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B2B (business to business) marketing one business selling and providing goods and services to other businesses. B2B companies face unique challenges when it comes to marketing. They need to consistently remain at the top of the mind of their prospect list and well as maintaining critical relationships with their existing customers. As opposed to B2C marketing, B2B customers are much more sophisticated. They are more informed about the marketplace and take their time to seek out information and to make highly informed decisions based on their market research. These purchases also tend to much higher dollar value and contracts that span longer timeframes.

As companies that provide B2B services look to implement more effective marketing strategies, marketing automation has become one of the most useful tactics being implemented. In fact, the use of marketing automation by B2B companies increased by 1100% between 2011 and 2015.

Marketing automation involves the use of software to automate marketing activities that would otherwise be cumbersome and time-consuming to carry out manually. These activities include sending emails, social media, implementing lead workflows, tracking incoming traffic, among others.

Marketing automation is an efficient and effective way for businesses to generate leads and to nurture those leads into potential customers. Research shows that 43% of B2B companies using marketing automation are able to generate better, high quality leads, and 68% of those businesses have enjoyed an increase in revenue.

This article will take a deeper look into marketing automation, and how it has impacted the field of B2B marketing.

How Marketing Automation Works

Marketing automation software provides a business with a section of code that is placed to work hand-in-hand with the business’s website code. The code in the automation software tracks every visitor, their behavior, actions on the website and where they originated from. The data is collected and analyzed, this collection process allows for the website visitors to be grouped into categories (or segments) that correspond with their interactions with the site. Actions (such as the sending of an email) can also be triggered when potential customers carry out specific activities. These sets of triggered actions can be categorized under lead workflows.

When effectively implemented, marketing automation allows a business to automate the process of nurturing leads further down the sales funnel and drawing them closer towards making a purchase. In fact, B2B companies that use marketing automation are able to achieve 70% faster sales cycle times. The process involves targeting leads with highly relevant content that corresponds to where they are located in the buying cycle. For B2B companies, their customers are almost never impulse buyers. They take their time to research the most effective solution to their problems and they weigh their options carefully before making any decisions. B2B companies, therefore, need to understand the approach that their customers take before they engage with their products and services.

Through marketing automation, these companies can target leads with content that they find relevant and helpful, delivered at the right time. Marketing automation software can closely analyze a lead’s behavior and how they are engaging with a particular business. The user of the software can thereafter implement a workflow that is designed to deliver content in response to a lead’s behavior. This could be sending an email at the right time, or directing the lead to appropriate landing pages.

Marketing automation software should work hand-in-hand with a sound lead generation strategy that targets prospects through multiple channels. While email is one of the most used communication channels for automation, automation processes also occur via social media and search engines. By identifying the origin of incoming traffic to a business’s website, marketing automation software provides insights into where leads are originating from. Generating more leads allows for B2B marketers to obtain more targets for nurturing into potential customers.

Marketing Automation Features that influence the B2B Marketing Process

It is evident that marketing automation has revolutionized how B2B marketers are attracting new customers and conducting their marketing campaigns. Over 142,000 B2B marketers across the globe are using automation features in order to generate higher quality leads and improve sales opportunities.

There are certain critical marketing automation features that are greatly influencing how B2B marketing is being conducted today. These features include:

Lead Nurturing

Marketing automation software provides an effective framework for lead nurturing. In the B2B marketing space, 80% of leads are interested in making a purchase from a particular company but are not ready to commit just yet. Lead nurturing is, therefore, an important process for guiding leads further down the sales funnel until they are ready to make a purchase. B2B customers tend to be more informed and strategic in their approach towards making a purchase. They are therefore less likely to respond to cold calling and other traditional marketing approaches. Responding to their needs and developing a relationship with them until they engage with the company’s products and services is the most effective approach for a business to take.

Such activities would not be possible to carry out manually. Prospects who navigate to a company’s landing pages and fill out a form need to receive a follow-up email almost immediately. Through marketing automation, an activity such as filling out the form triggers an automated response where content can be delivered to leads in a timely fashion.

Content Marketing

Targeting B2B buyers with the right content at the right time is key towards establishing their trust and drawing them closer to your business. Therefore, content marketing is a critical automation feature that allows B2B marketing to be effective. Content marketing involves creating content that is relevant to leads at each stage of the buying cycle. Marketing automation makes this possible because you can design content that corresponds to a lead’s behavior during the lead nurturing process, and automate when that content will be delivered and how based on lead behavior.

Leads that demonstrate an increasingly deeper interest with a business’s products and services (such as spending more time on product demo pages or looking at pricing information) need to be targeted with relevant and detailed content as they inch closer towards making a purchase. Automation allows for the designing of lead workflows that categorize such actions by leads into specific groups where they will receive content that is relevant to them, without driving away undecided leads.

Automation has therefore changed the B2B marketing space by making it easier for content marketing to be implemented in order to replace the use of interruptive ads that traditional marketers used to rely on.

Lead Scoring

The lead scoring feature in marketing automation has been at the forefront of generating high quality leads for B2B marketers and focusing the efforts of the sales team. In fact, 36% of B2B marketers are currently using marketing automation to score their leads, and 27% are planning on using it in the near future. Scoring leads maximizes sales productivity because the sales team can pursue only the hottest leads that will make large, timely purchases.

Marketing automation makes lead scoring more accurate and efficient. Leads that engage deeply with your business (for example by spending more time on your site, reading and responding to emails, and signing up for webinars) score higher than those who are simply clicking through pages on your website. Automation software enables a company to specify a framework through which leads are scored and what activities correspond to what score. After these parameters are set, any leads that interact with a company’s website have their activities analyzed and assigned a particular score.

