Rapid digitization and customers’ need for nonstop connectivity only increased during the pandemic. On average, distributors and manufacturers expect orders placed electronically post-COVID to increase 31% over pre-COVID days, according to our 2021 State of eCommerce Survey. Distributors must continue to adapt by empowering today’s buyers with more immediate information and many more choices than ever before.
Across markets, the popularity of marketing automation has been steadily increasing; the global marketing automation market size is expected to reach $8.4 billion by 2027, according to Research and Markets.
In distribution, however, marketing automation is a significantly underutilized tool to drive relevant offers and information to key customer segments. Even though it costs more than simple email marketing and requires a bigger commitment, the payoff is high.
But what is marketing automation?
Forrester Research prefers the term “lead-to-revenue management automation solutions” and notes that such systems were developed to “bridge a gap between lead generation activities (e.g., trade shows, direct mail, telemarketing, and email campaigns) and selling activities (e.g., closing the deal) that were managed by a customer relationship management (CRM) system.”
Sales Lead Insights defines it as “Marketing automation is the use of technology to generate, nurture, score and qualify leads, and drive sales using customized, multi-touch marketing communications that are tailored for each contact’s profile, level of interest, behavior, or place in the buying process.” In essence it enables true one-to-one marketing capability.
Forbes says marketing automation is “the process of putting various marketing tasks or efforts on an automated schedule or platform. Rather than implementing all marketing efforts manually, businesses can set schedules and deploy multiple tools to manage and monitor all marketing efforts. This can help make online marketing more straightforward and more efficient.”
What’s Included in Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation systems offer most or all of the following:
- Email message and campaign creation
- Automated email campaign deployment and measurement (e.g., drip and nurture campaign)
- Triggered emails
- Lead management and routing
- Automated lead nurturing
- Automated lead scoring
- Creation and hosting of landing pages and forms
- Website visitor tracking
- Social media marketing and sharing, including blog integration
- Inbound marketing, including some SEO capability and account based marketing
- Database with segmentation capabilities
- CRM integration and automatic data synchronization
- Web events/webinar integration, registration, and management
- Tracking, reports, and analytics
- Third party app integration
- Data capture of demographic, firmographic, and behavioral information
- Alerts that notify sales and/or marketing when a specific person or company visits a specific page on the website
What is the Value of Marketing Automation to Your Company? What Can It Do for You?
Companies that have adopted marketing automation are outperforming those that haven’t. Consider these benefits:
- Those who use automation can increase conversion rates by 30% or more, according to Salesforce.
- Marketing automation helps employees save time by increasing sales productivity by more than 14% and reducing marketing overhead by more than 12%, according to Forbes.
- 82% of marketers report recognizing a positive ROI from marketing automation that makes them more efficient, according to Salesforce.
Done well, marketing automation can:
Increase overall sales, both for new and repeat customers
Marketing automation’s functionality allows salespeople to better understand the customer journey because they can see what their customers are most interested in by what emails they open and web pages they’re visiting. Campaigns can be tailored for specific groups of customers, from new to recurring and special interest.
Using marketing automation tools, a salesperson might notice that one of their customers is interested in hydroponic pumps because they visited that page on their website–and realize they’ve never discussed the product with them before. This creates opportunity for follow up using what the salesperson already knows about that customer’s company, leading to more sales.
Marketing automation provides more opportunities to educate customers on the depth and breadth of everything you sell. Plus, features like automated nurturing, including personalized follow-up emails that improve brand engagement and encourage enrollment in loyalty programs that incentivize customers to become repeat customers.
Shorten the sales cycle by 50% or more
Having access to customers’ digital journey combined with a salesperson’s overall understanding of their customers creates openings to step into customers’ shopping and buying process. This cuts that cycle down significantly by getting the right information to them when they’re looking.
If customers are already considering certain products, salespeople can pull those sales forward by talking with them about those products, where before, they might not even have known to ask the question or may have found out too late to make a difference in the buying decision.
Increase sales quota achievement rates
Marketing automation makes it easier to track customer interest in specific offerings by housing relevant data in a familiar accessible system for sales teams to use in follow-up conversations with clients.
This increase of information about your customers leads to more conversations and increasing the number of sales.
Lower the cost per lead
Pairing marketing automation with lead scoring (ranks prospects based on their engagement with your company across channels) determines which leads will be most worth spending your sales force resources on, making those sales calls more productive. Digital prospecting reduces the cost of paying your sales team for cold calls and increases the likelihood that the lead is much closer to a sale before the sales team gets there.
Lower overall sales and marketing costs across the company
Many distributors don’t have huge marketing teams; automation tools can save marketers several hours per week doing mundane tasks like manual segmentation and cleaning lists.
Increase alignment of sales and marketing teams
Marketing automation creates an intersection for sales teams to understand the value of marketing with concrete benefits. It can also show the value of CRM tools when those are integrated with the marketing automation platform. Additionally, many automation tools transmit data in real-time, allowing you to develop sales pitches and marketing offers that are relevant.
Decrease customer churn
Marketing automation allows distributors to create campaigns that catch if a customer disrupts their patterns. For example, if a customer has purchased from you every week for 52 weeks and suddenly misses two weeks, the system can send out an alert to your sales team or even an email to the customer.
Forbes says that, when done correctly, marketing automation results should be noticeable in less than 30 days after implementation with an investment between 2%-5% of total revenue. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to learn how marketing automation can pay off for your company.
Reach out to me today to learn how Distribution Strategy Group can help you integrate marketing automation tools into your technology stack.
Debbie Paul is Partner at Distribution Strategy Group. Debbie helps distributors identify and communicate their value so they can better serve and sell to their customers. At Newark Electronics, she oversaw the growth of small- to medium-sized high-potential accounts with results of over 10% growth in the first year, continuing in subsequent years at a rate of 15-20%. Ready to tap the full potential of your customer base? Contact Debbie at email@example.com.