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Five things to do now with your marketing automation platform

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Let's say that two people both sign up for memberships at an athletic club with state-of-the-art equipment. One learns how to use the equipment properly, follows a well-designed workout plan, loses weight and feels great. The other has no clear plan, always finds an excuse to skip workouts and derives little benefit. The same principle applies to marketing automation users. If you actually use these tools, you'll reap the benefits. Unfortunately, SiriusDecisions data show that most companies only use about 25% of their marketing automation capabilities. What separates average from best-in-class marketers is not differences in their tools—it's if and how those tools are used. A marketing automation platform is an integrated set of tools and processes that enable organizations to create, nurture, accelerate and close business. Here are five great ways to optimize your platform's value: 1) Anonymous website visitor nurturing. Anonymous visitor reports display aggregate website activity for your company. This insight is invaluable for sales and marketing since it identifies organizations that display interest in your company or its offerings. Use your platform to automate the purchasing of relevant contacts (roles that drive or influence a purchase decision) from those businesses with a particularly high number of visits, and enter these contacts into teleprospecting or nurturing campaigns to drive engagement. 2) Account-level scoring. When there's a spike in activity or when significant behavioral patterns emerge, it usually means an account or prospect has entered an active buying state. In the complex b-to-b buying process, there are often a number of individuals involved, so conventional contact-level scoring approaches may not be effective. These should be augmented with account-level scoring, which aggregates the activities of all contacts for every account. Account-level scoring can be fully automated in some platforms, but in others it may be necessary to use the platform in conjunction with the sales force automation system to create an automated account-scoring process. 3) Best-practice syndication. The extension of marketing automation is often constrained by a company's skills gap. Though a marketing automation platform provides new capabilities, some marketers may be unaware of how to use them effectively. Moreover, the design, creation and quality assurance of automated programs can be daunting due to the skills and time required to master them. The majority of automated marketing programs are similar and may include webinar invitation and follow-up, trade show follow-up and white paper solicitation. For each program type, create a playbook. Find a best-practice example of the program within the platform and build a slide deck that describes the program, displays its flow and shows the sequence of communications a lead will receive. Specify the program's results and compare it to benchmark data. Finally, provide a program template that can be cloned in the platform and simply update program content without rebuilding the program from scratch. Post all best-practice examples to the marketing intranet, and make reviewing them part of the marketing on-boarding process for new hires. 4) Social media reporting. Social media has become a primary pathway for organizations to communicate to their customer and prospect base. Yet, though marketing measures the total amount of exposures and clicks social media generate, rarely does social media reporting indicate the actual individuals who click on content posted on social media sites. Use marketing automation-enabled trackable URLs to identify individuals who click on each social media posting. Even if these people don't visit the corporate website or respond to emails, they can still be engaged via social media. Moreover, knowledge about who interacts with your organization via social media provides a pathway to decrease overall email distribution. You should ensure that those individuals who have clicked on a social medium don't receive an email on the same topic. Social media activity can be taken into consideration in lead scoring and engagement metrics. 5) Targeting. Most b-to-b companies segment messages and determine what programs to enter contacts into by considering demographics and recent activities. Additional data sources, used for triggering highly relevant and timely offers, include product usage information, submitted technical support cases, logged outbound/inbound calls and a contact's social media activity. Jay Famico is a research analyst at b-to-b research and advisory company SiriusDecisions (www.siriusdecisions.com). He can be reached at jfamico@siriusdecisions.com.
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