Marketing Automation Overview
Marketing professionals have long been charged with acquiring leads and forwarding qualified, sales-ready prospects to the sales team. However, the mission and purpose of marketing has evolved and so have the business software tools at marketing's disposal have. Marketing automation software systems which make use of lead behaviors and marketing best practices empower marketers to nurture leads beyond the opening of their customer funnel - and more importantly - allow marketers to connect more intelligence and qualification information with leads handed off to the sales force. With more pertinent information about qualified leads, sales teams have prospect intelligence at their fingertips, increasing their preparedness before engaging prospects in a dialog.
Marketing automation software systems also manage and automate much of the lead scoring and nurturing processes, automatically cultivating prospects and moving them further down the sales funnel until they are sales-ready. Often this is done by tracking prospects' online interaction behavior. Marketing automation systems allow you to set up logic to automatically offer potential customers relevant and often customized messages or materials based on their actual web behavior building a relationship with potential customer based on their current needs. Furthermore, most marketing automation systems integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) systems, like Salesforce.com, to streamline and centralize the collection of key prospect interaction data for greater visibility and use in analytics. In this way, sales reps receive a more complete picture of the prospect's needs at hand off and are more informed of how to tailor sales conversations.
So what are some of the benefits of implementing marketing automation solutions in your sales process?
- Nurture prospects so they move through the funnel faster
- Connect prospect intelligence data with sales opportunities
- Increase marketing effectiveness with automatic messaging and content deployment
- Deliver leads that are more sales-ready to sales team
- Provide marketing accountability and ROI with increased tracking metrics
There are many marketing automation software providers, and each system offers its own unique capabilities and price points. One example of a popular platform on the market today is Eloqua. Eloqua's robust feature set makes it the Rolls-Royce of marketing automation systems. At its core, Eloqua enables users to create, measure and automate multi-channel, multi-touch marketing programs for demand generation and marketing measurement. It then rolls activity from all touch points into a lead score, and integrates with systems like Salesforce.com to catalog a complete picture of a prospect as they move through the sales pipeline. However, because Eloqua contains such a robust feature set, there is often a lot of training required for marketing and sales to leverage the platform to its fullest and maintain commitment to its usage. Eloqua can also run up against budget constraints of most small to mid-sized companies with subscriptions starting at $2,000 per month. Support, administration, and institutional inertia also become issues as the complexity of technology increases. Because of these factors, the typical users of Eloqua tend to be large B2B companies with extended sales cycles that need complex functionality from their technology platforms to manage their marketing automation efforts.
There are, however, lighter weight options on the market that give you "most of what you need and nothing you don't" in order to meet the price tolerance of SMBs. Act-On Software, SilverPop, Genius and others like them take this approach of offering lower-overhead solutions with quick implementation and training times to get SMBs going with tools that make an immediate impact on lead nurturing and marketing performance measurement.
Sales Enablement Overview
The experts of the Focus B2B marketing community agree that providing sales with not only the right leads, but also compelling content, sales tools, and education is becoming more critical than ever to stay competitive. Sales enablement technologies are helping sales teams create success in more ways than ever before. Sales enablement software systems act as centralized libraries for organizations to store, organize and quickly search for collateral tools and provide a means for sales reps to quickly and easily deliver the right content to the right prospects at critical moments in the sales cycle. What's more, some sales enablement systems offer built-in tracking capabilities to alert users when prospects have viewed sent collateral, giving sales personnel insight into prospect needs and interests to have smarter follow up conversations that resonate with prospects.
While marketing teams are often responsible for providing sales-ready leads and producing collateral assets to support sales, sales teams are more often measured on their success at taking those leads and closing new business. Sales enablement systems combine sales industry best practices with elements of data, training, technology and processes in one integrated system to make sales reps more efficient and effective in their selling efforts with prospects. Research analysts argue the key to accelerating revenues and enabling sales success is to present the right kind of information in the hands of the right person used at the right time for the right sales pitch - actions that sales enablement platforms are designed to do best.
Sales enablement solutions can also be used as a strategic tool to foster business networking among sales and marketing teams, and facilitate feedback between sellers and buyers. Many sales enablement solutions increase the visibility of marketing collateral usage and allow users in both sales and marketing departments to share insights about what is working and what isn't. Some sales enablement platforms have a rating functionality that allows internal users as well as prospects to rate the effectiveness of collateral pieces and delivery mechanisms. This increased data visibility allows for deeper levels of tracking, measurement and analytics to make ROI calculations and ultimately content development decisions easier.
So what are some benefits of implementing sales enablement solutions in your sales process?
- Deliver the right marketing and sales assets to the right prospect at the right time
- Increase intelligence about prospects' issues and interests for more meaningful conversations and targeted solution offerings
- Quickly identify the "hottest" sales opportunities for less wasted time
- Foster business networking & best practice sharing among sales and marketing teams
- Correctly gauge ROI and value of marketing content and sales activities
Over the past decade, sales enablement has gained momentum, and that momentum has brought a number of excellent sales enablement solutions to the market.
Do You Need Both?
When deciding if you need marketing automation, sales enablement, or a combination of the two, consider what challenges your business really needs to solve. The organization might have the best leads and nurturing strategy around, but it doesn't help much if sales can't close the deal. In that case, harnessing a sales enablement platform is most likely the answer. If the sales team needs more prospects to call, there may be a need for marketing to provide a greater volume of sales-ready leads. Therefore having a marketing automation system may be the most appropriate solution. Still, there may be a combination of complex issues or a middle-of-the-funnel sales and marketing misalignment at play in the organization that would be best solved by having both a marketing automation and a sales enablement solution under one roof to increase efficiency, productivity and effectiveness throughout the customer funnel.