Selecting the right marketing automation software for a B2B company is no easy feat. There are thousands of automation tools available and not all of them are the right fit for the business-to-business world.
The B2B customer journey requires an automation platform that will enable marketing communications at each stage of the often long and sometimes complex decision-making process, but which also helps marketing and sales teams better manage and win leads.
I’ve been working in the marketing automation space for virtually my entire career, mostly with B2B businesses. In that time, I’ve come to understand the features that are most important for B2B companies investing in marketing automation. Here’s what to look for.
1. Lead scoring
Lead scoring within marketing automation means being able to assign points to a prospect based on their behaviour, as a means of understanding how engaged they are with the business.
A prospect opens an email, they receive two points. They download an ebook, 10 points. The points add and subtract based on the prospect’s activity and when they reach a predetermined score, they can be seen as highly engaged and ready for outreach from the sales team.
For B2B businesses, lead scoring is essential because it helps surface those prospects in a database that are most actively engaged and therefore, most likely to buy.
On the flip side, it can also help to segment those prospects that are deemed ‘cold leads’ within the system so that action can be taken, such as enrolling them in a re-engagement campaign.
Any marketing automation software being considered by a B2B company, should include lead scoring as a built-in feature.
2. Lead grading
Like lead scoring but different – lead grading is the process of assigning grades to prospects based on their demographic information. It’s about recognising your ideal customers’ most common demographics and traits.
For example, a grade ‘A’ prospect could be the managing director or founder of a UK-based business that employs more than 20 people, and which is in the Communications industry.
A grade ‘B’ prospect may then be the managing director or founder of a UK-based business that employs more than 20 people and is in any other industry.
At the other end of the spectrum, a grade ‘F’ prospect could be the managing director or founder of a business outside of the UK, or with fewer than 20 employees.
Within great marketing automation platforms, grades can be preset so that when new prospects enter the system, based on the information provided, they are automatically assigned a grade. Combine this with lead scoring as a feature and you have a sure-fire way to ensure that only marketing-qualified leads make their way to the sales team for follow up.
3. Automated lead assignment
Surfacing the hottest leads within a marketing automation system is all well and good – but what happens next? If it’s a manual process of the marketing team checking daily and then deciding which sales rep to send the leads to, it’s not efficient enough.
A good marketing automation system should have the capability to automatically assign new leads to team members. The best tools will enable B2B businesses to make this lead assignment rule-based too, for example, assigning to a particular salesperson because the lead is in a particular region.
Marketing automation isn’t just about sending external communications, it’s about better managing internal processes too.
4. CRM integration
Talking about improving internal processes, any marketing automation software a business invests in should help bridge the gap between marketing and sales teams. The easiest way to do so is to ensure that the marketing automation tool you choose, integrates seamlessly with the CRM the sales team is using.
Without this, the teams are either siloed, or manually needing to hand over lead information (even if the tool allows for automated lead assignment). Sales teams must be able to see the history of a lead; their online behaviour, types of content they’ve engaged with, their email interactions, and so on. This allows them to tailor their sales conversations to the individual’s pain points and interests, which builds better repertoire and drives higher conversion rates.
Likewise, marketing needs to be able to report back on the status of the leads they send to sales and whether or not they became paying customers. If they did, they need to know the value of that sale so it can be reported as return on marketing investment.
Your chosen marketing automation software should come with out-of-the-box integration with mainstream CRMs.
If you’re using a custom CRM, then a custom-built integration should be possible and factored into your decision.
5. Dynamic content
There’s no doubt about it, personalisation is paramount to success in the marketing world and this will only continue to be the case. With so many companies vying for our attention and marketing technology becoming more and more sophisticated, consumers expect personalised, tailored experiences.
In a nutshell, this means showing different content, messages, and calls to action to prospects based on what you know about them, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
A superb marketing automation tool will allow you to add dynamic content to your web pages, blogs, and marketing emails so that the right message is always shown to the right person, at the right time.
This might look like changing the content of a webinar email invitation based on the industry a prospect is in and having the landing page content dynamically change too. It could mean different calls to action for potential customers versus returning customers. The opportunities are endless.
However you plan to use it, your marketing automation software should make setup and implementation of dynamic, personalised content, easy.
To be honest, I could probably go on to mention other features that are valuable for B2B companies assessing the right marketing automation software but these five are the must-haves, in my opinion. Let me know if you agree, or if there are others you consider essential!