Marketing automation has made it possible to get more poor-quality leads to sales faster than ever. But it does not have to be that way.
I’d like to share some practical and effective ways to help you dramatically improve ROI on marketing automation investments:
1. Senior executives are not as responsive to marketing automation as their junior counterparts: They don’t want to be treated like the human equivalent of a pinball—capturing your attention only after hitting the right bumpers and scoring enough points. More importantly, they are about 2.5 times more likely to respond to a quality multitouch campaign (calls, voicemails, emails, and in some cases direct mail) than are their direct reports. If your target is senior executives, I recommend you at least test a multitouch campaign against marketing automation to determine which method results in more revenue.
2. The top 30% of your prospect base (larger, right verticals, right environment, etc.) should be pulled out of automated marketing campaigns: If you wait for these targets to raise their hands by downloading a whitepaper or attending a webinar, you are going to be playing second fiddle to more agile competitors. In the best-case scenario, you will be invited in too late and become column fodder. Worst case, you will be totally unaware of an evaluation while you blissfully email the wrong targets with your SPAM cannon.
3. It should come as no surprise that I recommend against email as the exclusive channel to reach prospects: Automating the right process is smart. Using automation exclusively is not. In SiriusDecisions’ research brief, “Demand Creation: Planning Assumptions for 2015,” it states: “Rather than responding to an inbound inquiry solely with outbound email, marketers must continue conversations online and through integration and coordination with additional outbound tactics (e.g. direct mail, personalized teleprospecting outreach).”
However, automated marketing makes sense in some situations. These include renewals, consumable purchases, webinar reminders and follow-up, and automated follow-up after a prospect downloads content. (There are many more, of course.) The problem is that the scoring algorithms are infrequently validated or calibrated. In the same research brief from SiriusDecisions, it found: “At many organizations, lead scoring models are based on assumptions or inadequate sales input; the schematic is overly weighted to arbitrary behavioral signals; the design team has failed to simulate output; or the lead scoring team has neglected to establish a baseline or make ongoing adjustments based on feedback and results.”
My recommendation is that in addition to the 30% of prospects that are more strategic (discussed in #2 above), you hold back an additional 10% of prospects (from the pool of prospects that are recipients of automated marketing) and use a multi-touch approach to reach them.
You already know how many inquiries or deals you get per 1,000 emails, but do you know the opportunity cost of using email only? In other words, how much money are you leaving on the table?
By actually picking up the telephone to talk to people, you will receive feedback on content they value and content they ignore. You might re-segment your target market and shift segments into the 30% while some of the previous 30% club drops to a lower ranking. In talking with prospects, you will glean considerably more insight into their pains, their perceptions about solutions, and their actual plans than you ever will via scores from marketing automation alone.
I’m not suggesting you ditch marketing automation altogether. Just measure the benefit of human touch against the incremental cost.
You might also learn, as we have, that high scores do not actually translate into better prospects. As a matter of fact, just the opposite can be true. As an example, for one IT security company, consumers of up to five pieces of content were much better prospects than those individuals who consumed six or more pieces of content. In most companies, leads are sent to the sales force too soon. However, in the case of the IT security company, if only those who consumed six plus pieces of content were sent to sales as leads, they would be receiving really poor leads.
If you follow my advice, you will find yourself doing a lot more calibrating than validating your marketing automation.