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Marketing Automation Best Practices: Intermediate Level

  |  May 15, 2014   |  Comments

A look at the best marketing automation practices for those who understand the basics of stage-based marketing and are ready to take their automated marketing to the next level.

One of the best parts of my job is being able to sit back and observe marketers. This gives me the ability to see new techniques in action, find new best practices, and discover new areas where better practices are needed. This led me to craft many new techniques for modern marketers (which I've written about in a few of my other articles). This piece builds on the previous post in my Marketing Automation Best Practices series, but focuses on marketers who already know a thing or two about automation. These best practices are for those who have been using marketing automation for a while, understand the basis of stage-based marketing, and are looking to take their automated marketing to the next level.

For marketers who are starting to get the hang of their marketing automation tool, the most important aspects to familiarize yourself with are the following: lead scoring, reporting, and improving campaign effectiveness.

Intermediate Marketing Automation Best Practices for Lead Scoring

At this stage of marketing automation usage, you're probably using lead scoring to identify the most sales-ready prospects. Now it's time to take your lead scoring game to the next level. Most marketers start with a guess at their lead scoring model; however, you can refine this with a bit of custom work to make it really fit your business model and goals.

To take your lead scoring model to the next level, you'll need to set up a few things:

  1. A custom field for each stage of your marketing cycle (I suggest three stages). 
  2. An automation rule that increases the custom field value by 1 each time a person engages with stage-based content.
  3. A time to look back and evaluate your data.

Start by setting up a custom field for each lead stage. Each one of these custom fields needs to be an integer field, which will be incrementally increased by +1 for each engagement within that lead stage. The goal is to know how many interactions each prospect has within each stage.

The automation rule will automatically increase the number by +1 for each interaction a prospect has with the content in that stage. For example: If a prospect engages with one piece of stage one content, their custom field for stage one will increase by one point.

After you have had enough prospects move from new lead to closed deal, you can go back and analyze your scoring model. You should see three custom fields with the average number of engagements per stage. This will help you figure out how much content your leads engage with during each stage, so you can have your scoring model accurately reflect their sales-readiness.

Intermediate Marketing Automation Best Practices for Lead Nurturing

You've most likely also been doing lead nurturing for a while. This is great, because you need to start somewhere. But let's look at how you can drive even more engagement out of your lead nurturing strategy.

There are three keys to increasing engagement with your lead nurturing campaigns at this stage:

  1. Know the full range of nurturing campaigns 
  2. 3-2-1 nurturing campaigns 
  3. Secondary call to actions

To know the full range of nurturing campaigns, you'll need to become familiar with the chart below. I first published this chart a while ago, but it is still extremely useful to anyone wanting to get more out of their nurturing campaigns.

Problem/Goal  Type of Drip Program 
Cold Database  3-2-1 
Automate Lead Nurturing  Stage-Specific Drip 
Event Pre and Post Follow-Ups  Event-Specific Drip 
Cold Marketing Lead Drip  3-2-1 
Cold Sales Lead Drip  Straight Drip 
Competitive Drip  Straight Drip 
Lost Deal Drip  Straight Drip


The 3-2-1 lead nurturing campaign is one of the most important for modern marketers to understand. Its goal is to help you identify the stage a prospect is in, then allow you to nurture their interest at that stage. This technique has been employed by some of the biggest brands, and has increased their revenue from email by more than 300 percent. It is easily the best-kept secret in B2B marketing. I wrote a full article on this technique, which you can read more about here.

Secondary calls-to-actions (CTA) (as seen in the figure below) are key to helping people by identifying their true level of interest. The secondary CTA is used to guide people into the next marketing stage. As you can see in the example below, your CTA for the stage the prospect is in should be offered first, and the second CTA should be to the next marketing stage. Leads can move themselves to the next stage by clicking on the secondary CTA, or stay where they are if they would like. This is the key to moving people though your lead funnel more quickly.

call-to-action

Intermediate Marketing Automation Best Practices for Reporting

If you've been using marketing automation for any length of time, you've come across the same issues with reporting. How do you show return on investment (ROI) for campaigns that are supporting the lead funnel, but are not converting leads into Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)? This is a very challenging endeavor and many marketers try to solve it with attribution modeling (read more on this in my article "Core Flaws in Attribution Modeling"). This is a technique that I am highly against because it focuses on ROI as its core metric. Instead, if you want to prove your value, you should focus on metrics that are concrete, traceable, and can prove your value. To do this, use velocity and efficiency rather than ROI.

The reason velocity and efficiency are intermediate-level best practices for marketing automation is because you must first have a marketing automation tool that you know and understand to execute this reporting. Velocity and efficiency reporting will only work for organizations that have adopted the stage-based marketing philosophy. Velocity will measure the average time it takes a lead to move from stage to stage. If you can increase the speed at which a lead becomes sales-ready, you can greatly increase revenue for your organization.

Measuring the efficiency of your funnel is another key metric that goes hand-in-hand with measuring velocity. Efficiency refers to the number of leads that go into a stage, minus the leads who move on to the next stage. The difference is your efficiency. The closer you are to zero, the more efficient you are. This is helpful for determining whether or not your leads are the correct leads. If you have leads that come into the funnel, but all fall out, you are not targeting the correct prospects to begin with. Measuring this will also help you identify any large holes in your marketing funnel.

By shifting your thinking from ROI to velocity and efficiency, you can easily track metrics that show your core value and your campaign's effect on the lead itself.

I hope these best practices can help you move from a beginner to a more intermediate marketing automation expert. I'll also be posting one more article in this series to give you the most advanced best practices for marketing automation experts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mathew Sweezey

Mathew is the head of thought leadership for B2B marketing at Pardot, a Salesforce.com Company. A consummate writer, he has been featured in numerous publications such as Marketing Automation Times, DemandGen Report, Marketing Sherpa, ZDNet, and is the author of Marketing Automation for Dummies (published by Wiley February 2014). As a speaker Mathew speaks around the world at events such as Conversion Conference, Dreamforce, SugarCon, and to companies including Microsoft, Investec, NetJets, and Restaurants.com, to name a few.

Follow @msweezey.

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