With marketing automation tools, B2B companies can close the gap between marketing and sales by seamlessly and consistently nurturing prospects with relevant information at every stage of the sales cycle.
In a Forrester report, author Jeff Ernst defines marketing automation:
"Tooling and process that help generate new business opportunities, improve potential buyers’ propensity to purchase, manage customer loyalty, and increase alignment between marketing activity and revenue."
Marketing automation tools (MAT), are sophisticated company-wide software programs, and are becoming increasingly important in B2B sales.
"Changing buyer behaviors require business-to-business (B2B) marketers to communicate with prospects and customers in new ways, by delivering content that is personalized to their needs, role, level of interest, and stage of problem-solving."
There are 3 primary reasons why MATs are becoming more important:
- Buyers are doing more research on their own. Long before a buyer contacts your sales person, the buyer has been conferring with colleague and industry contacts, and gathering information on the Internet. Consequently, when the sales person is first contacted, the buyer may be much further along in the problem-solving/product research stage than was customary in the past. A MAT enables the seller to assess what stage the buyer is in so that the right information is provided at the right time.
- There are fewer "active" buyers. Because buying cycles are getting longer, it's easier for active buyers to get lost in the shuffle of all the non-active prospects. Based on "signals" given off by buyers, a MAT allows the seller to assign priority to providing the appropriate information to the active buyers.
- More people are involved in purchases. More people affect the purchase decision that before, and each stakeholder (e.g. management, procurement, end users, IT, finance, etc.), and each stakeholder has different information requirements at different times. Being able to provide such precise information at the right stage in the buying cycle requires automation.
Before implementing a MAT, however, B2B companies need to have a solid "lead-to-revenue" approach.
"Effective automation requires marketing to shift from being a volume producer of leads to being a leader in supporting sales activity with an integrated lead management process."
In order to successfully implement a MAT, the marketing and sales teams must join forces beforehand.
"Marketing needs to work with sales to define the goals, metrics, and activities at the three process stages that leads go through — lead generation, nurturing and qualification, as well as selling."
Click here to download a copy of the Forrester report (via Marketo), "B2B Marketers Must Better Prepare For Marketing Automation." or view the SlideShare presentation below.