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Getting the Most Out of Marketing Technology

“Just give me a phone and a roll of quarters!” Remember when top sales reps relied on their ability to reach out, talk a good game and sell virtually anyone on their products and services?

A lot has changed since then. We’ve experienced a revolution of buyer behavior and technological changes—brought on largely by the rise of the Internet. What was once a linear, one-directional sales process with marketing and sales controlling the flow of information has become a multi-directional, multi-channel journey with buyers in charge.

Technology has transformed customers into dictators of the sales cycle. And while they are calling the shots, sales and marketing leaders must turn to technology to keep pace.

From Big Data and analytics to marketing automation and content marketing tools, today’s technology is helping marketing and sales teams better understand and provide for their customers and prospects.

But for all its potential, there is a caveat: technology can’t magically turn your business into a marketing/selling powerhouse. You still need to know how to engage 21st century prospects and convert them into customers.

The Promise: Digital Insight

Today’s customers are savvy buyers. Regardless of what they need, they all turn to the world wide web at some point. The buying cycle takes them along many paths of inquiry before they end up at your door.

While buyers are out collecting information, marketers are using their own set of tools to help them better understand and serve customers and identify and target the buyers with the greatest propensity to purchase. And the promise of those tools is growing.

Ashu Garg, general partner at Foundation Capital, predicts that by 2025, chief marketing officers will spend $120 billion annually on technology. That’s a 10x increase from $12 billion we were spending only a year ago.

Whether your goal is to target your best prospects with pinpoint accuracy, deliver a superior customer experience online, track customer sentiment on social media or anticipate the content that buyers need to make an educated purchasing decision, marketing technology can help.

At least, that’s the promise.

The Challenge: A Capabilities Gap

For all of technology’s potential, marketing departments have reason for concern. While consumers have jumped in with both feet and are taking advantage of the many digital channels to conduct their research and gather insight, only about 10% of marketers believe they are fully prepared to manage a fully automated marketing campaign. (AdRoll)

To be fair, marketing and sales departments have a great challenge. They need to be on top of a never-ending process of lead generation, demand generation, nurturing, content development, social media, online advertising and more.

All this has marketing executives asking a lot of new questions: Where do we find marketers with IT expertise? Should we outsource? Do we need third-party data? What does our ideal customer look like? Where are we most likely to find our ideal customers? When do we turn a qualified lead over to sales?

The Process: A Leads-to-Revenue Strategy

For all the change, the ultimate objective remains the same. Sales and marketing need to turn prospects into buyers.

Having a marketing and sales process that works is the critical component. You need a leads-to-revenue strategy before investing in a lot of marketing technology. For example:

Your ideal customer: Create an account profile by location, company size and industry. Are there triggering events—acquisitions, growth and other products/services—that make them more likely to buy?

The content your buyers are want to consume: When you know what buyers need, you can attract leads most interested in your products and services. Do they prefer whitepapers, webinars, video, word of mouth, blogs and/or reviews?

Where your buyers are going for content: It’s an omnichannel world, and buyers rely on some combination of websites, search engines, events and tradeshows, social media and journals. Do you need landing pages for each product or service you offer? Are you distributing your content where buyers can find it?

How to best nurture and qualify leads: Nurturing and qualifying are all about turning leads into prospects that sales will use. How quickly can you follow up? Should you use email, telemarketing or both? What do you need to know to qualify? Is your nurturing and qualifying helping sales convert prospects into customers?

How best to use inbound and outbound marketing tactics: While the less-intrusive inbound marketing is gaining popularity, outbound efforts (e.g., direct mail, email, advertising, inside sales) still have a place. What’s the best way to reach your prospects? Do you have enough leads coming in organically? Where can you acquire more leads?

Answering these and other questions will help you develop a marketing strategy that works for your business and create a series of compelling marketing campaigns.

The Technology: Automate Your Process

Once you have a manual process that’s performing, you’re ready to purchase marketing technology that enables you to

  • automate many activities,
  • market at scale,
  • collect and analyze lead/prospect/customer information to refine your strategy
  • provide buyers with a superior buying experience.

At the minimum, you will need marketing technology that automates much of the management of your database, website, content, and leads/prospects/customers. The more you can automate, HBR_300x300the more you can do. That’s marketing at scale.

Finally, you need analytical tools to help you understand what’s working, track buyer sentiment and measure marketing’s contribution to the business’ bottom line.

For best results consult with experts who can help you refine your process and identify the right tools. And collaborate with your IT department to ensure all marketing and sales components are integrated. By doing so, you can overcome the challenges and reap the rewards of marketing technology.