Why Marketing Automation Is Like a Great White Shark (Which Is a Good Thing)

October 1, 2013

When I tell people I’m in marketing, they immediately think of advertising. It’s only natural. Print ads, TV spots, radio commercials, online display ads, Facebook ads, and promoted Tweets are the marketing efforts that most people see. Ads are above the waterline – they are the dorsal fin of marketing.

But below the waterline is where you’ll find the great white shark attached to that dorsal fin. Below the waterline is where the real power of marketing is these days. What you can’t see below the surface is the software that marketers are using to hone their messages and have more direct conversations with their customers. Here’s what you can’t see from the outside:

  • marketing automation platforms
  • CRM systems
  • content management systems
  • analytics software
  • data management platforms

This below-the-waterline marketing stack is what gives marketers their real strength. It is what gives marketers their power to positively influence how an organization sells products and services to its customers and prospects. I’d argue that marketing automation software systems are what give marketing its teeth these days. It allows for better alignment between sales and marketing, and laser-focused communication with customers.

Last year Bizo installed Eloqua as our new marketing automation system for these exact reasons. With aggressive sales and marketing goals and a company headcount that had grown 75% in the past 12 months, there was a ton of pressure on marketing to produce more and higher quality leads for the sales team.

Shortly after installing the Eloqua system, Bizo’s marketing and sales teams had to get together to redefine what constituted a marketing qualified lead, or MQL. Sales was finding that many MQLs did not have the budget to buy Bizo’s core full-service offering.

Our new marketing automation system played a major role in realigning marketing and sales over the definition of an MQL. In meetings between sales and marketing, the two teams homed in on the size of the prospect’s company as a major factor in determining whether a lead had the budget to invest in Bizo’s product.

Using Eloqua, sales and marketing agreed that only companies that had a certain number of employees could become MQLs. Companies with fewer employees were placed into a different nurture stream in the Eloqua system and directed to Bizo’s self-service product. Overall, MQLs have increased 270% in the first half of 2013 compared with the same period last year.

I know other companies are finding that marketing automation systems can help foster agreement between marketing and sales. Provided the right “mindset” is present. ServiceSource executive vice president Christine Heckart told Digital Marketing Remix, “[Marketing automation] allows sales and marketing to have fact-based conversations.”

In addition to offering the potential to bring together marketing and sales, marketing automation helps an organization to focus on the customer. For instance, the ability to segment prospects based on their company size allowed us to better understand who our best customers are.

Additionally, a marketing automation system allows organizations to communicate with their customers like never before. For instance, at Bizo we recently introduced a nurture program with messaging targeted specifically to new customers. Using the Eloqua system, we send carefully timed emails to new customers that get them comfortable with the Bizo process, offer advice for creating effective display ads, and provide tips for measuring that effectiveness.

This customer focus pays big dividends, and renewals are good business. As many marketers might agree, it’s much more expensive to get the next customer than to sell to existing customers.

In the end, a marketing automation system can help a company end internal backbiting between sales and marketing, and re-direct your teeth to where they should be biting: your competition.

This post was originally published on the Bizo blog. In July 2014, LinkedIn + Bizo joined forces to build the most robust B2B marketing platform available to marketers. To learn more, check out David Thacker, VP of Product at LinkedIn’s announcement blog post.

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