
 customer
 engagement. 
 Let’s review 
these 
four 
specific
 skills
 every
 marketer
 should 
have 
under 
their 
belt:

• 
Metrics
 and 
performance 
target‐setting. With
 greater
 demand
 for
 marketing 
to 
be 
more
 accountable,
 solid 
metrics, 
performance 
target‐setting,
 measurement,
 and 
reporting skills  
are
 crucial.
 Participants 
in 
numerous
 studies 
comment
 on 
the 
importance 
of
 being 
able 
to 
set
 measurable 
goals
 and 
track 
results. 
These
 skills
 will 
be 
in 
vogue 
for 
a 
long 
time 
to
 come.

•
 Analytics.
This 
is 
the 
ability 
to 
derive 
insights 
from 
data. 
If
 growing 
valuable 
customer relationships
 and 
being
 able 
to 
forecast
 sales 
from 
future
 marketing
 activities 
are 
important,
 then 
analytics 
ought 
to 
be 
on 
the 
top
 of 
your 
skills‐to‐acquired 
list.

•
 Benchmarking.
This 
is 
the 
process
 of
 comparing 
what
 your
 company 
does 
to
 another 
that
 is 
widely 
considered
 to 
be
 an 
industry 
standard 
or 
best 
practice. 
The aforementioned
 CMO 
Council
 study 
indicated
 58
 percent 
of 
respondents 
have 
nominal 
or no 
benchmarking 
capabilities. 
If 
you 
don’t 
know 
what
 the
 standard 
is,
 how 
will 
you 
know 
what
 to 
strive 
for 
when 
it 
comes 
to
 such 
things 
as
 win/loss 
ratios, marketing 
key performance 
indicators,
share
 of 
preference,
 product
 adoption 
rates, and 
so
 on?
 Benchmarks
 are 
essential 
to
 any organization 
that
 believes 
continuous 
improvement
 is
 critical 
to 
the 
pursuit 
of excellence.

•
 Customer 
experience 
management. 
If 
business 
exists 
to 
produce 
and
 serve 
a
 customer,
 and 
marketing’s 
job 
is 
to 
create,
 communicate, and
 deliver 
value 
to 
customers, 
then
 marketing 
is
 your
 organization’s 
ultimate 
steward 
of
 the 
customer
 experience.
 Marketers 
need 
to 
be
 sure 
they 
have 
the
 skills 
necessary 
to 
improve 
customer
 engagement
 and
 touch-
point 
effectiveness. 
They
 also 
must respond 
to 
changes in 
the 
buying
 cycle
 and
 conduct
 voice‐of‐customer 
research in
 order 
to 
retain
 customers, 
create 
loyalty,
 and 
transform 
customers 
into
 advocates 
for the
 company.

Marketing 
operations 
refers 
to 
infrastructure — that 
is,
 the 
tools, 
systems, 
and
 processes in 
place 
to 
facilitate 
customer‐centricity.
 Forty‐four
 percent
 of
 the
 respondents in the CMO 
Council
 study 
are looking 
for 
way 
to 
lower
 costs 
and 
improve 
go‐to‐market 
efficiencies. 
For
 many 
organizations,
 achieving these 
operational
 efficiencies 
requires 
infrastructure changes 
and 
improvements.

With 
limited 
resources, 
where 
can
 you 
get the 
best
 bang
 for 
your
 buck?
 Here
 are 
four
 areas
 for 
investment 
consideration:

1. Operational
 process 
alignment.
 When 
was 
the 
last 
time
 you 
mapped 
your 
operational 
processes 
and 
verified 
marketing 
alignment
 with 
the
 sales,
 product,
 service,
 and
 other 
parts
 of
 the
 business?
 All 
of
 us 
get 
into 
routines 
and 
habits.
 Reviewing 
processes 
and
 updating 
them 
may 
be 
time consuming, 
but 
if
 you 
are 
looking 
for
 ways 
to
 reduce 
inefficiencies 
internally, 
this 
is a
 necessary step.

