Top 3 Tips on How to Validate, Calibrate Marketing Automation

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How can you dramatically improve ROI on marketing automation investments? Read these top three tips for when and how to use marketing automation—and when not to.

  1. Save the bulk of your marketing automation efforts for lower-level executives: Senior executives are not as responsive to marketing automation as their junior counterparts: Senior execs don’t want to be treated like the human equivalent of a pinball—capturing your attention only after hitting the right bumpers and scoring enough points. More importantly, these high-ranking executives are about 2.5 times more likely to respond to a quality multi-touch campaign (calls, voicemails, emails, and in some cases direct mail) than are their direct reports. Whether or not they have assigned junior staff to do research, it pays to reach out directly to your decision maker—in the way he or she prefers. If your targets are senior, I recommend you test a multi-touch campaign against an automated marketing effort to determine which method results in more revenue.
  2. The top 30% of your prospect base (larger organizations, in the right verticals, with the optimal environment, etc.) should be pulled out of automated marketing campaigns: If you wait for these targets to raise their hands by downloading a whitepaper or attending a webinar, you are going to lose to more agile competitors. In the best-case scenario, you will be invited in too late and become column fodder. Worst case, you will be totally unaware of an evaluation you might have the chance to win.
  3. It should come as no surprise that I recommend against email as the exclusive channel to reach prospects: Automating the right process is smart. Using automation exclusively is not. SiriusDecisions’ warns against “responding to an inbound inquiry solely with outbound email. Marketers must continue conversations online and through integration and coordination with additional outbound tactics (e.g. direct mail and personalized tele-prospecting outreach).”

Automated marketing does make sense in some situations. These include renewals, consumable purchases, webinar reminders and follow-up, and automated follow-up after a prospect downloads content. (There are many more, of course.) The problem is that the scoring algorithms are infrequently validated or calibrated

My recommendation is that in addition to the 30% of prospects that are more strategic (discussed in #2 above), you hold back an additional 10% of prospects (from the pool of prospects that are recipients of automated marketing) and use a multi-touch approach to reach them.

You already know how many inquiries or deals you get per 1,000 emails, but do you know the opportunity cost of using email only? In other words, how much money are you leaving on the table?

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By picking up the telephone to talk to people, you will receive feedback on content they value and content they ignore. You might re-segment your target market and shift segments into the 30% while some of the previous 30% club drops to a lower ranking. In talking with prospects, you will glean considerably more insight into their pains, their perceptions about solutions, and their actual plans than you ever will via scores from marketing automation alone.

I’m not suggesting you ditch marketing automation altogether. Just measure the benefit of human touch against the incremental cost.

You might also learn, as we have by conducting the testing that I am describing here, that high scores do not actually translate into better prospects. As a matter of fact, just the opposite can be true.

As an example, for one IT security company, consumers of up to five pieces of content were much better prospects than those individuals who consumed six or more pieces of content. In most companies, leads are sent to the sales force too soon. However, in the case of the IT security company, if only those who consumed six plus pieces of content were sent to sales as leads, they would be receiving poor leads.

Marketing automation has made it possible to get more poor-quality leads to sales faster than ever. But it does not have to be that way.

If you follow my advice, you will find yourself doing a lot more calibrating than validating your marketing automation.

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