Marketing Automation Is Not Marketing Strategy

Too often these days, I hear B-to-B marketers mouth claims like, “We got this new [fill in the brand] automation tool, so now we can reduce headcount.” Or, “Once this automation system is installed, it will take our marketing to the next level.” This worries me. Marketers sometimes see automation as a silver bullet. But it’s only a tool

Too often these days, I hear B-to-B marketers mouth claims like, “We got this new [fill in the brand] automation tool, so now we can reduce headcount.” Or, “Once this automation system is installed, it will take our marketing to the next level.” This worries me. Marketers sometimes see automation as a silver bullet. But it’s only a tool. Marketing automation doesn’t identify your best target audiences. It can’t develop value propositions. No way will it make the tough decisions among competing investment options. I’m reminded of Mike Moran’s great book title, Do It Wrong, Quickly. In other words, marketing automation doesn’t work without strategy.

Remember ten years ago, when CRM came along? Déjà vu all over again, to echo Yogi Berra. Marketers thought that the new CRM software would solve their customer service and customer retention problems. Expectations dashed. Not only was it a nightmare to get up and running, the software served only to automate the processes—good or bad—that companies already had in place.

Even the marketing automation software vendors themselves recognize the importance of strategy, for their own success, as well as that of their clients. Think about it: If their clients can’t get the value from the software, their revenues are going to be impacted.

So education campaigns are underway. Marketo, for example, sponsored a compelling study by Sirius Decisions that explains the importance of a strong process in driving results when using marketing automation software. Their data shows that companies using automation combined with a reasonable lead management process—inquiry generation, qualification, nurturing and hand off to sales—produced four times the sales volume of companies with automation but with weaker processes.

Eloqua, too, makes a strong case for strategy in its guide, “6 Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Marketing Automation Journey,” which contains the important reminder to avoid putting “too much focus on technology, and not enough focus on buyers.”

So, what should we be doing with automation, to ensure its success? Three things come to mind.

  1. Be realistic about what it can and can’t do. Automation is not a silver bullet that you can set and forget. So make sure real humans are thinking through the essential tasks of identifying your key audiences, understanding their needs, scoping out their buying processes and developing contact strategies to move them along, in your direction.
  2. Clean up your database. By now it’s clear that the database is the single most important success factor in B-to-B marketing communications. So don’t be automating messages that can’t or won’t be delivered to the right targets.
  3. Train up your team. Too many marketing groups are leaving the campaign automation system to a set of junior staffers who interface with the tools, deploy campaigns and report results. I am not saying the marketing VPs should be executing campaigns, but to get the right mix of strategy and tools, we need better integration. Senior marketers should be deeply aware of the capabilities of the software. And junior staffers need training in strategic marketing thinking.

Are there other success factors in B-to-B marketing automation you can share?

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

A Weird, But Effective Shortcut to Generate Sales Leads on LinkedIn

See what I just did? You chose to read this article—probably because the headline provoked curiosity. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, the basis of effective copywriting. True, there is no silver bullet for generating sales leads on LinkedIn. However, there is one habit that consistently brings my students and me more success generating leads online: Giving customers a reason to click and take action—relieve that nagging pain or take a step toward an exciting goal.

See what I just did? You chose to read this article—probably because the headline provoked curiosity. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, the basis of effective copywriting. True, there is no silver bullet for generating sales leads on LinkedIn. However, there is one habit that consistently brings my students and me more success generating leads online: Giving customers a reason to click and take action—relieve that nagging pain or take a step toward an exciting goal.

Yes, creating curiosity that lures customers to act seems like an obvious strategy. So, are you and your team doing it?

Engagement Is NOT the Goal: It’s the Entry Fee
At the simplest level these are our goals:

  • Grab attention, hold it long enough to…
  • provoke engagement in ways that…
  • earns response (generates a lead).

Will you agree with me? If you don’t get response to content placed on LinkedIn, you’re wasting precious time.

Will you also agree engagement is not the goal on LinkedIn? I know we’ve been told it is. It feels strange saying it’s not. But engagement is the beginning of a courtship process.

Whether it happens on your profile or inside LinkedIn groups, engagement is the entry fee. It’s your chance to create irresistible curiosity—or let your customer click away.

LinkedIn can be a big time-saver. It can scale your ability to generate leads. But only if you adopt a successful paradigm, one where engagement is the beginning, not the end. I’m talking about a world where it’s easy to get response—using a system to get customers curious.

3 Steps to Generating Leads on LinkedIn
Here are my best tips on structuring what to say and when—so you create hunger for more details in potential buyers. Remember, intense curiosity is the goal.

The idea is to give prospects temporary satisfaction. When you post updates, engage in LinkedIn groups or dress up your profile, answer customers’ questions in ways that satisfy. However, make sure your answers cause more questions to pop into their heads. That’s when you’ll hit ’em with a call to action that begins the lead generation journey.

Here’s where to start—either on your profile or in a LinkedIn group where prospects can be found: Answer a question your target market needs answered in a way that focuses on a nagging pain or fear. The idea is to directly or indirectly signal, “this discussion will help you overcome _____” (insert fear or pain).

If responding to an existing question make your comment suggest, “I’m here with a new point-of-view” or “I’m here with a fresh, new remedy to that pain.”

When you communicate follow these guidelines:

  1. Get right to-the-point. When you start or contribute to a LinkedIn group discussion be like a laser. Don’t make readers wait for the solution. Hit ’em with it. However start by…
  2. Revealing slowly. When it comes to all the juicy details of your remedy take it slow. Slow enough to encourage more questions—to create curiosity in the total solution. When you do this, make sure you are…
  3. Provoking response by leveraging customers’ curiosity.

Yes, be action-oriented and specific. But avoid being so complete that readers become totally satisfied with your words.

Make Your Answers Generate More Questions
Think of this like a successful dating encounter. Masters of the courtship process have always known the secret to creating intense curiosity: Being a little mysterious. Suggesting “I’ve got something you might want.” Holding a little information back. Strategically timing the sharing of information.

We’re trying to get the other person to be curious about us. So the best way to spark curiosity is to answer questions in direct ways that satisfy—but only for the moment. Answers should generate more questions … spark more curiosity in what we are all about.

Of course, we need to be credible. We cannot risk playing games with the other side. Yet being a little mysterious is fair play. It encourages more questions. This is how to generate leads on LinkedIn.

In business it works the same. Your ability to start generating sales leads on LinkedIn will be determined by an ability to answer questions in ways that provoke more questions from the buyer. Good luck!