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I recently described how the old fashioned business-to -business “marketing funnel” is now a chaotic and unpredictable marketing tornado. A recent Webinar featuring marketing automation (MA) success stories from Dell and Trend Micro showed how marketing automation can meet these challenges. But, these customers said, it is an ongoing process, not a one-time silver bullet.

The Webinar, sponsored by marketing agency Televerde, described how profoundly buyer behavior has changed with the advent of the Web as a channel for B2B buyers to research products and ask peers for advice and feedback. As Kathleen Schaub, VP of research for IDC’s CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) Advisory Practice, said today’s “buyers are never, ever, offline during the buying process” and often know more than the salespeople who are pitching them.

She called MA a fundamental requirement for 21st century marketing. But she said too many vendors “still do lead management like it was 1999,” spamming prospects rather than “express respect for buyers” with content and offers that provide value.

Moving from spanning to getting the most from MA takes time and hard work, agreed Vince Massey, director of enterprise security sales for Dell SonicWall and Maureen McCormick, director of U.S. regional marketing operations for Trend Micro. All three speakers also agreed that deploying and learning the MA software is only the first, and maybe the easiest, part of the process.

The real work – and the real benefits — comes in the ongoing work of training and staffing, change management and continual measuring and tweaking of the new MA-fueled sales cycle. Takeaways and key lessons in each area include:

  • Set aside money and time to train your sales and marketing staffs in how to not only use the software, but to use it to prospect for leads. Dell also learned it had to dedicate a staff to follow up on leads from the MA system, rather than leaving it up to staff that had “day jobs” in areas such as channel sales.
  • All three spoke of the need for collaboration not only between sales and marketing, but between these two groups and operations. This collaboration is crucial for everything from establishing appropriate SLAs for MA system performance to scoring leads.
  • Tracking is critical to understand what is working and what isn’t, and continually improving the MA program. This means assessing not only what content worked and what didn’t, but the quality of leads and the accuracy of your lead scoring.

The results include lower cost of sales, faster handoffs of opportunities to the sales staff, higher quality leads and improved close rates. For some companies, one of the greatest benefits is the ability, often for the first time, to accurately track marketing spending and its results. As Massey said, “instead of talking about whose data is better, we talk about results.”

 

I see customers demanding “industrialized” offerings in areas from remote infrastructure management to data backup. In an era of shrinking budgets and rapid change, they want services based on best practices whose results they can measure, and whose performance they can constantly and improve. Using MA to reach these empowered customers will require the same discipline, trackability and continuous improvement.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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