Getting Started with B2B Marketing Automation + 10 Tips You Can Use Today

Written by Kathy Kassera Mrozek
Marketing Automation Tips and Tricks HubSpot Conversion Pipeline

If you’re a B2B marketing leader, it’s likely the subject of marketing automation is part of everyday business. And it should be.

Marketing automation practices increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your marketing. You’ll reach more of the right people, engage them more and nurture them toward becoming future customers. And all with less manual followup. What’s not to like about that?

In spite of these benefits, however, there are many B2B companies that have yet to use marketing automation practices to boost business. If you’re in the latter camp, this article’s for you.

If you’re not using marketing automation but want to dip your toe into it, what can you do today without a significant effort to get started? Read on as we address this question and nine others:

I. What is Marketing Automation?
II. Is Marketing Automation Right For Me?
III. What are the Benefits of Marketing Automation?
IV. Is Marketing Automation More than Email?
V. What’s the Difference Between CRM and Marketing Automation?
VI. What Marketing Automation Techniques are Best for B2B Websites?
VII. What are 10 Marketing Automation Techniques I Can Use Today?
VIII. What are the Disadvantages of Automation?
IX. Which Marketing Automation software is the Best?

I. What is Marketing Automation?

When marketing leaders begin a conversation around marketing automation the discussion almost always begins with technology. Yes, tech is important, but it’s not more consequential than strategy or process.

Marketing automation is much more than software. It’s a holistic way of thinking about your marketing. In our view at Windmill Strategy, marketing automation is how you follow up with your prospects; a strategy for doing more with fewer resources on the marketing side, and a way of giving your sales team superpowers.

Software firm Pardot, (Salesforce) defines marketing automation as “technology that helps businesses grow by tracking customer engagement, and delivering personalized experiences to each customer across marketing, sales and service.”

For B2B companies that already use a CRM (customer relationship management) to help sales easily connect with prospects and customers, the allure of marketing automation becomes even greater. Businesses that integrate a marketing automation platform with a CRM can plan and deliver personalized messages to individual customers using tactics like email, landing pages, social media, digital advertising and others. With this duo you can deliver the right message, to the right prospect — at just the right time.

II. Is Marketing Automation Right for Me?

Yes. There’s no real question here; if you’re a B2B marketer, you can benefit from marketing automation. It’s the future of marketing, and the sooner you implement it, the sooner you’ll reap its returns. Before you can take full advantage of marketing automation, however, you’ll need to have a few other things in place:

 We’ll talk about a few of these items later on in this article.

III. What are the Benefits of Marketing Automation?

The benefits of using marketing automation within your B2B business are numerous:

  • Produce more sales: First and foremost, marketing automation accelerates new sales and helps grow revenue.
  • Save time: Because most manual tasks are automated, you and your team will have more time to create revenue-producing campaigns and think strategically about your business.
  • Improve staff ROI: With your staff (or perhaps you, if you’re a marketing team of one) liberated from low-value busy work, you’ll see a higher return on investment from your team. Again, through automation, you’ll have more time to strategically grow the business.
  • Improve customer engagement: Through automation you can personalize campaigns and programs for individual customers or personas. Targeted messaging over time results in more engaged prospects, who turn into customers.
  • Track customer behavior: Because every contact point with your customers and prospects is tracked and analyzed, marketing automation platforms provide deep insights through analytical tools. You can even use the data to predict future behaviors and improve forecasting accuracy.

IV. Is Marketing Automation More than Email?

Yes. Pardot is a marketing automation tool focused heavily on email, but marketing automation encompasses so much more. Email is just one of the tools. For instance, marketing automation can track, score and qualify your leads. You’ll also find better landing page builders and templates in marketing automation platforms. More powerful builders provide unlimited design options, which you can then leverage to create content that perfectly matches your brand.

V. What’s the Difference Between CRM and Marketing Automation?

Think of the CRM as the database of customer information; the marketing automation package or tools are how you interact with them. We recommend a close relationship between CRM and marketing automation tools, but they need not necessarily be the same. There’s a great simplicity that comes from onboarding a tool like HubSpot, for CRM and sales tools AND marketing automation. With a closed-loop system, it’s much easier to track your efforts and tactics to close deals directly. However, it’s also common to pair Salesforce CRM with HubSpot for marketing automation, or other tools like Marketo. This is information you can sync back-and-forth.

