Marketing automation technology is enjoying a period of exponential growth and adoption by businesses of all sizes that operate in virtually every industry. What’s most interesting about the drivers behind the rapid adoption of platform-based marketing systems, particularly for B2B oriented companies, is that they are not what you would typically expect.
Marketing automation system adoption is being driven primarily by sales needs.
When you define what makes up a marketing automation system, many of the discrete components of these platforms (email, landing pages, lead scoring, Web analytics) are mature, highly adopted products. However, while marketers drive a purchase decision for tools such as an email marketing solution, sales and their needs will, directly or indirectly, drive the purchase decision of a marketing automation platform.
Marketing automation platforms (MAPs) differentiate themselves much in the same way a CRM system differentiates itself from a contact management tool. MAPs are essentially a suite of discrete tools layered on top of a workflow engine. The primary workflow contained within a MAP is centered on lead management. The operative word there is lead.
A lot has changed in the last 10 years relative to buyer behavior. In the past, sales personnel were firmly in control of information dissemination to prospects early in the buying cycle. Today, however, that control of information dissemination in the early stage of the buying cycle has shifted to the buyer and occurs almost exclusively in what we refer to as the social Web.
The social Web can be defined as a combination of corporate digital assets (websites and blogs) and social assets (Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.). The Web is a content monster that has been created by marketing using a myriad of new digital tools and channels.
It has been the goal of marketing over the last five years to push huge amounts of content out to the social Web in the hopes of attracting interested buyers and driving them into the corporate website – enticing visitors to complete a Web form. While this is great for marketing and buyers, it’s not so great for sales.
Sales has essentially surrendered any and all control over information dissemination. This loss of control to the Web can have dire consequences when the front-end of the information dissemination is not properly linked to the back end of the lead generation funnel.
Buyers are out there, looking for solutions to their problems. They are engaging in self-directed evaluations of solutions using the very content that marketers have been flooding the Web with for several years now. The ideal prospect for sales is someone who is out there, in the social Web, seeking solutions to problems – problems that sales knows they can solve if they could only engage with these people.
Sales is frustrated because more often than not, marketing continues to throw information out to the Web without having the proper tools that bring key information back into the sales organization.
As marketers, we’ve gotten very good at pushing and broadcasting our messages in many different channels, but we’ve failed in many ways on capturing the interactions that result from content consumption. This frustrates sales because marketing looks at metrics that mean very little to a sales person. Email opens, page views, social followers, and likes are all leading indicators to marketers that your content publishing strategy is working well (at least on the surface). But none of these metrics truly matter to sales.
Sales needs to know more than vanity metrics.
Sales doesn’t care about how many page views a particular asset has generated. They care about the who, why, and, what metrics. Who is on my website? Why did they come to my website and what content did they consume while on my site? If marketing can answer these questions, then sales will truly be engaged in the lead generation process and true sales and marketing alignment will closely follow.
Fortunately, we are entering a period of technology adoption with marketing automation systems wherein marketing can deliver the type of information that a sales team needs to be successful in selling on the social Web. Some control can be transferred back to sales once marketing answers the aforementioned questions around individual website activity.
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