The explosion in content marketing over recent years means that many marketing and PR agencies have pivoted to become production powerhouses. After all, content and storytelling is what agencies have always specialised in. The big challenge is how to navigate different technologies, channels and platforms without losing that creative spark that makes content marketing such an effective B2B tactic.
A content-driven approach doesn’t need to be complex. It’s proven that well-crafted, insightful and transparent content establishes thought leadership engenders trust. Over time, this trust can help push prospects further down the path towards becoming paying customers.
Even so, many B2B marketers I’ve spoken to feel frustrated by the lack of ownership and poor coordination when there are multiple stakeholders involved in the content marketing process. In a digitised marketplace, a fragmented approach simply isn’t effective. Marketing automation tools mean that B2B agencies have the power to offer clients a much better end-to-end service with sophisticated insight and analytics to understand actual campaign effectiveness and ROI.
Marketing automation delivers on the promise of better business insight and the ability to effectively use different channels to target the right audience. If you’re a B2B marketer not using marketing automation, you should be. If you’re in any doubt, here are six reasons why I believe that marketing automation is a must.
1.Build the bigger picture
When it comes to getting a clear picture of how a campaign is performing, most digital campaigns are an unholy digital mess.
The client’s web team ‘needs to own’ any landing pages. Email campaigns are designed with a tool that isn’t connected to the CRM. The list of ‘hot prospects’ is nothing more than a spreadsheet of email addresses that someone in sales has extracted from their email account.
You get the picture. The beauty of marketing automation is that it has all these features in one place - emails, landing pages, dynamic forms, customer tracking - the whole nine yards. This means that you have a single, holistic view of not just one campaign, but how customers have interacted with multiple campaigns over time.
2. Turn faceless leads into people
Marketing automation ties into your CRM. In fact, many marketing automation providers such as Hubspot, Pardot (which is part of Salesforce) and SharpSpring have a CRM included. This means that the marketing automation platform captures customer data from dynamic forms and emails and places them into your CRM to build a more detailed picture of your prospects. Even better, a platform like as SharpSpring has IP identification that not only tells you who is visiting your site, but it can also retrospectively match a newly added lead with any previous interactions with your marketing campaigns.
3. Create real accountability and ROI
Whether you’re in-house or an agency, your effectiveness in the eyes of the client boils down to accountability and ROI. For agencies, proving value to clients is paramount. Marketing automation enables you to attribute leads to multiple campaigns, assign a cost to that campaign (for example, booth costs at a trade show, Google Adwords, etc.) and then track the life of that lead through to a sale.
4. Segment customers and create highly personalised conversations
Instead of guesstimating which leads are likely to be more valuable than others, marketing automation does this more scientifically through lead scoring. This is where you allocate a number of points to every single thing a customer does. Points may be based on the customer visiting a particular page, downloading an ebook or registering for a webinar.
You can even put more points on the actions you consider to be more valuable. As a result, you can begin to build a picture of which leads are more valuable over time, and adjust your campaigns accordingly. Marketing automation enables you to craft highly personalised campaigns to prospects depending on their place in the sales funnel.
5. It’s affordable
Marketing automation systems are like cars. Flash-looking ones can cost a fortune, but there are some affordable gems out there. If you’re concerned about the potential ongoing cost, then there are solutions out there for you. We use SharpSpring, which for a small agency is very affordable. Its agency model has a number of licenses included, removing the cost barrier of some other platforms, and allowing you to charge clients on a retainer basis or even offer the licenses for free.
6. Offer your clients more value for money
The added value that marketing automation enables you to deliver is immense, thanks to the sophistication of what a single tool can do. From giving you the ability to quickly build templated landing pages and email campaigns through to creating sophisticated nurturing campaigns that convert leads into customers, marketing automation takes things to a whole new level.
But most crucially, it means that you are able to control the whole campaign from start to finish, allowing you to show exactly the value your work has delivered - and how. The result is that you have fewer headaches, and your clients get a much clearer understanding of how their marketing is performing.
Don’t think that marketing automation is just the reserve of large companies. Marketing automation is a powerful tool for any size company that deals with customers, wants to drive inbound sales, or has a product or service to promote. The reality is that any company that has a website and sends out emails (so that’s pretty much everyone) could benefit.
Many of these platforms may seem daunting, but it’s like a buffet - you can take just the stuff that you like, and leave the rest. But if you are anything like me, once you’ve had a taste of how it can improve your marketing skills, you definitely want to go back for some more.
By James Kaye, co-founder of Big Ideas Machine
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