What’s So Cool About Marketing Automation, Anyway?

There’s been a bunch written about this topic.  Creating the tools has made several companies really big.  Oracle paid $810 million for Eloqua in 2012.  Marketing automation has been touted as a marketing revolution.  But what does it all mean?  Why do I need it?

I was an early adopter to the marketing automation world.  Tied a big system to a big system and reaped the benefits.  Yes, it was cool.  But many of the same functionality can be obtained in other packages and gosh, you only really use 20% of the functionality.

CRM adjusted

Before you go off and purchase a system without thinking the whole marketing automation process through, take a few moments to go over each of these capabilities.  How important is it to you?  How do you do it now and can that be improved?  You may find that you have tools in place to do many of the aspects of marketing automation.

  • Email tools.  Within any marketing system you’ll want to send out emails and track when they are open-end and clicked on, etc.  This is the core of a marketing automation system.  Automatically sending out follow up emails, based on if the original email was opened, is a key marketing automation task.  Some email programs can do these as well.
  • CRM integration.  It’s ideal to have all data on each prospect stored in the CRM; every website visit, every email received every phone call and trade show visit logged.  Not every combination of systems will yield a fully integrated  view, however, the CRM remains the place to store your customer data.
  • Website analytics.  You will want to integrate date from your website visits, especially these who have responded to your offers.  If your system is a bit more sophisticated, each known prospect’s web visits will be added to the CRM, giving you a much more full view of what prospects are doing.
  • Lead scoring.  Finding the ripe prospects in your CRM based on their “digital body language.”  This works most effectively with a large number of prospects who interact often with your website and emails.  You set rules of how points are assigned and also the point levels when actions, such as sending additional emails, or a phone call, will be taken.
  • Lead nurturing.  This was cited as the feature most companies wanted from marketing automation.  It’s the automated equivalent of keeping in touch with the customer and at it’s best implementation, it is an automatic education of the customer, leading him or her down a predefined content path.  Some folks called this “drip marketing” but the concept has evolved to a more involved science.
  • Landing pages.  Some marketing automation platforms offer landing pages, some do not.  It’s kind of a nice to have, since many cloud services call effectively fill in the blank.  Creating quality landing pages quickly and getting them solidly linked to your CRM is an important and repetitive task.  The automation part of the system can make a big difference here.

Once you have thought through your needs, you will be better able to match up the systems available to your specs.  You’ll likely get the most for your money and the least disruption this way.   You might find that you can already do many of the marketing automation tasks with your current tools.

What marketing automation tools do you use?  What functionality do you use the most?

 

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

The Trouble With “Appointment Setting” Firms

Recently, I revisited a contract with an appointment setting firm as a lead generation activity.  Not that I had ever had resounding success with these type of programs in the past, but it is kind of a pure lead-gen activity and sometimes that is called for.  It’s also seductively turnkey. Without much real work you can get one of these firms up and running and starting to produce leads in a couple weeks.  At least that’s the promise.

Appointment Setting

But is that seduction justified? Is it really that easy?  Sign up with one of these firms and leads and appointments magically appear.  Let’s take a look at the potential shortfalls of these programs.

  • Who provides the list?  The calling campaigns these firms do need a list to fuel them.  These firms tend to get very basic (read “cheap”) lists and call around for the titles they seek.  Since they focus on calling efficiently, they bridge the gap themselves.  But this approach makes for lousy targeting and gives the client little in the way of real targeting tools.  The real problem here is that by the time you realize the list is bad, you’ve  already called into it for weeks.
  • Goals not 100% aligned.  The client wants leads that go down the funnel quickly and turn into sales.  The appointment setting firms wants to set up appointments with the correct type of person from the target accounts.  These are not the same goals and it’s actually hard at the end of the day to make them the same.   Despite great attempts to avoid it, leads that are off-target will come in and will erode the program’s effectiveness.
  • Focus is on the appointment, not the interest.  As these campaigns roll out, sometimes they get behind. After management catches on, additional pressure (always) and resources (sometimes) are added to the game.  That pressure forces the phone reps to push even harder for the appointment, leading to less-than qualified or uninterested prospects,
  • Some firms use incentives  Some appointment setting firms offer a fairly large incentive for the prospect to get on the phone.  It seems logical that a prospect that is getting an iPad mini for taking the appointment is almost analogous to the folks that sit through long vacation time-share presentations for a questionable quality gift afterwards. These folks will take the call and sit politely through the pitch and may even admit to the caller “I just wanted the Big Bertha they offered for taking this call.  Sorry.”
  • A certain type of person responds.  Obviously, someone who answers their phone.  Not everybody does.  Already it’s a biased group.  If they answer their phone they may get a number of sales calls and not differentiate yours from others.  Who agrees to an appointment if they don’t want the product?  Many folks who likely didn’t understand what they were getting into or are easily persuaded.

It’s also a fact that many firms find great value in these lead generation programs and some clients work into 7 figures with appointment setting firms.  These are the ones that worked out the bugs, improved the process until it worked.  That takes a while.  Those firms persevered through the start-up issues and eventually developed what they needed at a good-enough price.   Moral of the story; it’s harder than it looks to do it right.

Have you used outside appointment setting firms for lead generation?  What has worked or not for you?

 

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm