You probably remember the famous 90s tyre brand TV commercial with the slogan: “Power is nothing without control”.

The same principle can be applied to digital marketing where Power can be substituted for technology and Control for strategy.

Marketers have plenty of powerful software available to improve their digital marketing activity and marketing automation is one of them. It allows B2B marketers to push prospects through the funnel and nurture them based on the different stages of the purchase process they are in. It also notably enables marketers to efficiently manage email marketing which remains a pillar of any B2B marketing strategy.

However, one common misconception made is that by simply using a marketing automation platform (MAP) to broadcast email campaigns, marketers can achieve better results than a standard tool. That is not the case at all, at least not at the beginning. Simply having an MAP doesn’t help you improve the value of your email marketing activity.

Say you have a database you get predictable results for, for example, 15% open rate and 1% CTR, using marketing automation wouldn’t give you better results straight away. At the beginning, you will probably get the same numbers.  What marketing automation does is give you the opportunity to improve those results and push those perimeters you sometimes feel trapped in, but you need a content marketing strategy to achieve that goal.

In business, an efficient strategy not only generates value but also captures that value (https://hbr.org/2013/06/dont-just-create-value-capture-it). Compared to a standard tool, marketing automation can certainly produce value but without the right strategy it would be impossible for you to capture it.

What are the pillars of this strategy you should implement to get most of a marketing automation platform?

  • First, you need to have an always-on You may decide initially to only focus on email communication and it’ll need be done on a regular basis. To buy a MAP and only send out a couple of emails per quarter is like buying a Ferrari and only driving it on Sundays, to the supermarket down the road. Yes, you still have a shiny Ferrari, but it’s not a great investment, is it? So, you need to have a plan for at least 12 months.

 

  • Second, you must define an online customer journey. Driving traffic to a landing page containing an asset won’t be enough. You need to define a customer journey by identifying the pain points of the customer for each stage of the journey, providing them with the right content at the right time.

Our suggestion is that you create a Buyer’s persona matrix (see image below) so that you can align the right message to the right stage of the purchase funnel for each decision-maker involved in the campaign.

  • Third, get the necessary content. Based on your persona’s matrix, you need to produce content that answers the buyer’s pain points. You need to create an internal process that produces content on a regular basis to sustain any ongoing communication (always-on model).

This internal process would be functioning as an engine that produces the necessary content. To implement such an engine more departments need to be involved in the process. Marketing takes leadership but you’ll also need Sales and CRM people to be involved to ensure all stages of the buyer’s journey is covered.

(source: Marketo.com)

This content engine includes 7 phases:

  1. Planning – you need to define in advance

Who are you targeting? (buyer persona)

What are you investing? (budget allocation)

Where is your sweet spot? (value proposition and differentiation from competition)

What are the measurements? (define the KPIs so you can measure the success of your content strategy)

     2. Team – During this initial phase it is vital to assign responsibility for the following:

…managing the entire process

…creating content

…distributing content

…measuring success of the content marketing activity

    3. Ideas – you will need to have a lot of content to create your editorial plan to cover 12 months’ worth of activity. You can get ideas for the content you need by:

  • Understanding customers’ interests. You can survey or interview them
  • Social Listening – use social listening software to learn about what your prospects talk about online
  • Search for relevant case studies
  • Talk with your Sales team as they’ll be in direct contact with your prospects
  • Use content curation software like Curata and Scoopit

   4. Production – don’t limit yourself to only produce pdf format. You’ll have a vast array of formats you can use to produce your content

   5. Audience development – Once you have produced the content, you will need to distribute them through the right channels to engage with your audience. In other words, you will need to market your content.

  6. Conversion – You publish your content not because you want to create brand awareness but to engage your prospects with a clear objective to convert them into “leads”. So, you will need to set up clear conversation goals and a defined customer journey to achieve that goal

  7. Measurement and Optimisation – In the first phase, you have defined the KPIs of your content marketing strategy. Now, you need to make sure you are properly measuring those KPIs with the necessary tools and make sure you optimise your ongoing activity based on the results

  • Fourth, integrate the digital activity with your telemarketing. Although today’s buying process is largely digital, there is still a need for human interaction during the qualification process. For example, prospects that go to the end of the funnel (e.g. registered for a demo) need to be passed to telemarketing to become qualified.

 

  • Fifth, feed the funnel with new traffic from social and paid media. Latest stats about email performance from marketo report an open rate of 25% and a CTR 4% in the IT industry. Focusing only on email marketing can be limiting in the long run as you’ll attract less than half of your database. You need to increase the number of prospects in the funnel by using other digital channels.

In conclusion, there are many marketing automation platforms available in the market to satisfy you individual needs, from large corporations to SMBs. But choosing the right one is no easy job.  According to Hubspot, there is a specific criteria you must take into consideration when buying an MAP. However, whatever platform you decide to buy, you need to have a strategy in place to take control of the power.

If you want to know more about B2B marketing strategy you can click here.