Did you know that there were nearly 11 times more B2B organizations using marketing automation software in 2014 than in 2011? Likewise, adoption is expected to increase by 50% in 2015, according to SiriusDecisions. Several large B2B providers have recently stepped into the arena, including Salesforce and Adobe.
What’s all the hype about? For starters, marketing automation saves time for for sales teams with automated follow ups, lead scoring, and lead grading capabilities. Perhaps more importantly, it lets marketers gain deeper insight into customers.
The true value of “understanding your audience” is a bit more intangible than the other benefits I mentioned, which is why it is often overlooked during evaluation. However, having a better understanding of your customer base will always pay dividends in the long term. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three core strategies that you can apply to marketing automation in order to gain more insight into your customer base.
The more segmented you can make your audience, the better targeted you can make your content. And we all know that targeted content offers a greater probability of eliciting an action from users. According to research from MarketingSherpa, 82 percent of prospects say that content targeted to their industry was more valuable, and 67 percent said content that was specific to their job title was more valuable as well.
Unfortunately, marketing automation will not segment your audience for you, but it does offer ways to simplify the process. This is accomplished through automation rules, which allow you to automate specific changes and functions within your account. These can be applied to lead scoring, grading, and follow ups, but can also be used to silo your prospects and current customers into separate lists based on the information stored in your CRM.
For instance, if for every customer in your CRM, you store information on their company size and job title, then you can begin segmenting your marketing automation platform’s database into lists of “CEO’s at Enterprise Companies” or “Sales Directors at SMBs.” You can then use your marketing automation platform to set up a drip campaign that will deliver targeted content directly to each of these niches. By monitoring click-through rates, you can determine which topics your audience finds most appealing, and use that to shape future content strategy.
Aside from the ability to A/B test different content, one of the best side effects of this functionality is that it will force you to pay more attention to customer segmentation. For instance, you may want to segment your audience based on which pages they converted on, the marketing method that brought them to your site, or even the buyer personas that you’ve defined. All of this is possible if you collect the right information in your CRM.
Marketers have a responsibility to create channels to effectively communicate and gather feedback from current and prospective customers. The best marketing automation programs let you accomplish exactly that fairly simply.
Let’s say that you’ve successfully siloed your audience into several well-defined niches. Managing targeted drip campaigns and A/B tests are great, but what’s even more exciting is that you now have the ability to send a customized survey to each of those groups.
This is a huge opportunity to learn how they differ psychographically. You can also poll current customers on what it’s like to use your product, and see what the feedback is from each niche. For instance, you might find that SMB clients love you, but enterprise customers are dissatisfied. Whatever the results, you’ll almost certainly learn something new.
“Creepy” Behavioral Analytics
Unrelated to segmentation is the ability to see rich information about each and every prospect in your CRM. This includes both multi-touch attribution data, as well as information on which pages a prospect has visited on your site. Some might call these “creepy” analytics, and in some ways it’s hard to argue that. However, these stats are invaluable for understanding which combinations of content and marketing tactics are effective at converting leads on your website. They also help improve the overall customer experience, and allow marketers to provide more targeted, helpful content to individual visitors (especially when paired with a good marketing automation system).
Multi-touch attribution data allows marketers to see every single point of contact a customer has with your brand before they convert. Maybe they came through a Facebook post, then a PPC campaign, then an email, and then converted into a lead. There is no limit to the number of combinations that can occur, but you’ll likely find that some are more common than others. This data can help you decide where your marketing dollars should go, and how you should approach brand new prospects. Admittedly once you introduce this feature into your company, revenue attribution can become a bit of a headache. However, the value of this data is worth any temporary complexities.
In addition to these analytics, you can also observe which pages your current prospects are visiting on your website, as well as which emails they open and click-through on. This is helpful in a number of ways. For instance, if a prospect visited your site, but wasn’t yet ready to buy, then visited your pricing page again a week later, that’s a sign that they’re considering a purchase. Cue the sales follow up!
With marketing automation adoption on the rise, it’s good for all businesses to be informed of the benefits associated with it. The software offers clear advantages to sales teams in the form of lead scoring and automated follow up, but what’s often less clear are the benefits afforded to marketing. Hopefully this article has painted a clearer picture for you.
Jordan Schneider is the director of marketing at TechnologyAdvice. He writes about project management, gamification, and other emerging technology in the marketing field. Connect with him on LinkedIn.