Operations and sales integration are the hallmarks of successfully implemented marketing automation, according to Kristin Hambelton, VP-marketing at marketing automation company Neolane Inc.
“When Neolane customer F5 Networks set off to improve sales and marketing alignment, it started by studying process flows to determine where hand-offs were failing, where potentially good leads were being trapped and how clearly poor leads were getting into the inside sales reps' calling queues,” Hambelton said.
Hambelton said F5, a provider of IT networking solutions, automated its processing, scoring, distribution and reporting on lead flows and measured at all levels and conversion points of the demand flow to generate higher-quality leads, better conversion rates and lower costs-per-lead.
“The company worked to determine the role marketing automation could play to help it achieve objectives associated with overcoming those pain points,” Hambelton said.
Bryan Brown, director-product strategy at marketing automation vendor Silverpop, reiterated that the process is not essentially a technical one but rather a result of understanding how b-to-b buyers want to buy today.
“Buyers are only going to get more savvy and self-reliant, and social media will become more and more pervasive,” Brown said. “Buyers will continue to need you less while wanting you to be more helpful and more relevant than ever. Successful marketers will have to learn to be in more places more often. To achieve all of this, they will have to be more automated, be more social, and collect and act on comprehensive behavioral data in addition to traditional demographics.”
Brown recommended that marketers seek a vendor that understands social media and has tools in place to integrate multiple channels, including email, mobile, social and local.
“That will be key ... to capture contact behavior and then translate this insight into reports that show which campaigns or pieces of content were most effective in motivating prospects to take action,” Brown said.
One example is marketing automation company HubSpot, which last month teamed with PR Newswire to develop an optimized news release solution called iReach, which uses HubSpot analytics to help marketers better target their distribution, broaden their reach and enhance lead-generation strategies.
For the future, the increasing complexity of channels and the need to understand those and plan for their use are becoming more than a marketer can manage on the back of a napkin, or even in a decent spreadsheet analysis, according to Yuchun Lee, VP-enterprise marketing management, industry solutions at IBM Software Group, which oversees IBM's Unica marketing automation platform.
“Some estimates say that more than $1.5 trillion is being spent on marketing activities, ranging from advertising to direct mail and various forms of merchandising,” Lee said. “Online marketing and cross-channel marketing are increasingly becoming bigger and bigger portions of this huge pie.
“Moving forward, marketers must set goals for increasing website and digital interaction conversion rates; strive to better manage, integrate and leverage Web-related data; and use analytics to get the most insight from this valuable information,” Lee said.