VI. What Marketing Automation Techniques are Best for B2B Websites?

One of the top techniques is the exit intent pop-up. These appear when a user is about to exit a page. Set them to appear on every page or only single pages, depending on your objectives. Rather than the visitor leave your site empty-handed, offer a high-value white paper or article as a download. Offer a branded white paper or data sheet on a blog article or product page. In exchange, you get their email address to deliver ongoing helpful marketing content. These are great tactics that’ll remind prospects of your company and services when the timing is right.

VII. What are 10 Marketing Automation Techniques I Can Use Today?

1. Lead flow or toast pop-ups: Similar to exit intent pop-ups, offer quality downloadable white papers, buyer’s guide or other high-value content. Tailor it to page content where possible but if you need to use one site-wide that’s okay to start. These pop-ups are extremely simple to set up with a tool like HubSpot; all you need is quality content.

2. Drip messaging: The simplest implementation of drip messaging is an automated thank-you email sent to prospects after they sign up for your newsletter. Use the email to offer additional resources and connect them to a salesperson if they’re ready. Be careful with drip sequences not to overwhelm new subscribers with too many emails; keep your content focused and relevant to what they’ve already downloaded and be sure to add value. If you can’t do this, skip the drip sequence so the prospect doesn’t unsubscribe before sending your regular email marketing.

3. Lead scoring: If you’re using content marketing and have a large tier of ABM prospects, you may have quite a few prospects with varying engagement levels. Powerful platforms such as HubSpot can calculate and score each prospect based on engagement signals that suggest strong intent—predicting when they’re highly interested and when it’s a good time for your sales team to contact them. Scoring can be based on page views (with specific pages, such as pricing, or get a quote page weighted more highly), or engagement with emails. You can also use company information and demographic information, to ensure that high scores are given to prospects who align with your ideal customer profile and personas. You can set alerts to email your sales manager, or set up a report within HubSpot that shares lead scores with your sales team.

4. Visitor activity tracking & flagging: Establish alerts for when a prospect views a webpage, document or email. But choose your alerts carefully. Too many alerts and salespeople will ignore them; too few, and hot prospects will stay under the radar until they contact you.

5. Meetings link; HubSpot or Calendly: If you take away nothing else from this article, get your salespeople (and yourself) set up with a meetings link. These magical links allow a prospect or colleague to book a meeting with you, based on your availability, at a time that works for them. Skip the back-and-forth finding a time, no holding multiple times on your calendar, no-nonsense. It’ll save you countless hours that you can then put toward implementing more marketing automation tools, or maybe just taking a break to reflect on your sales and marketing success.

6. Progressive profiling: Progressive fields in the forms that prospects complete when downloading a white paper or other asset allow you to gather deeper insights on your prospects, some of which may be used to segment and gain lead intelligence. Initial form fills may ask for an email address and name, but subsequent form fills for the same prospect can ask industry, company name, job title, and other relevant information without asking the same questions, or asking too many questions at once. What’s more, you can set this up at the form level, so you’re not continually switching out form fields on your website.

7. Lead nurturing: Set automated reminders to reach out with prospects gone cold and engage them with ongoing email marketing (segmented, if possible). Use prospect email addresses to build audiences for remarketing and display ads as part of ABM campaigns. Segmented campaigns allow you to tailor your messaging to the services your leads are most interested in. Naturally, leads are more likely to engage in content that relates to their needs and current problems.

8. Personalization: Begin here by creating custom personalized web portals for your top 10 prospects or clients. Some easy ways to get started include using a web plugin to change messaging or content based on geographic location. Share case studies and track content they’ve previously viewed, showing similar content first. With email, use their company name in a cold email and lead with their job title somewhere in the first few words, which will boost open rates. Set up email sequences within HubSpot to reach out with a similar (but customized) message to your prospects. This is a great tool to save you time while also sending a personalized touch vs. a generic robotic email. Just be careful to not over-use first names in your email marketing messages; we’ve all seen it overdone. While using your prospect’s first name may seem practical, smart prospects know it’s a formula that can be perceived as less authentic.

