It’s difficult to find a B2B organization these days that doesn’t currently use one or more email marketing systems. On the other hand, a fairly small percentage of B2B organizations have a marketing automation (MA) system in place, even though MA is a rapidly growing segment.
Marketing automation systems have a much wider range of functionality built into them than email marketing systems and are therefore considerably more expensive. MA systems also require a greater internal time commitment in order for a payback to occur.
For MA to be most effective, there needs to be a strong organizational commitment to content marketing, to PPC advertising or to both. To briefly personify the MA category – marketing automation systems “thrive” on new site visitors who can be converted into prospects (in marketer speak) or leads (in salesperson speak).
Absent either a well-developed content marketing strategy or a healthy PPC budget, an MA system can quickly become nothing more than an expensive email marketing system.
What are some of the functions that differentiate email marketing from marketing automation? Here are just a few.
Landing Page Creation and Hosting
Marketing automation systems have the built-in ability to host landing pages and for system admins to create landing pages, along with associated web forms — all with point and click.
Variants of landing pages can be tested to determine the most effective version (multivariate testing). Different form fields can be displayed to a visitor who previously converted to a prospect (progressive profiling).
Finely Targeted Nurture Programs
While some email marketing systems allow for sending a sequence of “drip” emails out to list members, MA systems generally allow for a lot more flexibility in terms of who receives what type of nurture messaging.
For example, if an email recipient clicks on a specific link in the second email of a nurture program, they can be removed from the current program and added to a different one.
As a second example, depending on what web form field value was selected by a visitor, the visitor’s prospect record can be assigned to a specific nurture program.
Scoring and Predictive Lead Scoring
Going well beyond the capabilities of email marketing, prospects can be scored based on engagement criteria and/or demographic criteria. With a third party predictive lead scoring system an even more valuable measure of prospect quality is available.
Greater Salesperson and Marketer Communication
With a marketing automation system and an integrated CRM system in place, the activities of marketers and salespeople are in much greater sync than with an email marketing system alone – even if the latter is connected to a CRM system.
With integration between a CRM system and a marketing automation system, salespeople can be both CRM users and marketing automation system users. A salesperson’s respective user records can be mapped to one another. This means, for example, that leads can be assigned to the right salesperson based on engagement, demographic and firmographic data gathered in the marketing segment of the overall funnel.
Meaningful ROI Calculations on Pay Per Click
With integration between a marketing automation system and Google Adwords, the ad that resulted in a landing page submission, and therefore a new prospect, can be tracked all the way through to CRM Opportunity creation and close.
The dollar value of won opportunities in CRM are fed back into the marketing automation system therefore providing accurate data as to whether or not a given ad campaign has provided a positive financial return.
Incorporation of Video Engagement
When a marketing automation system is connected to Wistia, video engagement can be seen right inside the MA system and can also be displayed in a CRM system. The percentage of a video viewed can be used to increase a prospect’s score.
Webinar and Event Registration and Attendance
With connections to webinar platforms such as GoToMeeting and event platforms such as EventBrite, registrants can be captured in an MA system. Whether or not a prospect attended the webinar or event can be automatically logged in the MA system.
Additional Marketing Automation System Capabilities
There are many more capabilities built into marketing automation systems. There’s a common set of functionality among MA vendors, but each vendor offers a unique set of capabilities. All vendors are rapidly iterating their offerings.
Before committing to a marketing automation system, it’s important to gauge the ability for your organization to leverage a particular vendor’s offerings. Also, make sure that there’s a commitment to content and/or to PPC in order to feed the MA system.