B2B marketing automation best practices

Marketing automation for B2B organizations can help potential buyers throughout the conversion process–from early stage to post-sale retention.

B2B marketing automation best practices

CMOs at top-performing companies indicate that their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to increase revenue (79%) and get higher quality leads (76%). — Gleanster, Q3 2013 Gleanster Marketing Automation Benchmark, August, 2013

A couple misconceptions about marketing automation

  • Marketing automation is not about building ‘robotic’ processes that deliver ‘unfeeling’ messages to middle of the funnel leads simply cut down on human interaction. Instead, it is about helping better understand relationships, behaviors and interests by simplifying complex data.
  • The art of marketing automation is more than just ‘automating’ the middle of the funnel. It’s about building personalization and relevance throughout the marketing to sales process. 
  • False: Marketing automation is about “automation.” Marketing automation
  • Many feel that marketing automation is to make things easy… Typically this is not true. It’s not taking short-cuts. It’s about learning more about your potential customers and helping them become more educated and interested in your brand.
  • Marketing automation is not about removing people from the marketing and sales process.

So, what is marketing automation then?

  1. Measurement. Get the right tools in place. Gain more data and insights on prospects, leads and customers in order to help and inspire them.
  2. Content is still king. Marketing automation helps personalize the content delivered to customers.
  3. It’s all about relationships… And a relationship is ongoing. Automation can help nurture relationships throughout the due diligence, marketing and sales process–even before they make contact.
  4. Insights and organization. Marketing automation helps organizations gather insights from data and build iterative processes that utilize this data. This can include organizing customers into groups based on common bahaviors, interests and needs.
  5. Helping Humans. Automation, strangely enough, can help humanize a brand by helping marketers better understand the needs, interests and interactions of humans.

A few points to consider.

B2B marketers who implement marketing automation increase their sales-pipeline contribution by 10%.
— Reference: Forrester Research: Lead-To-Revenue Management Platform Vendors, Q1 2014, Jan 2014

63% of companies that are outgrowing their competitors use marketing automation.
— Reference: Lenskold and Pedowitz Groups, 2013 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study, Nov 2013

61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. — MarketingSherpa

The risks of sales short-sightedness

Many sales teams desire a short cut for lead generation, nurturing and sales. For many sales teams, the conversion rate between leads and sales is a pinnacle metric. By focusing too closely on the close rate for a period of time, sales teams will feel pressure to only examine and accept leads that are ready to buy.

This is a critical error. By deciding to not evaluate and nurture leads, competitors can easily influence and win over leads that are not holding their wallets in their hand.

Best practices for B2B marketing automation

B2B marketers need to work differently than they did in the past. There is more data available than ever before on prospects, leads and customers. We can use this data to run better experiments and reduce wasteful practices.

  • Work hard to understand your prospects buying cycle. Marketing automation make delivering the right message at the right time to the right people within the grasp of possibility for B2B marketers.
  • Use buyer personas to build relevant processes, workflows, communications, team standards and relevancy for leads. Buyer personas are fictitious versions of your prospects, customers, influencers and users that help guide marketing and content decisions.
  • Not all leads are equal or ready. Understand which stage a lead is in and help them solve problems, learn more or gain insights. If a lead isn’t ready to buy, don’t just discard them. Play a longer game.
  • Not all leads need data sheets… Some need specific answers to specific questions, whereas others just need to find a way to trust your brand.
  • Personalizing content to buyer personas: Provide more diverse and appropriate types of content to leads. Considering the point above, different leads may need different types of content. Some leads may need factsheets to make a case internally for a sale. Whereas other leads may need to understand categorically if such a decision is necessary for their particular brand or industry.
  • Scoring leads can help marketers quickly assess the commitment and buying readiness of a lead. Using point systems can also track where the bottle necks are in your marketing to sales process.
  • Marketing and sales need to communicate and share information. Marketing automation helps this by viewing the relationship is a whole and gathering data on leads through a sale. This data can be useful for both sales teams and marketing strategy.
  • Sales teams may not be equipped to nurture early stage leads, therefore marketing teams can use automation systems to evolve such relationships with relevant content, interactions and timely messages.
  • Stop ‘blasting’ leads with one-fits-all emails. Use triggered emails, segmentation and workflows to build smart, relevant communications.


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Ironpaper is a B2B marketing agency and lead generation agency. Ironpaper integrates design, technology and marketing for the web to drive meaningful results for clients. We are based in New York City and Charlotte, NC.