Automation allows for lead scoring to be implemented along with lead grading (which focuses on demographics and buyer personas). Assigning a lead with a score and a grade helps determine a lead’s behavior and interest in the business (the score), and if they are a good fit for the product (the grade). Information about the lead (collected from landing pages) is compared to a lead’s behavior in order to assign them with a score and a grade.

Simply put, marketing automation allows a business to score its leads and to position them within the buying cycle. This ultimately enables the business to determine how likely a lead is to make a purchase, and they can devote resources to the sales team in order to pursue those hot leads.

Customer Retention

Marketing automation is revolutionizing how B2B companies are acquiring and retaining customers. In some cases, B2B marketers are focused on getting the first sale and increasing the number of repeat customers. Traditional marketing approaches involved sales associates and account managers making constants calls and trips to previous customers in an attempt to get them to make another purchase.

Marketing automation has made this process much more efficient. Once a customer makes a purchase, they are immediately added to the “customers” list in the automation platform. Based on how long they intend to use the product that they purchased, a workflow can be set to trigger a specific action at around the time when the customer’s stock will run out. For example, if a B2B company sold printer ink to a customer and the ink is expected to last 3 months, an email reminder can be triggered a few days before the stock runs out in order to compel the buyer to make a repeat purchase. The deal can also be sweetened with a discount.

B2B companies can benefit greatly from automated customer retention workflows that have been made possible by marketing automation.

New Business Development

33% of B2B marketers rank new business development as the top challenge that they are currently facing, followed by generating quality leads. Developing opportunities for new business is important for growth and for generating revenue. Marketing automation has provided important features that have enabled marketers to identify more resources for growth. For example, automation allows for the analysis of marketing data.

Incoming traffic to a business’s website can be analyzed in order to determine where the traffic originated from and if there are more opportunities to tap into those resources. In addition, the drivers of traffic (such as landing pages, SEO, and lead magnets) can be assessed for their effectiveness and the markets that they are specifically appealing to.

Automation, therefore, offers the ability to track the performance of lead generation and new business development efforts, and to determine what works and what doesn’t. Such insights have enabled B2B marketers to design more efficient marketing campaigns and gain a greater knowledge of their target audience. 

Focus on the Customer Experience

In today’s marketing world, customers have all the say. Businesses that are unable to focus on the customer experience often get left behind. Marketing automation has been at the forefront of allowing B2B companies to keep up with the trends of their customers. For example, automation enables businesses to identify what cycle/process their customers go through before making the decision to purchase a particular product. The lead scoring process also enables a business to identify where the customer is located within this cycle. Workflows can, therefore, be developed within automation software to nurture those leads until they are ready to make a purchase.

Marketing automation has allowed businesses to engage in the customer experience and to respond appropriately to customer needs and concerns. B2B companies can now design unique sales cycles that fit their customers’ needs and allow them to nurture their leads in a manner that suits their customers.

Benefits of Marketing Automation on B2B Marketing

Having seen how marketing automation has revolutionized the B2B marketing field from many different angles, automation has also presented multiple benefits to B2B marketing campaigns. Some of those advantages include:

Better quality leads

The biggest benefit of marketing automation is the ability to generate more quality leads and in greater quantity. In fact, automation has resulted in a 451% increase in qualified leads being generated by B2B marketing campaigns. But how does automation achieve so much success? It is mainly due to the role that marketing automation plays during lead nurturing. Nurtured leads make 47% larger and timely purchases than leads that are not nurtured.

Marketing automation streamlines the lead nurturing process and allows businesses to focus on the right prospects at the right time. The lead scoring process that is facilitated by automation also allows for the better identification of qualified leads. And because the end result is high quality leads, the business focuses on channeling only the hottest prospects to the sales team.

Increased Revenue

78% of businesses identified marketing automation as their primary revenue contributor. Therefore, marketing automation leads to increased revenue for B2B marketing campaigns. When critical marketing activities are automated, the business can focus its resources on adjusting to customer concerns and creating targeted content. Marketing automation makes lead nurturing, lead scoring and customer relationships proceed more efficiently, which leads to better results for the business.

In addition, by analyzing incoming traffic, automation allows for a business to better understand its target audience and to optimize its products and services towards meeting the needs of customers. In this way, B2B companies are able to enjoy increased revenue from the higher quality leads that they end up generating.

Reduced Marketing costs

B2B companies that doubt the power of automation need to think again. Automation is reducing marketing overhead costs by 12.2%. This is because previously manual processes such as sending emails, following up on repeat customers and pursuing leads have been effectively taken up by automation software. Workflows designed for these purposes within the software achieve better results at a reduced cost.

As a result, the B2B marketing strategy is able to achieve more with less. Fewer employees need to be dedicated to the marketing process, and marketing dollars are efficiently channeled only to the most qualified leads. This leads to less wastage and reduced marketing costs.

Increase in Sales productivity

The productivity of the sales team is greatly improved as a result of marketing automation. In fact, sales productivity increased by 14.5% for B2B companies using marketing automation. Only the hottest, most qualified leads are channeled to the sales department as a result of a more efficient marketing campaign. Automation allows for leads to be nurtured until they are sales ready, and lead scoring provides a benchmark that allows for only qualified leads to be targeted.

The marketing and sales departments also become more productive by aligning their efforts in order to share information, design more effective workflows and identify only the most qualified leads who are likely to make a purchase. The end result is the sales team being more productive and successful in their pursuit of high quality leads.

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