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Where Do You Start with B2B Marketing Automation?

by: Malcolm Friedberg (@Silverpop)
19 March 2010

This is our latest guest blog post written by a consulting partner to Silverpop.  Malcolm Friedberg is a Principal at Left Brain Marketing.  He is a former CMO with 20 years of marketing experience. He’s built marketing departments from the ground up, managed seven-figure marketing budgets and developed programs for a wide variety of media.  He first became involved in marketing automation when he was running marketing for a leading financial services company and invested in an early marketing automation platform to support his 60+ sales reps. Since that time, he's consulted for numerous companies including Motorola, Apple, Amadeus Technology and BrightTALK.  I'm excited to have him as a partner, to have him contribute to our blog and to have him as one of our key 'profs' for the B2B Marketing University series.  Malcolm's post, today, ties to a series of posts focused on the building blocks for developing more buyer-centric B2B demand generation programs .  Welcome, Malcolm.  ~ABN

To say that Marketing Automation is new to most marketers is like saying that Everest is a mountain.  While factually accurate, the statement fails to capture the myriad of ways that make that particular mountain so intimidating.

Like first-timers ascending Everest, this 'newness' is causing a number of challenges for marketers. There are many reasons for this: the requirement of developing integrated sales and marketing processes; the opportunity to use analytics; and the need for better database segmentation to name a few. While some marketers may have exposure to a few of these 'new' areas, most are lucky to have in-depth experience with one. In short, marketing automation requires new skills and new ways of thinking.

I frequently have the opportunity to speak with marketers that are automation first-timers, and I break down the challenges into two areas.

  • Tactical issues:  First, there’s a variety of tactical issues, including learning a software application. This requires both an understanding of how to accomplish immediate tasks, as well as expanding your knowledge to master other functionality. I often analogize to Excel. My 5% usage may be fine for my spreadsheet needs, but not for the technological infrastructure that supports a marketing (and sales) organization.
  • Strategic issues:  Second, and probably more daunting, is the range of strategic issues that new users are confronted with as they begin to integrate marketing automation into their existing marketing activities.

At the beginning of every new (professional or personal) experience, one often feels as if (s)he is staring straight up the face of a very large mountain. And even if you have the seasoned perspective of seeing that mountain as a series of small climbs, figuring out how to get going isn’t always easy. As a consultant, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I encourage people to get outside help. Hiring a consultant can help ease your pain as you begin this trek. But regardless of whether you get direct assistance, collect tidbits from colleagues and white papers or invest hours in trial and error, it’s well worth the investment of time and energy to prepare yourself.

So, in the spirit of a Survival Guide for climbing the marketing automation mountain, here’s a short list of items to pack―and things to consider―for the journey.

Item #1 - Get a good map

Marketing automation is a journey. It is a process that will take you months and possibly years to master. And like all intelligent climbers, it’s absolutely critical to have a clear understanding of where you’re going. For marketing automation, that means thinking about nurturing. Nurturing is the single most important tool that marketing automation offers, especially if you’ve been a batch and blast―or my favorite term, “spray and pray”― email marketer in the past. Look at the goal of each nurture and have a clear picture on what you want the prospect (or customer) to do once they’ve finished the nurture. One very practical way to start is to tie nurturing campaigns to various existing marketing activities. For example, have a post trade show nurture and a post webinar nurture.

Item #2 – Bring snacks (to feed the bears)

On any hike, you always get hungry, so food is a necessity. In the case of marketing automation, the food is not for you, it’s for bears (also known as prospects). And those snacks take the form of tasty tidbits of content. The problem with packing snacks for the bears is that we tend to reach back into the pantry and pull out the stale rye crackers. Sorry, but that won’t cut it on this climb. These bears have distinguished tastes, so you need to break out a batch of chocolate chip cookies, warm and fresh from the oven. Translation … nurturing is the process of regularly feeding your prospects with worthwhile morsels of information about you and your solution. If your samples are boring, outdated or just plain bland, how interested do you think they’ll be in coming back for seconds?

Bad food analogies aside, interesting content -- and an effective overall 'content marketing' strategy -- is probably the most critical piece of leveraging marketing automation and building an effective demand generation strategy. It’s certainly one of the greatest stumbling blocks for companies, so come to the process with a few new ideas.

Item #3 – Pace yourself

Mountain climbing is exhausting. Whether you’re climbing the face of Half Dome or simply taking a stroll through the Himalayas, you need to be well rested. For your marketing automation sojourners that means pacing yourself and committing to the long haul. From understanding reporting to A/B Testing, there will be a host of things to keep you busy. If you charge out of the gates, you’ll burn out halfway up the mountain. However, if you methodically take on one hill at a time, then you’ll make steady progress.

This manifests most critically in terms of how you allocate your―and your team’s―time. Provide your team with the dedicated time and resources they need to expand their knowledge and sophistication. Remember, it’s a journey not a sprint.

Item #4 – Be a Sherpa

Sherpas are the guides who take climbers up the mountain (particularly Mt. Everest). As a guide, it’s your responsibility to set expectations with your fellow hikers. In the case of marketing automation, that means explaining to your team, your sales counterpart and your executive team that you’re not going to be at the peak by the end of day one. Or to put a finer point on it, those mixed quality leads you’ve been sending over to sales will not instantaneously morph into hot prospects in the first sixty days.

One very tactical and effective way to elicit participation is through lead scoring. Lead scoring, the process of evaluating or rating leads, provides an opportunity to sit with your sales guy (or gal) and discuss what qualities make up a lead that sales wants to pursue. Those qualities should include both demographic characteristics (e.g. title, company size, industry, etc) and behavioral aspects (e.g. downloads, site visits, event attendance, etc.). By engaging your fellow climbers―even the ones that would rather take a helicopter to the mountain top―you’ll be helping them appreciate the scope of the journey.

Item #5 – Bring s’mores for the end of first day

Everyone on the team appreciates a little dessert, especially after the exertion of the first day’s climb. S’mores are the marketing automation equivalent of a “quick win.” Go into the process with a sense of what will give your team excitement and a sense of satisfaction that pays off their hard work. It could be as simple as a having a set of metrics where you’ve never had measurements before. Or it could be a loftier goal such as increasing conversions. Whatever it is, be sure to have something to celebrate in the first thirty days.

Safe travels.


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