The Nature of Nurturing

The questions were fast and furious. But Liz McClellan knew what to expect. She had been down this road already. She had taken her company, Sage Business Solutions, on the journey into the world of marketing automation. She had lived through – survived, really – the constant questions about what to expect as far as ROI, quantity of leads, quality of leads, Web analytics, lead scoring, content management, etc. She had been where few still dare to go, including some who had poured into a recent Business Marketing Association (BMA) meeting in Atlanta to dissect her company’s exploits.

Too dramatic? Depends on your situation. The truth is that in today’s business environment – one where more companies are holding every arm of the machine accountable for their actions – you not only have to generate ways to increase revenue streams, but also you’d better make sure they work. And that means you marketing.

Marketing automation. In today’s marketing environment, the phrase means different things to different people. To some, it may mean anything from simple spreadsheet analysis, to software suites with a full array of tools that measure leads and content management. To others, it may play a key role in helping to create harmony in that never-ending battle between sales and marketing (enter your story here).

But, perhaps more than anything else, marketing automation technology means that you may need to change from a right-brain way of thinking to a left-brain one to comprehend its measurement capabilities. Read: Marketers embarking on the journey of marketing automation will generate leads in a more scientific and analytical way. That’s what McClellan, a 20- year veteran of the marketing game, found when Sage, whose brands include Sage Peachtree, Sage ACT!, Sage Abra, Sage SalesLogix, Sage MAS 90 and Sage X3, undertook the endeavor.

“I think marketing automation is a smart tool to invest in, but you need to set the right expectations,” says McClellan, Sage’s VP of primary marketing and retail sales. “As we began our own journey to review marketing automation platforms, I wish I’d had someone take me aside and tell me the brutal truth. I could have handled it. But nobody wanted to code on how to boost our new customer-acquisition efforts. We were going to have fewer, but more meaningful, touch points with prospects, and send only highly qualified leads to sales. It sounded great. I was ready.”

McClellan compares the journey to becoming a parent, in which everybody talks about the good stuff, congratulates you, and wishes you the best. “But there’s more,” she says. “Way more. What someone should have told me is that the first year of implementing a new platform is rough, and that the first year is just a sampling of the hard work involved for years to come. There will be many rewards and insights along the way, but it takes a lot of work.”

The art of marketing automation

New channels. New apps. Social media. The world of marketing continues to evolve. And with these changes comes a new responsibility for today’s marketer – revenue growth. That means accountability becomes one of the new buzzwords for a marketing team. Today, the big office in the corner is not interested in clickthrough and open rates; it wants to know how marketing is contributing to the bottom line.

“With the economy being the way it is, there needs to be more proof that marketing is directly responsible for revenue,” says Adam Blitzer, COO for cloud marketing automation software provider Pardot. “Marketing departments are being scrutinized like never before. When cuts are made, marketing typically is the first to be hit, because it is a cost center.”

Marketing automation helps bring marketing more in line with the sales teams, a relationship that has had its share of competition over the years. “There is the ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-lately’ sentiment that defines this relationship,” Blitzer says. “And as these processes are put into place, that sentiment can really take hold. With marketing automation, it’s all about getting that first win in place.”

Running a successful marketing campaign means delivering more qualified leads to the sales team, improving conversion rates to sale, increasing revenue per lead, providing automated lead scoring for prospects, increasing prospect engagement through lead-nurturing emails, maximizing sales productivity, and delivering visibility to prospect activity on the website and engagement with email communications.

“Marketing automation helps to open doors that have never been opened before,” says Brian Kardon, CMO of Eloqua. “It helps a company read the digital body language of a customer. It’s pretty amazing that you can follow a customer’s click-stream and interest, based on what he does. If a prospect comes to your website, you will know what he has clicked and what he is interested in. Did he watch a video? Did he click on a white paper? Once you know all this, you can target him with  very precise content.”

For example, marketing will provide the sales team with information such as the duration of a prospect’s visit, pages viewed (with the URL) and time spent viewing that page, the first and last page viewed, the originating lead source, a rating and/or score of each prospect and the types of a drill down on actual email content and click-through activity.

Think of it like this: Imagine going on a blind date and knowing everything you need to know about the person you’re meeting. “The navigating attention of a prospect defines the customer,” says Bryan Brown, director of product strategy for Silverpop. “You know what he is interested in, what he needs, and what he might buy. [In essence] the salesperson is building a relationship with this person without knowing it. Marketing automation helps build that bridge between marketing and sales. It really makes the sales job easier; they just don’t know it.”

Get to know me

When Air New Zealand was looking for another way to engage its customers, it turned to Silverpop to help revitalize its email campaigns. Using Silverpop Engage, the airline set out to focus on customer relationships and brand building, solicit timely customer feedback, and take a more personal touch to its unique customer service approach.

The customer campaign, known as “Personality Allowed,” sends personalized pre-flight and post-arrival emails to passengers using Silverpop’s Dynamic Content functionality. The preflight email greets passengers with a welcoming subject line that includes imagery tailored to their upcoming destination. The photos include shots of local cultural events or popular delicacies, a weather update, and flight details. With Silverpop’s Share-to-Social capability, passengers also have the option to share their information with friends via Facebook and Twitter.

Another aspect of the communications includes photo and information about a member of the flight crew. In addition, a post-arrival email provides a link to the company’s MyVoice program, which serves as a comprehensive preference center, collecting and housing information about each passenger.

“The pre-flight emails have an average unique open rate of 69 percent and an average unique click rate of 38 percent, well above industry averages,” Silverpop’s Brown says. “The post-arrival emails have an average unique open rate of 62 percent and an average unique click rate of 40 percent. One passenger even commented on Facebook that it was the first piece of e-marketing he had ever received that he opened, read and printed out.”

Programs such as Air New Zealand are among a growing number of success stories that are making marketing automation something a company must consider. That said, only  read – of today’s businesses are using the platform. “Eventually, this process is going to win out,” Eloqua’s Kardon says. “There are going to be the old school skeptics who say they are not getting enough leads. But it is up to the marketers to validate the leads they are getting. They must let them know the leads are more qualified and that those people are more ready to buy. In the end, the sales and marketing teams have to work together on this. Part marketing’s role will be to educate (or sell) the sales team on the benefits of this brave new world.”e first to be hit, me down from my

Printed with permission from Connect Magazine.