Many
 years 
ago,
 when 
I
 was 
in 
the
 semiconductor 
industry,
 we
 needed 
to 
find
 a 
way 
to 
reduce 
the 
time 
from 
order 
to 
delivery
 of
 product.
 It
 was 
just 
taking 
too 
long 
to 
get
 product 
to 
customers,
and
 we
 didn’t
 know 
why.
 When 
we calculated 
the 
time 
it 
took 
for
 the 
individual
 steps 
of
 order 
placement, 
manufacturing,
 testing ,
assembly, 
and
 shipping, 
the 
time 
didn’t
 add 
up 
to 
what 
it
 actually 
took.

So
 we 
mapped
 the 
process, 
counting 
the 
time 
product
 was 
”in‐transit,”
 whether 
physically 
or 
in
 some
 other 
way.
 Lo
 and 
behold, 
the 
in‐transit
 time
 was 
off
 the 
charts.
 The
 mapping 
process 
enabled 
us 
to 
identify 
the 
inefficiencies,
 label the white spaces,
and 
put 
in 
new
 processes 
to 
reduce
 and
 even 
eliminate 
them.

2.Market/Business 
intelligence. 
There 
is 
an 
art
 and
 science 
to 
using 
external 
information 
for 
driving 
business 
strategy. 
Business 
intelligence 
applications 
enable 
the
 collection,
 integration,
 analysis, 
and
 presentation
 of
 competitive,
 channel, 
product,
 and 
customer 
information 
to 
derive 
trends 
and 
insights.
 The 
value
 of
 having
 such 
a 
tool 
is 
that, 
when 
used 
properly, it
 enables 
you 
to 
begin 
conducting
 scenario 
analyses
 and
 anticipating 
the
 future.
 With 
the 
insights
 derived
 from 
business 
intelligence,
 there 
is 
the
 potential 
to 
anticipate 
the 
development 
of
 new
 markets, technological
 turning 
points,
 and 
how 
the 
competitor 
will react.

3. CRM. 
If 
the 
marketing
 organization 
is 
responsible 
for 
the 
relationship 
between 
the
company 
and
 the 
customer,
 then 
it
 stands 
to 
reason 
the 
organization
 needs 
tools 
to 
facilitate 
this 
relationship.
 As 
you 
know, 
there 
are 
a
 range
 of
 CRM 
tools
 out
 there,
 so 
selecting
 the 
right
 one
 can 
be 
a
 daunting 
task.
 Even
 so,
 in 
today’s 
environment
 a
 company
 can’t
 afford
 to 
operate
 without 
a
 formal
 approach
 to
 customer
 relationship 
management.
 Of
 course,
 once
 you 
have 
the 
tool
, the
 next
 biggest
 hurdle 
is 
using 
it.

4.
 Performance 
management.
 The 
ability 
to 
use 
analytics, 
reporting, 
and
 dashboards 
to 
assess
 marketing’s
 effectiveness, efficiency, 
financial
 contribution,
 and
 progress 
toward
 achieving 
pre-determined
 goals 
is 
performance 
management. 
In 
the 
end, 
marketing
 must
 demonstrate 
its
 value, 
which 
lies 
in
 how much you are “moving 
the 
needle.” This 
necessitates 
reporting
 on
 performance, impact, 
and
 ROI from
 the
 program 
level 
up.

Progress 
doesn’t
 come 
without
 missteps,
 misfires,
 and failures.
 Winners 
look 
for
 ways to overcome
 challenges
 and
 continuously 
improve.
 They
 seek
 outside 
help,
 new 
ideas,
 and new 
skills.
 While
 attending 
a
 Webinar,
 reading 
a 
book, 
or
 going 
to
 a
 conference 
helps, consider 
looking
 for
 ways 
that
 will
 enable 
the 
whole 
team 
to 
be 
on 
the 
same 
page
 at the
 same
 time. 
There are 
plenty 
of 
on-site
 and 
online 
programs
 offered 
by 
professional
 organizations 
and 
institutions, as 
well
 as
 by 
firms 
specializing 
in these 
areas.

