Marketing Automation: the essentials

With the huge choice of media that B2B marketers have available today, the ability to use the right media, at the right time, to contact the right person, lies at the heart of commercial success. Which is why a lot of debate surrounds the topic of marketing automation right now. What is it?  What will it do for me? Who are the leading providers?  Where can I find out more? In response to these questions the IDM B2B Council has put together this brief introduction and hopes that it will start an ongoing debate and knowledge sharing in the B2B community.

What is it?

Marketing automation systems can also be referred to as enterprise marketing management systems.  However, there is a lot of confusion in both terminology and understanding of what such systems can do for your business.  They promise to streamline, automate, and enhance the planning of all parts of your marketing activity.

Features usually include:

  • Brand management - facilitating version control and campaign sign off as well as storing collateral centrally
  • Database and list management, either as part of the marketing automation system, or by integrating with your marketing database or CRM system, allowing you to merge multiple lists together and segment the database
  • Comprehensive campaign creation from planning to management
  • Lead Management from scoring to capture, to nurture campaigns
  • Automated trigger campaigns based on a prospect or customer's behaviour
  • Multichannel lead tracking that allows your marketing team, as well as your sales force, to track each opportunity through the sales cycle. So you gain true visibility into all customer and prospect touch-points by tracking what campaigns each customer and prospect received and responded to
  • Reports and analytics that allow you to conduct in-depth analysis of campaign results, customer and prospect behaviours and preferences, marketing costs, and more.

But as with all software, marketing automation tools are only as good as your existing data and the current processes that you are looking to automate, unless you also use the software as an agent of change within your business.

It is possible for a company to improve every part of the lead generation process and better manage their communications across channels using marketing automation systems providing they have both the people resource and skills to implement it effectively. Sales and marketing teams empowered with these tools are able to effectively segment and manage prospect and customer databases, execute targeted and effective programs, track leads, analyse results, and accurately measure return on marketing investment. In business to business, marketing automation gives you the technology to close the loop from the initial lead to the final sale - something that organisations often struggle with.  In fact, 49% of businesses confess not measuring their ROMI.

The best of the marketing automation systems "learn" from a customer's behaviour and trigger relevant campaigns based on that behaviour.  This allows customers at different stages of the buying cycle to be treated differently according to their activity (and the most advanced systems also predict behaviour, based on other lookalike customers or prospects and tailor campaigns accordingly).

What will it do for me?

Whether you are using direct mail, email, trade press, trade shows, events, advertising, web and search engine optimisation programs & pay per click, or social media as stand alone, or integrated media, in your campaign, your ability to control and measure will be made much easier by using marketing automation. Additionally, businesses with disparate, fragmented lead generation processes run by different departments, can leverage marketing automation to centralise programs, control collateral and maximise resource efficiency and improve staff productivity.

Who are the Vendors?

The following list of marketing automation tools was compiled by the B2B council members and includes very different software functionality from automated email systems to full functionality:

Aprimo
Ecircle
Eloqua
ExactTarget
Genius
Lithium
Marketo
Microsoft CRM
Microstrategy
Salesforce
Silverpop
Unica

You'll find more from the IDM's B2B Council at this year's IDM B2B Conference on 24 May: New World, New Values, New Order.

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