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Getting personal through automation: The B2B marketer’s guide to lead nurturing with marketing automation

It’s an uncomfortable truth in the marketing world that most of those coveted leads go nowhere. According to Marketing Sherpa, nearly 80% of new leads never become sales and Marketo even claims that up to 50% of lead generation budgets are wasted on leads that are never even contacted.

It’s a Sisyphean task to personally reach out to each and every new lead, but a giant, impersonal email blast is pretty much destined to be ignored. The secret to solving the mysteries of the untouched email, the unclicked CTA, and the once-promising lead that simply went MIA, might just be marketing automation.

Does it seem weird to rely on machines to create more personalized relationships with leads? Absolutely. However, think of all the information about clients that’s gathered as they sign up for newsletters, click through web pages, or even view items online. Marketing automation allows marketers to consolidate all that data in order to produce meaningful, personalized pieces of content that will help move leads through all stages of the funnel.

For example, when a lead asks for a free report, marketing automation could potentially set off a chain of responses, from a welcome email to a call from a member of your sales team. While it’s become standard to ask leads for an email address, using marketing automation to analyze customer data can lead to much more beneficial relationships for both buyers and brands.

Here are just a few reasons you may want to make sure your B2B brand is using marketing automation for lead nurturing.

Use email automation to get personal

It may seem like a contradiction in terms to use an automated system to personalize emails. But B2B email automation has actually been proven to increase open rates by 29%. The reason for that bump? Automation uses every bit of a customer’s stored data to trigger the right email for the right customer at the right time.

Let’s say you have 5,000 new leads. It’s highly unlikely that all 5,000 are interested in the same aspects of your business. However, integrating email automation into your marketing plan can consolidate client data to trigger highly personalized emails at exactly the right time.

For example, if you’ve got an upcoming sale, you could potentially send an email addressing your customer by name with a message that reads, “We appreciate the ten years you’ve been a valued client, please enjoy early access to our anniversary sale!” Any piece of information stored in your database can help create personal, automated emails that, according to Hubspot, generate six times more revenue per email than an anonymous blast reading “Dear Customer.”

Recently Litmus, a company that makes it easier for businesses to create email that looks great across devices, ran a triggered email campaign that centered around a lead’s engagement with the brand, inviting them to a webinar where they’d learn more about, wait for it, automated email marketing.

According to Epsilon, triggered email delivers a 67.9% higher open rate and a 241.3% higher click rate than standard messages, not to mention the number of new leads they could drive to events like webinars or infographics, e-books, and white papers.

But don’t stop there.

Let’s face it, we’ve all got pretty jam-packed inboxes, and even perfectly personalized emails offering incredible, highly relevant deals sometimes get lost in the shuffle (or the “Promotions” folder). According to a recent Oracle survey, four out of five marketers say their open rates aren’t more than 20%. And while that number might sound disheartening to B2B marketers looking nurture leads using email automation, there IS a bright side.

Using marketing automation platforms, many marketers are creating exciting, multi-channel lead nurturing campaigns. Successful multi-channel efforts generally include marketing automation, email marketing, retargeting, social media, and sales outreach.

Think about the last time you agonized over a purchase left in your online shopping cart. How many nudges did it take before you decided you had to have it: a targeted ad on social coupled with an email reminding you of the sale price or was it a nudge letting you know there were only a few left in stock? According to the Marketing Lead Management report, the average consumer received ten marketing touches to move them through the funnel.

Just don’t forget that even automated marketing touches should feel like personal touches. Work with your sales team to nail down lead stages and conversion criteria, and make sure all of your automated marketing is focused on fostering relationships with quality leads.

To successfully nurture leads as a B2B company, think like a B2C

Marketing automation has shown amazing results for both B2B and B2C businesses. In fact, according to Campaign Monitor, B2B companies have seen, on average, 60% revenue growth after adopting marketing automation, while B2C companies have seen up to a 50% increase in conversion rates

One common misconception is that B2C marketing automation is highly personalized, while B2B marketing is more general. However, as automated marketing tools allow for more precise use of data, the personalization gap is closing.

According to Sam Anderson, co-founder of the B2B online marketing company 41 Orange,  “market segmentation’s a crucial idea if you want to increase B2B sales via personalized marketing without the exhaustive effort which would otherwise be necessary. With the data provided by a marketing automation suite at your fingertips, you can identify segments and opportunities you never dreamed existed. Why stop at obvious factors such as demographics, when you can instead break your prospect base down according to how they use your site, the offers they accept, the articles they linger on?”

In a world where customers feel more empowered to make purchase decisions than ever, using marketing automation to offer solutions before they ask is crucial, according to ClickZ’s own Linus Gregoriadis: “Whether they are in the market for B2C or B2B products and services, digitally empowered consumers want to deal with the companies that address their needs most effectively.”

Using marketing automation to identify customer’s needs based on their interest in webinars, newsletters etcetera rather than simply asking for an email address takes personalization far beyond blasting a coupon or special offer to every lead on your list, regardless of where they are in their purchase journey.

And when in doubt, ask “What would Amazon do?”

While not everyone has converted to marketing automation, B2B companies that have embraced change have been by and large happy with their results. According to Pardot, 79% of top performing B2B companies have made the switch to marketing automation.

Obviously, Amazon is the king of marketing automation. From their amazing retargeting that never lets you forget that puffer coat you were undecided on a couple weeks ago, to their spot on suggestions based on previous purchases. Amazon will even let you know what your neighbors are buying, so you’re never the last in the know.

And while most B2B marketers don’t have Amazon’s resources, they can use marketing automation to ask themselves what customers want (and to remind customers of the things they might want) as well as simplifying and improving the customer journey.  Amazon’s marketing makes it easy for its customers to buy things, to the point where some Amazon customers don’t realize they’re out of toothpaste until they get a reminder to buy more.

Change is hard. Even Amazon didn’t become Amazon overnight and adopting an automated system requires integrating new technology into your day-to-day operations, which obviously comes with a few pain points. According to Mathew Sweazy, your marketing team can make the transition a little easier by focusing on “quick wins,” such as list cleaning, lead scoring, and the influx of new leads that will probably come from getting your system set up efficiently.

And once you’ve got your automated marketing system running like clockwork and your team is receiving updates that help score and grade new leads, as well as identifying the hottest leads for follow ups from the sales team, your sales and marketing teams will both see the value in letting your marketing automation system do the heavy lifting.

However, marketing automation isn’t simply a quick fix for finding new leads. Instead, it’s a long-term strategy that enables B2B growth. Make sure that when your automation pays off, and you get those leads you’ve been looking for, your marketing strategy calls for personalized lead nurturing that may be automated, but never feels robotic.

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