lead generation

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.

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Measuring and Linking Relevancy to Buyer Behavior

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Various studies over the years have examined the relationship between content relevancy and behavior. Almost everyone would agree with the statement that “content must be relevant.” But what is relevance? According to Wikipedia: “Relevance describes how pertinent, connected, or applicable something is to a given matter. A thing is relevant if it serves as a means to a given purpose. In the context of this discussion, the purpose of content is to positively impact customer or employee behavior, such as increasing purchase frequency, purchase velocity (time to purchase), likelihood to recommend, productivity, etc.

When we ask marketers and others how they measure content relevancy, we often hear, “we base it on response rate.” If the response rate meets the target, then we assume the content is relevant or vice versa. Clearly there is a relationship between relevancy and response. Intuitively we believe the more relevant the content the higher the response will be. But measuring response rate is not the best measure of relevancy. There are many factors that can affect response rate, such as time of year, personalization and incentives. Also, in today’s multi-channel environment we want to account for responses or interactions beyond what we might typically measure such as click thrus or downloads.

So, what is the best way to measure relevancy? There are a number of best-practice approaches to measuring relevancy, many of them are complex and require modeling. For example, information diagrams can bean excellent tool. But for marketers who are spread a bit thin and therefore need a simpler measure, the three step approach below ties interaction (behavior) with content:
Count every single piece of content you created this week (new web content, emails, articles, tweets, etc). We’ll call this C.
Count the collective number of interactions (opens, click thrus, downloads, likes, mentions, etc.) for all of your content this week from the intended target (you’ll need a way to only include intended targets in your count). We’ll call this I.
Divide total interactions by total content created – R = I/C
To illustrate the concept, let’s say you are interested in increasing conversations with a particular set of buyers and as a result this week you:
Posted a new white paper on a key issue in your industry to your website and your Facebook page.
Tweeted 3x about the new white papers
Distributed an email with a link to the new white paper to the appropriate audience
Published a summary of the white paper to 3 LinkedIn Groups
Held a webinar on the same key issue in your industry
Posted a recording of the webinar on your website, Slideshare and Facebook page
Held a tweet chat during the webinar
Tweeted the webinar recording 3x
Posted a blog on the topic to your blog

We’ll count this as 17 content activities.

For this very same content during the same week you had:
15 downloads of the white paper from your site
15 retweets of the white paper
15 Likes from your LinkedIn Groups and blog page
25 people who attended the webinar and participated in the tweet chat
15 retweets of the webinar
15 views of the recording on Slideshare

This counts as 100 total interactions. It’s both possible and likely that some of these interactions are from the same people engaging multiple times, and you may eventually want to account for this in your equation. But for starters, we can now create a content relevancy measure.

R= 100/17 = 5.88.

If we had only measured the response rate, we might have only counted the downloads and attendees, 40, so we might have had the following calculation

R = 40/17 = 2.35

The difference is significant. Over time, we can understand the relationship between the relevancy and the intended behavior, which in this example is increasing “conversations”. Tracking relevancy will enable you to :
Establish a benchmark
Set content relevancy performance targets
Model content relevancy for intended behavior