The Panacea, Pitfalls & Potential of Marketing Software
It’s been my experience that when aligning technology to support revenue enhancement projects, applying both creative thinking and lessons from complimentary strategies and technologies can collectively deliver the biggest top line revenue impact.
For example, as Chief Marketing Officers increasingly recognize they must become co-contributors to revenues, and to that end become directly accountable for their contribution to the pipeline, forecast and earned revenues, they are increasingly turning to marketing automation systems such as Eloqua, Marketo, Salesforce.com and Silverpop. But do these marketing software systems grow revenues? Maybe. It depends who you ask. But beyond asking, if you look to the actual results, it becomes clear that few adopters truly achieve the slated strategic benefits and even fewer grow revenues. Achieving the elusive goal of delivering the right content to the right contact at the right time in the right channel is an increasingly difficult undertaking.
To be fair, I’m an advocate of marketing automation when backed with strategy, and I’ve personally deployed these applications many times over with substantial revenue gains. But I’ve also done a lot of research, and based on that data have spoken and written about why marketing software systems fail so that these challenges can be understood and mitigated.
I Want More Revenues, Not Just Faster Conversions
The single most cited benefit of marketing automation software is to get more qualified leads into the hands of the sales force. Rather than have marketing throw unqualified leads over the fence to sales, this technology applies digital lead tracking, lead scoring and email nurture campaigns to advance leads to agreed upon qualification levels, and send only sales-ready leads to the sales team. The business impact is substantial — when sales staff allocate their scarce selling time to the best selling opportunities, sales productivity rises, sales velocity increases and sales win rates go up. All good stuff for sure, but if you reconsider the CMOs objective to grow revenues by adding more leads to the top of the funnel, you recognize that even when the technology succeeds, it’s more about accelerating the existing lead volume than adding additional leads to the top of the pipe.
Growing Top Line Revenues
To grow revenues using marketing automation software its helpful to think beyond these tools programmed features of lead tracking, lead scoring, lead nurturing and lead transfer, and instead consider how to use these features in context of other marketing strategies. Here’s 5 ways to use marketing automation software to not just accelerate the existing volume of leads through the pipe, but also grow the number of leads going into the pipe.
Behavioral targeting. Better customer segmentation, targeting and messaging acquires more leads. With marketing automation technology, marketers can segment prospects beyond demographic and firmographic criteria (which are static and untelling of buyer intent), and leverage far more powerful behavioral attributes. But marketing software’s ability to simply record what IP addresses do online doesn’t get you there. Instead, what’s needed to increase the volume of new leads is an integrated combination of digital campaigns, content marketing and website analytics.
Marketing systems are overtly focused on getting leads to landing pages. It’s a relevant tactical strategy, but incomplete as exceedingly few B2B buyers are going to consider your firm without visiting your website. So further considering the buyer’s journey and using digital marketing programs such as email campaigns, social campaigns or search engine marketing to get buyers to your website, and engage those buyers is critical. But for most this is a big challenge. Most websites convert well less than 1% of visitors into leads. The other 99%+ of the website visitors that came to check you out, didn’t find a compelling reason to engage or complete your Contact Us page, and left, never to return again. What if you could engage and convert just 1% of those departing anonymous visitors? You’d double your leads.
Capturing each visitor’s digital footprints and using that data to offer (personalized and contextual) compelling content – pursuant to a content marketing strategy based on persona and buy cycle stage – converts leads well beyond simple landing page techniques. The three fold approach of digital campaigns to get buyers to the website, marketing automation to detect their behaviors and highly relevant content marketing to convert those anonymous leads to known prospects can grow lead volume 2X+.
Nurture campaigns. Successive or sequentially progressive marketing techniques acquire more leads than one-off campaigns or offers. Marketing automation nurture campaigns advance leads acquired from any campaign type so that more qualified leads are delivered to the sales team.
New leads incur a bell curve in terms of lead quality. In the B2B technology space, about a quarter of new leads are sales-ready when received, about 45-55% of new leads are not yet sales-ready when received (but about 60-65% of this group will eventually become sales-ready over about 10-18 months) and about 25-30% of new leads are not sales-ready when received and never will be.
When marketers forward the not yet sales-ready leads to the sales team, those leads get ignored and exacerbate the lead leakage problem. If instead we nurture that group using a combination of behavioral attributes, successive messaging and remarkable content, about half that group will eventually convert into sales-ready leads that can enter the pipe. This has the effect of about doubling the overall lead volume. In my own efforts, I’ve found that this level of nurture marketing will convert about 1.5-2% of the unqualified prospect pool each month (and as the pool gets larger every month, so does the volume of nurture leads going to the pipeline).
No lead left behind. Lead recycling builds upon the prior point. For a plethora of reasons, leads scored as sales-ready can be transferred to the sales team and then stall. Leaving stalled leads with the sales team also contributes to lead leakage. Instead, using marketing automation to identify stalled leads or opportunities, and revert them back to marketing for continued nurturing until they again become sales-ready will salvage a high volume of leads that would otherwise die on the vine.
Real-time offers. The combination of marketing automation software to detect real-time behaviors and immediately (or perhaps upon a short staged delay) apply highly specific campaign offers that capitalize on those behaviors can deliver the highest performing conversions bar none. This is a simple case of striking while the iron is hot.
Multi-channel offers. Marketing offers viewed on multiple channels get higher conversions and increase lead volume. For example, if a website visitor shows an interest, but doesn’t respond to a website offer, using retargeting techniques to repeat that offer on other websites viewed by the visitor, or using Facebook Exchange to display the offer in the prospect’s Facebook page will create a familiarity or recognition that ultimately increases new lead conversions.
There are many additional opportunities to leverage marketing automation software with other marketing techniques for benefits such as revenue visibility beyond the sales forecast, revenue predictability based on pro form revenue cycle modeling, engaging anonymous visitors that don’t respond to offers, delivering sales intelligence with new leads (i.e. deliver the digital footprints with the lead to sales) and lowering overall cost per lead (CPL) by using efficient campaign automation. As this blog post is getting kind of long, I think I’ll discuss these methods in more detail in a follow-on post.
More Leads Do Not (Necessarily) Equal More Revenues
You can really get a powerful one-two punch combination when aligning marketing software’s traditional lead acceleration functions with synergistic lead acquisition methods. In fact, while acquiring more leads is an obvious goal, it’s critical to also recognize that more leads doesn’t translate to more revenues, particularly if marketing is simply sending unqualified leads to the sales team. Diluting sales focus and time with unqualified leads doesn’t translate to increases revenues as much as it does to lower win rates, longer sales cycles and a growing cultural divide between sales and marketing.
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When sales staff allocate their scarce selling time to the best selling opportunities, sales productivity rises, sales velocity increases and sales win rates go up. All good stuff for sure, but if you reconsider the CMOs objective to grow revenues by adding more leads to the top of the funnel, you recognize that even when the technology succeeds, it’s more about accelerating the existing lead volume than adding additional leads to the top of the pipe.