Many software companies are operating in the dark ages of marketing. Their notions of demand generation are to drop hundreds of thousands of emails on cold, externally-sourced contact lists, watch for activity on their landing pages, and shoot at whatever moves. I hear crickets chirping when I ask basic questions like:
- How do you know which emails made it through the firewall?
- Of the ones that did, how many were opened?
- Of the opens, how many people clicked through to your website? Who were they?
- Of those click-throughs, how many registered for the target asset? What other assets were also consumed? What other web pages did each visitor view? How many of those click-throughs were from people who had already been to your website?
You get the picture. Although demand generation will always require artistic elements, building volume distribution engines is primarily about marketing science. Companies like Eloqua, LoopFuse, and Marketo provide SaaS-based automation solutions that enable the science of volume marketing. Here are the key components of marketing automation solutions:
- Visitor tracking. From the time a visitor first hits your website, even when they’re anonymous, you should be tracking everything they do – every page they visit, every link they click, every asset they consume. Marketing automation apps do this tracking for you through cookies. What’s more, when visitors disclose their identity to you (e.g., by registering or by clicking through from one of your email blasts), all of their anonymous histories are automatically connected to their identity records.
Why is this important? Think about the Discovery stage of progressive engagement, and how much anonymous activity is happening during those early interactions. Tracking and understanding that history gives you the ability to effectively nurture and score leads (see below), and it arms your sales pros with vital information they need as they make their prospecting calls.
By the way, please don’t tell me you’re using something like Google Analytics to measure the effectiveness of your demand gen programs. I heart Google Analytics and use it myself on this blog, but it is absolutely the wrong tool to be using as your demand gen dashboard.
- Email Marketing. Although there are a lot of software packages and services available for managing email lists (merging, de-duping, cutting, scheduling, etc.), systematic campaigning goes way beyond the email blast event. Marketing automation solutions can do all of the required campaign mechanics, plus they give you advanced message configuration and monitoring capabilities.
Why is this important? First of all, corporate spam filters change constantly. You need the ability to precisely configure email headers and subject lines to navigate through those gates. If your emails are being trapped at the firewall, you need to know that’s happening, why it’s happening and how you can fix the problem.
Second, you need to know whether your message content is (or is not) resonating with recipients. Tracking the “opens” provides useful insight about the strength of your email Subject line. Tracking the click-throughs gives you a good read about your call-to-action. And tracking your landing page activity gives you a 360 degree picture of your campaign’s effectiveness. Successful campaigning is all about trial-and-error, running tests and continuously improving based on what you learn. Without contemporary email marketing tools, you’re running blind.
- Lead Management. Leads are not static things. Sometimes they will enter your demand gen process as fully-formed prospect records, complete with name, company, email address and telephone number. You may even get a job title and a few other pieces of useful information. Most leads, however, begin as embryonic nuggets of data and develop over time. In volume markets, the vast majority of interactions happen in the realm of partial lead information, so it’s essential to cultivate those leads efficiently. Marketing automation apps provide powerful lead nurturing, segmenting and scoring capabilities for managing large volumes of leads.
Lead segmentation and nurturing allow you to systematically develop batches of leads until they are sufficiently warm enough to warrant a salesperson’s attention. For example, you have two batches of immature leads (email addresses but no phone numbers), one that seems inclined toward your community product and the other your enterprise product. Your marketing automation system allows you to segment these leads and programmatically pursue them with different campaigns (hypothetically, A & B). Both campaigns may include scheduled distributions of the company’s e-newsletter. Campaign A also has scheduled email blasts for technical white papers, webcasts and forum participation, while Campaign B has blasts for white papers, webcasts and a free day of POC consulting. The point here is that, in this hypothetical scenario, you may be nurturing tens of thousands of leads without a single Sales touch.
Assume in the example above that a certain number of A & B leads promote themselves to “qualified” status based on your predefined criteria (a complete lead record and a visit to at least two of your website “money” pages). These leads are now ready for a salesperson. However, you score your enterprise leads higher than your community leads because you want Enterprise leads to appear highest in your CRM’s sales queues. Nothing to it, and that leads right into the last component.
- CRM Integration. All marketing automation apps are integrated with Salesforce.com; some are integrated with other systems such as SugarCRM as well. Your choice of marketing automation solution may be impacted by the CRM you’re using, so pay attention to that at the beginning of your selection process.
Typical integrations allow you to move data bi-directionally, and this is important because you need the ability to run marketing campaigns to customers and prospects who may not have entered your CRM via your marketing automation system. It’s also vital to connect all CRM records with website activity collected on the marketing side of the infrastrcuture. Good integration gives you the greatest amount of leverage and productivity for your marketing campaigns, and it will yield rich, coherent info that your Sales team can use to improve the success rates of their dials.
Whether you are an open, closed, or mixed source vendor, get your mind wrapped around the reality that you need to master volume distribution. Doing this requires the right application infrastructure, beginning with a competent marketing automation solution. And for goodness sake, don’t try to roll this stuff yourself. Go get a subscription to one of the leading SaaS applications. Invest your efforts in learning how to use your marketing automation app as a strategic asset, and in building the differentiated, high-value content that fuels your volume engine.