If marketing automation systems were cars, then Lori Wizdo would be the editor of Motor Trend magazine. Wizdo not only studies how marketers are progressing in automating their lead generation and revenue marketing operations, she also puts the leading marketing automation systems through their paces and rates them in Forrester Wave reviews.
We asked her for an update on the functionalities of these advanced marketing machines, and the skills of their drivers.
What’s behind the surge toward inbound marketing?
Over the past two to four years all of the marketing automation companies have been integrating more techniques to drive inbound. Simple things like social sharing. Can I make it easier for someone to share within their social networks? How much can I optimize my campaign artifacts so they’re findable and searchable—like my landing pages or blogs or whitepapers or my content? Can I find people engaging in relevant conversations and engage with them socially?
How far advanced is the technology?
The use of technologies is still somewhat fragmented. Basically, all of these marketing automation systems are designed to capture behaviors—social being one, email being another, Web being another. You can then use these behaviors in a rule-based manner in two ways: to trigger communications or change a lead score. For instance, if someone is expressing an interest in one of seven competitive products, you have a sales rep call or send an email, or you can change a lead score.
Are both sales and marketing tuned into using the technology to their utmost advantages?
A common problem is that marketing has a tendency to give leads to sales as soon as they’re reasonably well-identified, because sales has a desire for these leads. Marketers are often hesitant to stand their ground versus sales until they’ve gathered enough signals to say this is a late-stage lead. The appropriate time to send a lead to sales varies depending on what the product is. If it’s a product cycle that needs to close this quarter, those leads should be qualified to a higher standard. But if it’s a longer cycle, more early-stage leads can be sent to sales. It does require marketing and sales to come to some agreement on that.
Aren’t B2B buyers as reticent to provide detailed information about themselves on the Internet as consumers are?
You no longer have to ask someone to fill out 15 required fields to download a whitepaper. There are a number of other ways now to get that information. You can use a prefill option or progressive profiling in which you ask for a few pieces of information the first time a prospect arrives and as they return you obtain more and more. In that way, you can use rules to take more intelligent digital actions.
Your report stated that only 50% of marketing organizations have automation systems in place. How far along are those companies in exploiting their capabilities?
They have a lot of capabilities that marketers have not yet begun to implement as common practice. Any company’s first-generation use of this technology is to position the customer in one place to manage emails and then move to nurturing. This technology doesn’t necessarily break down the walls between sales and marketing. There needs to be a lot of process change to make it work. Companies doing the best job with it are the ones realizing that this is a customer engagement process that can help move customers through the sales cycle. When it works, it’s like synchronized swimming between sales and marketing.