As a Marketer, you know your business depends on Marketing to fuel a significant portion of its revenue – so implementing with less-than-best marketing practices is putting revenue, and careers, at risk. Marketing efficiency and effectiveness are key to making this happen, and Marketing Automation (MA) plays a critical role in both efforts. Many of our clients have some flavor of MA deployed – but we’ve observed three main challenges to really making it work for the business:

  1. Sales and marketing collaboration
  2. Practices to ensure quality reliable data
  3. Really understanding how to nurture or guide prospects through the buying cycle

Sales and Marketing need to stay close. And by close, we mean really close.

Let’s get real. Many say that their Marketing and Sales teams work well together – but when we look at the evidence, measured by cohesive CRM/MA usage, it rarely proves out. Collaboration between the two is not simply a tale of Marketing handing off the lead baton, and Sales following up. True symbiosis is a function of aligned systems and processes. Inherently, because Marketing and Sales believe their goals differ, those systems and processes are often misaligned; hence, revenue suffers. It’s the simple math. But since we know both have the same desired outcome (sales/revenue), alignment can be powerful accelerators for business growth. Let’s look at the core elements to align.

Success of any implementation and adoption of marketing automation starts with having sales and marketing aligned on nomenclature, process, definitions, and the need for continuous feedback. Once these pieces are in place, developing a strategic implementation plan can be done.

Marketing and Sales Alignment

Formative has a simple framework for ensuring sales and marketing are aligned at the start:

  • Get both groups in a room and agree they are willing to participate and contribute to collaborating. It sounds simple, almost obvious, but it’s remarkable how often this synch and ratification doesn’t occur. The importance of the face-to-face nature of this meeting cannot be overstated.
  • Develop a standard set of definitions across the groups. Such as: a lead means this, nurture means this, et cetera.
  • Map out the process of generating a lead to closing a deal in detail. Include not only the flow, but who is responsible each step of the process, what influences the prospect to move to the next step, where do leads originate, and more.
  • Develop a common strategy for lead generation and closing sales, creating an agreed-upon prioritized plan for rolling out features, training, and how success will be measured.
  • Schedule regular follow-up sessions to discuss what is working, what is not working, what would improve the process, and what is causing friction in the process.

Data Integrity and Maintenance

Data integrity is an issue for any company the moment they start to track, update, enhance, and use customer data. Data feeds into various systems through manual input, web forms and browsing, events, and many other collection points. Data is the basis for all marketing rules, processes, triggers, events and automations – all of which drives communication with customers, creates personalized experiences, and arms sales teams. Good quality data enables marketing that is personalized, proactive and contextual, leading to increased revenue, but poor data integrity compromises all of those elements.

The quality of data has a broad financial impact to businesses. Let’s look into the cost of quality by applying the 1-10-100 Quality Management rule by George Labovitz and Yu Sang Chang: it costs $1 to verify a record as it is entered, $10 to fix it later, and $100 if nothing is done. With corporate data growing at an average rate of 60% per year, lack of data management is costly. Quality ‘in’ equates to not only quality ‘out,’ but saves time, resources, and money.

A Data Governance strategy, which refers to the ‘overall management of the availability, usability, integrity, and security of the data,’ is only the beginning. Ensuring policies are followed requires conducting regularly scheduled data quality check-ups & maintenance scans, either by internal data quality resources, or an external service.

Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing is the active management of a relationship with potential clients, even when they haven’t purchased from you in a considerable amount of time, or not at all. Studies show that up to 96% of first-time visitors to your company’s website simply aren’t ready to buy yet, but that up to 70% of those first-time visitors may eventually become purchasing customers in the future.

Once you have a prospect’s information, you have the power to personalize your interactions with them, building a rapport and establishing trust between the prospect and your company.
A mature lead nurturing process provides a company the ability to present a prospect with content and information that the prospect is interested in, and establishes the company as an authority in a prospect’s eyes.

Successful nurturing starts with sales and marketing teams communicating, aligned on goals and functioning together. When this does not occur, it can cost companies up to 10% of their annual revenue due to lost or badly-nurtured leads; but if they do, companies report up to a 20% annual growth rate. What are the facets of nurturing most often overlooked or handled sub-optimally?

Stay in Contact and Build Value for Your Organization

The more intuitive aspects of nurturing include planning your lead nurturing activity so that it is personalized, leveraging the data you have collected, ensuring the process is repeatable at scale (avoid micro-segmentation), and delivering information that is interesting and educational. Less intuitive, but equally important, is applying these same strategies to ALL of your leads – even those that may feel out-of-date. Again, companies that mine their CRM systems for ‘once warm, now cool’ leads tend to outperform companies that only focus on what’s hot and recent.

Nurture through Multiple Channels

Using a multi-channel approach to lead nurturing, you give your leads an opportunity to choose how, when, and where to connect with you – building customer value by meeting the lead in their preferred channel. This approach also provides the ability to deliver different value propositions in the appropriate medium. Too often, businesses view MA through the lens of email, but today’s MA platforms and success methodologies extend well-beyond email into the domain of optimized media and social channels.

Progression through the Sales Cycle Should be Natural

By definition, a lead is a potential customer who is not yet ready to buy, but could be if the right conditions are created. In many cases leads drop out of the sales cycle prematurely; this is not always because the lead is not qualified to buy, but because it simply loses contact. Putting a human lens on the sales cycle allows a business to not just see a potential customer taking a series of strict, linear actions – but walk with them through the sales cycle, understanding that an organic ebb/flow of activity is the likely cadence for many customers. Companies that don’t have their CRM/MA systems and processes aligned to this natural cycle end up dropping leads prematurely – not because interest waned, but because a sales rep can’t afford to manually maintain that contact, but the systems are not set up to accommodate this type of nurture cycle.

To Sum Up

You don’t need to be a large company with a large, dedicated team to really nail Marketing Automation. Today’s platforms are such that most companies, with the right focus and discipline, can implement marketing automation with great success. Examining your own system and processes to establish alignment between Marketing and Sales, ensuring data quality is high, and taking advantage of sound and sophisticated nurturing strategies will provide short- and long-term gains for your business.