What It Takes to Get the Best Results With Marketing Automation
Editor’s note: Technology is essential to content marketing success. But the complexity around tech selection and use often leaves businesses struggling to keep pace with innovation. To bring clarity and understanding, we’re hosting a series of conversations with thought leaders in this space.
Marketing automation is often viewed as a panacea for all of a content marketer’s greatest challenges. After all, these solutions offer tremendous potential to scale your content creation and delivery, engage audiences at the precise moment of intent, continually track and optimize your content’s performance, and even integrate with Artificial Intelligence technology to provide added insights to shape your strategic decision-making.
However, even when working with the most sophisticated marketing automation systems, the amount of effort – in terms of team alignment, your brand’s unique vision and voice, and clarity around audience’s needs and purpose – will largely determine how much benefit you will get out of the investment.
To explore these requirements more deeply, I asked an analytics and marketing automation thought leader to share his views on key considerations like shifting B2B purchase processes, optimal tech implementation conditions, and the work humans need to do before they can fully realize the potential of these powerful tools.
Meet the expert
Nate Skinner, vice president of enterprise marketing, Salesforce Pardot
Background: Nate’s career includes positions in sales engineering, enterprise software engineering, B2B product marketing, and customer success.
Productivity playlist: A soundtrack Nate feels characterizes what it’s like to work with Salesforce Pardot would include Better Together (Jack Johnson), Work (Rihanna), and All I Do Is Win (DJ Kahlid).
On the prerequisite for successful marketing automation
Nate: Now more than ever, marketers are part of the revenue engine of any B2B company. That means they have to be in lockstep with their sales counterparts and continually think about the business outcome they want their marketing content to deliver. All marketing activities should be in service of delivering revenue.
On a customer-centric view of technology
When it comes to marketing automation, we need to think about our customers first. More simply, we should be asking how we can best engage our customers so they turn into our advocates. Just like marketing and sales should be in lockstep, so should service. All of these strategies are impacted by each other when you’re selling to someone.
In general, think bigger – don’t think that marketing is just for the marketing ops or the demand-gen person. It’s important to step away from just focusing on lead routing, managerial, and administrative tasks. Think about how the ability to nurture a relationship with a customer can transform every aspect of your business, from service to sales to marketing.
On where human meets machine in marketing automation
Human involvement is crucial in the planning stage and campaign development side because you’re ultimately marketing to a human and need to reach them on their terms.
Marketing automation solutions don’t immediately have each brand’s unique message and vision; it’s a means to an end – nothing comes out of the box with your brand’s voice. The human part comes with what you want to say, when and where you want to say it, and how customers are compelled to engage with you. It’s about understanding personas and what motivates people. If you’re only looking at reach metrics, great numbers still don’t mean you’re hitting the right customer when and where they want to be reached.
Marketing automation can provide data, tools, and resources to make informed marketing decisions and campaigns at scale, but humans are needed to execute strategic planning and learn what motivates people to engage with the platform, so marketers understand how to tailor and differentiate their brand experiences for customers. A house isn’t your home until your own belongings are in it and you make it yours.
We all know Amazon and how smart it is to recommend what you need in your personal life, and so that clear and concise message for your business needs as well is a very human message.
On delivering content value to the well-informed consumer
Today’s buyers have done so much research already. It’s like they’ve almost made their decision by the time they’ve met with a salesperson. This proliferation of information from social networks, to reviews, to word of mouth means there’s a lot of education happening before a buyer ever interacts with your sales team.
According to Salesforce’s 2019 State of Connected Customer Report, 75% of consumers say that technology keeps them more informed about product choices than ever before. Marketers need to get ahead of this and change tactics to open up more opportunities for buyers to engage with the brand before that sales call takes place.
Because consumers can learn so much on their own, brands need to move beyond onboarding and teaching customers about the product alone. They need to offer content and resources that teach people the skills and strategies they need for their jobs in a brand-agnostic way, too.
An example of Salesforce’s educational content initiatives, the company’s thriving Trailblazers community sits on its Trailhead learning platform. Not only do community members use the platform to evangelize Salesforce’s products, they organize local meetups, provide helpful user tips, and share honest feedback so others can benefit from their in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience with the brand.
On the blueprint for a successful tech implementation
To have a successful marketing automation implementation, I always keep the following steps in mind:
- Align your sales and marketing teams. Sales and marketing teams must be in lockstep from day one. If you want to offer your customers a seamless customer experience, you must also be in sync internally.
- Ensure data cleanliness and hygiene. Having clean data that is updated, current, and in your CRM system gives you more options – like the potential to apply an AI layer to uncover deeper insights. It significantly streamlines productivity to have all your data in the same place and all your teams focused on accomplishing the same outcome.
- Adopt an accounts-based marketing philosophy. Adopting an ABM-first philosophy helps sellers prioritize account-based selling tactics to improve the customer experience.
- Make your business CRM-centric. Ultimately, a CRM-centric ideology needs to be in place to successfully implement ABM. Sales and marketing need to prioritize customer-first thinking and work with an open data model, where data is not locked in a si