Marketing automation is one of the most powerful tactics for today’s B2B marketer.

According to a Pepper Global study on B2B marketing, the #1 benefit of marketing automation is the ability to generate more high quality leads.

This finding explains why nearly 11 times more B2B organizations were using marketing automation in 2014 than in 2011.

Here are the five best practices to harness the power of marketing automation:

1. Define Your Personas

Despite the fact new strategies and channels have appeared in the past few years, the foundations of marketing haven’t changed. One of the fundamentals of marketing is a deep understanding of the buyer on a human level. Unfortunately, this essential task often gets lost as soon as the marketing team starts implementing a new acquisition tactic.

The first step of planning marketing automation implementation should focus on developing buyer personas. The offers and emails you create should be based on each of your buyer personas (i.e. research-based, modeled representations of who buyers are)—their needs and pains.

The process of defining your personas begins by asking the right questions, such as:

  • What is their level within their organization?
  • To whom do they respond?
  • What does the buyer seek to accomplish?
  • What goals drive their behavior?
  • How do they think, and how does this impact their behavior as a buyer?

You can find the answers to some of these questions by blending a mix of quantitative data (found in your analytics reports) and qualitative data (found in surveys, interviews, and focus groups).

2. Map Your Flow Based on the Buyer’s Journey

Once you begin developing your ideal buyers, you’ll discover each has a unique set of needs and problems. Certain buyers will want to see how you compare with your competitors, while others will be more price sensitive. As a consequence, you will need to create different flows to convert your leads into customers.

To get started, you need to define each step in the buyer journey, from recently signed up leads to paying customers. Next, establish the specific content each of your buyers needs to move forward along their journey. Finally, map each of the steps from each of the buyers with the different content pieces you specified.

For example, suppose one of your buyers is a medium-sized CIO from an IT company who is an avid reader of business leadership eBooks. You can now begin to craft that buyer’s route by writing an eBook focusing on leadership and finish it by leading the buyer to a relevant webinar offer. A set of automated marketing emails can fuel this campaign to guide and nurture the process each step of the way.

By using the eBook as your central pillar of content, and allowing other pieces of content like webinars and emails to flow from it, you can create a large amount of targeted content that is valued by your customers. For more about creating the right content for the right customer at the right time, check out this webinar.

3. Offer Great Value to Attract Leads

With the insane amount of content in existence, it’s getting harder and harder to attract people to become leads. Companies must excel in providing high-value content. Whether your offer is an eBook, a webinar, or even a simple article, the offering must appeal to the carefully outlined buyer.

Marketing automation allows you to scale outreach efforts

Unbounce, the landing page creation and A/B testing tool, stands out as a company offering great value to prospective leads. Through their resources, they offer all sorts of content types to appeal to different personas, such as:

4. Collect the Right Information from Your Leads

Marketers can collect a great amount of information from their leads. While pursuing leads effectively requires some data collection, what you ask depends on what you need. Marketing software companies allow marketers to inundate potential buyers with questions, but this does not mean quantity is quality. To the contrary; less is more, and narrowing the facts to what will help you connect buyers with the right offers increases the likelihood you’ll receive the responses you need from your potential buyers.

Start with making a list of all the essential data you need from your buyers. If you think you want the location of the prospect, the revenue of the company, or the website URL, add it to your list. Don’t leave anything aside; add everything you think is important. Then, take a good look at your list of attributes and start trimming down. Leave only what’s vital to score your leads (see below) and communicate with them.

For example, take a look at what PayPal does with one of the eBooks they offer. They only ask for the essential information, which likely increases the conversion rate.

5. Score Your Leads

Not all leads are the same; some are invariably more important than others for your current sales goals. That’s why lead scoring is so valuable for building automated marketing campaign.

The process of lead scoring is straightforward: You assign a numerical score to each lead based on what they seem to be worth to you. The process of lead scoring takes place within your marketing automation and CRM software. Once you’ve defined your company’s standards for ranking leads (for example, a company with more than 50 employees is worth five points, whereas a smaller one is only worth one point), you can leave the rest to your CRM. Think of it as your internal shorthand for categorizing leads.

Lead scoring helps your marketing and sales teams determine how to prioritize their efforts. Lead scoring is crucial for scaling your business. At the end of the day, your team has finite resources and won’t be able to follow up with every lead. Even though that’s a good problem to have, you’ll still need to consider which leads are important to your business’s bottom line.

Based on the lead scoring, the content you send your leads will vary. If a lead signed up for your company’s newsletter, their lead score is most likely quite low, as they haven’t shown any purchase intent. Therefore, your communications will be focused on seeing whether they could be interested in a higher-intent type of content, such as an eBook.

If a lead signed up for an eBook and webinar, their lead score is high because it seems they will be ready to take further action. Once your CRM scores a lead high, you can send a sales rep to reach out directly to that person on a sales call or in-person meeting.

Lead scoring programs can be powerful for measuring the interaction with onboarding programs. Additionally, lead scoring programs can identify emerging advocates. Determining these supporters means your marketing power is organically multiplied by current and former clients who’ve had a positive experience with your company.

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Ivan Kreimer

About Ivan Kreimer

Ivan Kreimer is a freelance content marketer on a crusade to end bad marketing advice. He also helps SaaS business increase their traffic and leads with content.