In 
Wolfe’s 
story, 
the 
national 
heroes 
of 
the 
Mercury 
space 
program 
were 
not
 necessarily 
the 
truest 
and
 best. 
What 
they
 possessed
 was 
the 
right
 stuff, the
 skill
 and 
courage 
to 
”push 
the
 outside 
of
 the
 envelope.”
 Does 
your
 marketing 
team
 have 
the 
right 
stuff?

Cracking the Code on Marketing and Sales Alignment

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The dynamics of the 21st Century are forcing businesses of all sizes and types to be able to react quickly and decisively to rapidly changing business and competitive conditions and Imagechanging customer demands. The more agile a company, the faster it can respond to market dynamics and develop new products and processes, recognize new opportunities, and redeploy resources accordingly. The degree of agility may be the difference between being a market leader instead of an also-ran. Agility requires proactive planning, business intelligence, alignment and collaboration among all the key functions to make the right decisions and turn opportunities into a competitive advantage. One of the key alignment issues facing many companies is the alignment between Marketing and Sales.

Marketing and Sales Alignment Remains Elusive

The issue of marketing and sales alignment isn’t new. Most marketing and sales people have been in organizations where marketing has been known to accuse sales of not following up on leads and refusing to track leads through the sales cycle and sales has been known to accuse marketing of not providing viable qualified leads. This misalignment is often attributed to a variety of factors, such as different goals, different timelines, and different psychologies. Market dynamics such as commoditization, the Internet, mobility and virtualization and changing business models only compound the problem. Companies attempting to resolve the issue often approach the problem by trying to tighten the alignment of marketing activities within the sales cycle, improving coordination around lead generation, and increasing sales force participation in the marketing process. Sadly these attempts often fail. Regardless of various approaches taken by companies to address this issue, the lack of alignment and collaboration between marketing and sales persists. Both organizations need to change for the organization to succeed.

 From Transactional to Customer Centricity

To achieve greater alignment, both organizations need to decide together which market segments offer the best opportunities and deserve the highest priority. Today’s buyers are more sophisticated and today’s buying processes are more complex. The transactional approach of marketing generating qualified leads that sales then brings to a close is an outdated view. The transactional approach is what permits marketing and sales to operate as independent silos. This results in Sales immersing itself in the latest training, engaging in calling on customers and focusing on post-sale efforts and Marketing focusing on implementing various campaigns and 2 coordinating a variety of tactics.

A Customer-Centric Approach Offers Hope

Customer Centricity requires a company to look at the world through the eyes of the customer, what they want from you, what they expect from you, what they can count on from you. One way to become more customer-centric is to move from looking at the world from a selling perspective to taking a customer relationship lifecycle perspective. Taking a customer relationship lifecycle approach provides an avenue for alignment by focusing both organizations on the same set of outcomes – creating, keeping and growing the value of customers. The customer relationship lifecycle begins the moment a customer appears on the radar screen, moves into the lead-sales funnel, emerges as a customer and engages in a variety of experiences that result in them becoming an advocate. The customer relationship lifecycle provides insight into which customers provide the greatest values to your company. As result, the company can create a set of common metrics for both organizations which will help ensure alignment. Customer relationship management metrics include buying related metrics such as recency frequency and quantity; cost related metrics such as gross amount of money spent on acquiring and retaining the customer through marketing dollars, resources spent generating each sale, and post sales service and support; and customer value related metrics such as the duration or longevity of that customer’s relationship with your business, the referral rate, and share of wallet. Establishing a common set of customer-centric metrics facilitates alignment and collaboration and provides both organization with customer-oriented vocabulary and set of priorities.

Does Alignment Matter?
While no one can offer any guarantees, aligning Marketing and Sales makes good business sense and ultimately impacts the bottom line. A study conducted by Aberdeen on sales effectiveness with more than 200 executives from the executive, sales, marketing and IT management functions study found that companies that had strong collaboration between these two functions achieve a higher sales effectiveness. For many companies, this additional boom in sales more than justifies making the effort.

