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Brand Activator/ Strategic Planning

Marketing Automation: Brand Inception

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by Ted Kohnen
Chief Marketing Officer
Stein IAS (Americas)

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“This is inception. The seed of the idea we plant will grow in this man's mind. It'll change him. It might even come to define him.”
–Leonardo DiCaprio (Dominic Cobb) from the movie Inception

You probably weren’t thinking about marketing automation as you watched the hit movie Inception, in which trained “extractors” sought to plant an idea in the mind of a successful businessman so that his future actions would be to their benefit.

Well, I was.

While marketing automation has been a hot topic among marketers for some time now, awareness of and interest in its promise hit a high note with the recent acquisition of Pardot by Exact Target for $90 million. And just last week, the Business Marketing Association’s inaugural London “Go and Grow” conference featured a panel on Marketing Automation led by Stein + Partners’ president and chief creative officer, Tom Stein.

At the event, the panelists discussed how marketing automation goes beyond contact/lead scoring, segmentation, and structured communications. Through strategic orchestration, fueled by the right contentand delivered with topicality and relevance, a brand can, in fact, more deeply penetrate the decision-making process of a potential customer. In other words, Brand Inception.

Penetrating the mind-set of a target prospect or influencer in a world full of noise, choices, content overload, and competing priorities is no simple matter. As Dominic Cobb stated in Inception, “No idea's simple when you have to plant it in someone else's mind.”

But marketing automation holds the key. Increasingly, brands are adopting marketing-automation platforms, such as Eloqua, Marketo, and Pardot, to “plant ideas” (and relevant, valuable information) all along the buyer journey. By doing so, they have seen increases in lead generation, marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), and closed sales. In the recently published Lead Generation Effectiveness Study, 46 percent of respondents indicated they have experienced an increase in marketing-contributed revenue as a result of their marketing-automation program.

Yet many brands struggle to realize the full potential of marketing automation. What’s holding them back? For starters, a SiruisDecisions survey about lead-generation effectiveness found that most companies only use 25 percent of a marketing-automation platform’s functionality. Further, the survey found that the No. 1 reason marketers are dissatisfied with marketing-automation performance is due to lack of content for campaigns.

The importance of content–good content–cannot be overstated. So much so that I wrote a Brand Activator blog post earlier this year called “Feeding the Beast: Activating Marketing Automation.” Simply put, you can’t plant an idea without the content to support it.

As you think about your own marketing-automation initiatives, it may pay to think like Dominic Cobb and become your organization’s “extractor.” Assemble the best cross-functional team (sales, marketing, IT, customer care), maximize your platform’s functionality, develop great content–but start with an idea that deserves to be planted.

About Ted Kohnen

The authors of the Brand Activator blog are from Stein IAS (Americas), New York, BtoB Magazine 2013 Agency of the Year.

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