9. Segmenting: It’s best practice to segment your email lists. If you’re getting started with email marketing you may not have an extensive list — or even the bandwidth to compose multiple emails — but that’s okay. Build your segments based on industry, application, job title, or other relevant fields that might affect — ever-so-slightly — the messaging or content you’d want to send to these prospects. At the very least, segment your CRM or email list so that you’re able to quickly pull together a list of current customers separately from prospects to make sure they aren’t getting irrelevant messages (or vice versa). You can send your thought leadership content to both lists.

10. Connections and tracking: Get more data visibility and avoid manual CSV downloads and uploads by taking advantage of likely already-existing relationships. Implement UTM tracking codes so you always know the source of any new prospects. If you’re using an outbound email system for cold email outreach, connect it to HubSpot or your CRM. This ensures only engaged potential customers who visit your website are enrolled to receive future marketing emails and thought leadership. Get your data sources connected, and you’ll have more visibility and options available to you in the future.

VIII. What are the Disadvantages of Automation?

Whenever there are advantages, there will also be disadvantages. When it comes to marketing automation, however, the problems are few. They mostly come down to deployment issues and time to set up.

Additionally, if you don’t have an ideal customer profile, or ICP, you could mistakenly nurture the wrong prospects. If you overdo personalization, your messages could appear robotic, and even a little creepy, which turns off potential prospects.

If you over-email people, they might unsubscribe. But if you always deliver valuable content that helps and educates prospects (vs. self-promotion), you’ll win every time.

And, of course, the tools will cost you some money. If you start slowly, you can experiment with free tools like Calendly or HubSpot’s free services. Many automation tools, such as HubSpot, also offer a tiered license model where you can begin with so-called starter tools, which are significantly less than purchasing a professional license.

IX. Which Marketing Automation Software is the Best?

The answer to this question comes with the qualifier, “It depends.” For marketing automation software, the best for one company may not be the best for another. Your choice will depend on your company’s size, the number of customers, budget, size of marketing staff and other factors. However, to help you sort through your options, we’ve listed five popular platforms. Information for each of these platforms has been paraphrased from software review websites Capterra and G2.

HubSpot

A powerful suite of tools that helps turn web visitors into leads. Customers get lead flows, forms, kickback emails, analytics and more. Capture leads, learn who they are and what they’re interested in, and optimize based on data. HubSpot users like it for its ease-of-use and wide range of tools. It’s ideal for companies who want to use inbound marketing to increase traffic, convert leads and prove ROI.

Marketo

A powerful, yet easy to use marketing automation software that helps generate qualified leads and translate marketing spending into revenue. Ideal for B2B or B2C companies that care about customer nurturing, customized and scalable segmentation, personalization and deep customer engagement. Users like it for its easy to use drag-and-drop interface to design emails.

Eloqua (Oracle)

This marketer-friendly platform equips marketing organizations with tools to help manage campaigns, data and lead generation. Suitable for personalization programs and implementing ABM strategies that engage, convert and expand target accounts. Ideal for companies that want an extensible open framework for connecting multiple systems.

Pardot (Salesforce)

An excellent platform for melding marketing and sales teams to engage buyers, close deals, and grow relationships. Features CRM integration, email marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring and ROI reporting. It’s ideal for companies that want to generate and qualify sales leads, shorten sales cycles, and track marketing ROI.

Act-On

A solid performer for small to midsize businesses; its numerous functions help plan, execute and measure communications strategies while targeting ideal buyers with personalized messaging. Connect and streamline multiple marketing tactics with drag-and-drop functionality. Act-On’s ease of use makes it popular with beginners.

Accelerate Your Growth With Marketing Automation

Modern marketing automation platforms continue to get more powerful while costing less, regardless of which one you think is best for your B2B business. If you haven’t yet adopted a marketing automation platform for your company, now’s the time to act. Getting started with marketing automation has never been easier. The benefits far outweigh the risks, and you’ll gain a lot: more sales, time savings and highly engaged customers. What’s not to like?

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