B2B Marketing Automation: A Pathway to High-Impact Results

Maddy Martin

If you own a B2B business, you know how much there is to keep track of in the marketing and sales departments: content marketing and SEO for your blog, social media management to engage with customers, email campaign monitoring for leads, and customer relationships. B2B marketing automation exists to help you streamline all those moving parts so you can move leads through the sales funnel efficiently and effectively.

Named one of the best lead generation services, Smith.ai knows the automation process can be tricky, but we’ve assembled everything you need to know to get started on the path to high-impact results.

What is B2B marketing automation?

B2B marketing automation is a process of triggers and workflows businesses use to streamline repetitive sales and marketing tasks

Nearly any stage of the sales funnel can be automated if done correctly, such as:

  • sending emails
  • conducting outreach
  • finding new leads
  • onboarding new clients
  • publishing content
  • pushing notifications

Setting up marketing automation helps your business optimize its brand presence across every channel your customers engage in, allowing your sales team to focus its efforts where there's the biggest likelihood of conversion.

In general, B2B marketing automation will follow the same general structure:

Step 1: Build a list of potential customers to target.

Step 2: Execute an automated campaign.

Step 3: Measure how your potential customers react to the campaign.

Step 4: Group your customers by their reactions.

Step 5: Send qualified leads directly to sales and route warm leads to a nurture cycle.

Step 6: Monitor performance and redirect warm leads to sales as soon as they become qualified leads.

B2B marketing automation is usually done through software, but outsourcing some or all of your sales cycle is also a great strategy to eliminate repetitive tasks so your sales team can focus on closing deals.

B2B marketing automation vs. B2C marketing automation 

B2B marketing automation and B2C marketing automation both involve using workflows and triggers to move leads through the sales funnel, but how they achieve that is slightly different.

In B2C marketing automation, the entire process is based on focusing marketing efforts on personalization. For example, emails like cart reminders or promotional notifications are sent to customers when they put an item in their cart but don’t order right away. 

B2B marketing automation is focused more on pushing helpful educational content to leads. Personalization is still key but is focused on the needs of the client. For example, if a lead signs up for gated content, additional related content may be sent to their email through an automated email follow-up

B2B marketing automation vs. CRM

In both marketing and sales, there are highly repetitive tasks, like onboarding a new self-service SaaS client or sending promotional notifications based on a client’s behavior. 

However, there are also very specific, detailed tasks that can only be handled by a human, which is how customer relationship management (CRM) is different from B2B marketing automation. While some of their goals overlap, you’ll need a blend of each in order to move a lead through the sales funnel.

B2B marketing automation strategies

9 B2B marketing automation strategies to implement today

If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to B2B marketing automation, these nine strategies make great first steps. 

1. Page-based triggers

Identify the key behaviors leads engage in before making a purchase. Maybe that’s visiting your price page, signing up for gated content, or interacting with your live chat feature. Whenever a prospect engages in that behavior, automate a follow-up so you can start nurturing that lead right away.

2. Educational content for new clients

If every onboarding process is generally the same, automate sending educational content to clients after they sign up for your service. Craft this content based on FAQ your customer service team usually fields. Depending on the preferences of your clients, send this information immediately after sign-up, or use an email drip campaign to avoid overwhelming them.

3. Lead nurturing

B2B marketing automation is perfect for lead nurturing. Share educational information with your leads through a newsletter or other email sequences to showcase your place as a thought leader in the industry. 

4. Lead segmentation

As you gather data about potential leads, automatically segment them into different email lists based on the type of activity, their level of engagement, location, and other factors. This time-saving step will allow you to level up your lead nurturing program so each segment is personalized.

5. Lead qualification

Many marketing automation softwares will qualify leads based on the parameters you set. Each behavior is assigned a point value, and when points reach a certain threshold indicating they are close to making a purchase, you can automatically transfer the lead to a different email list or send their name and contact information to a sales representative for follow-up. 

6. Data collection and maintenance

Studies show marketers spend 16 hours a week on repetitive tasks like exporting, importing, and sorting data from a CRM program into an email service provider. Automate that process so your marketers and salespeople can focus on conversions instead. The easiest way to do this is to ensure all your software partners are compatible

7. Form submissions

If you’re new to marketing automation, this is one of the easiest places to start. For any forms you have on your website, automate what happens after the lead completes it. Send it to the right point of contact within the company, and send an email to the lead letting them know when to expect a response. You can even set up your automation to initiate outbound call backs.