Need to Engage and Connect With Prospects and Customers? Marketing Automation to the Rescue (Maybe)

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Today, a suitable marketing automation platform is available to meet just about any company’s requirements and budget. These platforms often include systems for managing digital assets, allocating resources and tracking marketing expenditures, automating Imagecampaigns (online and offline), measuring marketing activity and demand generation, and managing Web content and leads.Many companies invest in marketing automation platforms as a way to make their marketing organizations more efficient. Though marketing automation can achieve that objective, two key benefits of these systems is that they help you connect better with prospects and improve the opportunity to engage prospects and customers.

What Marketing Automation Isn’t

Marketing automation isn’t magic. Success requires taking a methodical and disciplined
approach to segmenting, defining the customer-buying process, establishing agreed-upon
definitions of stages, creating personas, establishing common metrics, and committing to
faithfully using the system

.Marketing automation allows you to tailor your content and interactions to enhance how you connect with and engage prospects and customers. As a result, you can positively affect the conversion rate and sales cycle. And, in these tough times, who wouldn’t want to see higher and faster conversions?

Take a Customer-Centric Approach to Configuration

Such benefits alone present a good business case for marketing automation. But for a system to “be all that it can be,” it must be properly configured and deployed. Proper configuration and alignment require and enable stronger alignment between Sales and Marketing.

Many companies configure their systems around how they might sell and evaluate an opportunity (e.g., whether they’ve identified a budget, project, or need). However, before you deploy, take an outside-in view and configure the system around how your customer finds, evaluates, selects, and buys products in your category.

For your investment and that approach to pay off, Sales and Marketing need to agree on how the customer buys, the buying stages, and what constitutes a qualified opportunity, in terms of both fit (segment, budget, size, etc.) and buying behaviors. This approach allows you to use fit and behavior to create a lead-scoring schema.

Create and Measure Four Customer Interactions

Marketing and sales teams are typically proficient in connecting at the beginning and end of the conversation, but the real challenge is managing the middle of the conversation. The middle conversation is when prospects and customers are in the “in-between”—between initial contact and interest, on the one hand, and the short list and final selection, on the other.
A properly configured and deployed marketing automation system enables you to manage the middle. How? It makes it possible to cost-effectively sustain a dialogue with qualified
opportunities until they are ready to buy while enabling you to monitor the interaction between those opportunities and your organization.

You’ll want to set performance targets for these four kinds of interactions, and then use your marketing automation system to create, measure, and monitor them:

• Connections
• Conversations
• Engagement
• Consideration

Think of connections as those contacts with whom you have established communication and rapport and who have agreed to be “touched” by your organization. A connection doesn’t necessarily result in a conversation. Connections are just that: two entities that have a link between them.Think of how many people you may have in your LinkedIn network that you are connected with but don’t necessarily have conversations with. Conversations suggest an exchange—the sharing of ideas, opinions, or observations. Consider how many people you “talk” with on a variety of 3 topics on any given day. Though some of those people might be interesting, they may not necessarily be the right people—or they may not be ready to move the relationship forward.

Ultimately your marketing efforts aim to create engagement, and you want your marketing automation system to support those efforts. Engagement consists of interactions that indicate the strength of the relationship.

Finally, you want to produce and measure consideration because it is the precursor to conversion. Consideration simply refers to those prospects and customers who are actively “shopping” for the products and services you offer and are considering your offer among the options.

If You Build It, They Will Come

The premise of marketing automation is that it will help Marketing increase the number of
business opportunities for your company, deliver sales-worthy and ready leads to Sales, improve your visibility into the pipeline, and enable your marketing organization to focus on efforts that will drive the highest conversion rate and the lowest cost.

The value proposition is that marketing automation will shorten your sales cycle and help
improve your forecast accuracy.And it’s all possible with this one caveat: Marketing automation is only as good as the effort you make in using it. To use it properly and realize the kinds of results you want will likely require changing processes, addressing Marketing and Sales alignment, and improving skills.

Research suggests that when marketing and sales processes, skills, and systems are aligned, an organization can see a five-fold improvement in revenue. If you are willing to make the necessary investments, you can realize the benefits of implementing a marketing automation platform.