8. Live chat

Seventy-six percent of millennials suffer from phone anxiety, so chatbots have become an increasingly popular way to interact with these clients. In fact, 42% of customers opt to use a chatbot when they need customer service. The chatbot can be automated to direct certain queries to a live chat feature to ensure better customer service.

9. Social media

Marketing automation services can post content, like content from specific feeds, and even thank followers for following. When done right, your followers won’t even notice some of your feed is automated. You can also outsource your Facebook messages so your salespeople don’t have to deal with cold leads.

Benefits of B2B marketing automation

B2B marketing automation can seem overwhelming at first, but its impact on your bottom line and your customer experience makes it worthwhile.

Boost lead intake

Lead intake can be overwhelming if someone is responsible for the intake, nurturing, scoring, transferring, etc. By automating some of the process, you’ll avoid bottlenecks at key points in the process.

Increase conversions (and therefore revenue) 

Once lead nurturing and lead scoring are automated, your team will minimize the amount of time spent on cold leads and needless back-and-forth. You’ll know exactly who to target and how, leading to more conversions than happen faster.

Improve customer experience

By automating your calls to a virtual receptionist, your clients will get the answers they need quickly without feeling rushed by a salesperson who has a bunch of other calls to make. 

Easily scale campaigns

By removing the repetitive and time-consuming steps of marketing, your business will be better equipped to scale campaigns or make changes on the fly to a particular campaign based on feedback.

Control marketing spending

Because marketing automation makes you more efficient, you’ll have a better grasp of your marketing spend and gain insightful data that helps you make better marketing decisions. As a result, you’ll have better control over your marketing spending.

B2B marketing best practices

Best practices to add value to your marketing automation

Specific marketing automation strategies vary based on your industry, customer needs, key performance objectives (KPI), and company size. However, they all have a few best practices in common.

Identify your targets and study their behavior

It doesn’t matter how great your marketing automation strategy is if you miss the mark with your target audience, so it’s imperative to start with quality market research. Identify what leads you wish to target and clearly sort them into target groups.

Once you’ve sorted your leads into groups, study their marketing behavior:

  • When is the best time to send an email?
  • What types of content do they value?
  • What triggers a purchase?
  • What form of communication do they prefer?
  • How long does it take to make a purchase?
  • How many people are involved in making a purchase?
  • What pain points are involved in the purchase process, and how can you address them proactively?

Align sales and marketing

Like B2B sales outsourcing, you need to make sure your sales and marketing departments are aligned before implementing any marketing automation. When marketing is automated, leads are sent to sales, sometimes without any human interaction. It’s important for sales to understand why the lead was sent to them so they understand what each lead needs before they reach out.

Map out the sales cycle, then create the automation 

Once you know your targets’ marketing behavior, map out the sales cycle from start to finish for each specific group and then create a specific automation strategy for each. 

The more detailed your understanding of the sales cycle for each group, the more accurate your automation will be. Subtle tweaks are much easier to make than wholesale changes if you learn your targets behave differently than you expected.

Use reports and analytics to constantly improve

When you hear the word “automation,” it’s tempting to think you can just set it and forget it, but that’s not the case with marketing automation. Most marketing automation strategies, whether it’s software or an outsource provider, will generate useful data you should use to improve your marketing and sales process.

Automatically remove cold leads

In a perfect world, anyone who looks at your website will eventually become a paying customer. For various reasons, though, some prospective customers will end up not engaging at all, so to save yourself the effort, automatically remove them from your CRM based on lack of engagement over time. 

Smith.ai has partnerships with the top B2B marketing automation software programs so we can help you start automating your marketing efforts. If you think our virtual receptionists, outreach campaigns, or live chat services can help streamline your B2B marketing and sales routines, book a call with us today.

Sources: HubSpot 

Maddy Martin

Maddy Martin is Smith.ai's VP of Marketing. Over the last 15 years, Maddy has built her expertise and reputation in small-business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, partnerships, and SEO.

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