How Marketers Can Break Through The Automation Noise

Today’s marketers are all about automation. And why wouldn’t they be? It empowers marketers to do more with less, helps campaigns reach a global scale and provides us with the time we need to come up with The Next Big Thing. But the problem with marketing automation today is that everyone is doing it — and almost everyone is doing it poorly.

For example, how many times have you seen an email in your inbox address you with the good old fashioned “Hi [ENTER NAME],”? Or how many times did you get a follow-up email explaining that, oops, the previous email wasn’t meant for you? Automation can make marketing so easy that we literally forget about the human at the other end.

Buyers Want Personal

Let me throw some numbers at you to ensure this point hits home. According to an ON24-sponsored report from Harvard Business Review, four out of five marketers say they value human and personalized interactions over automated interactions. But those same marketers say the digital tools they use make it difficult to build genuine human interactions. In essence, we love personalization, but the everyday tools we rely on get in the way of building genuine connections.

And there are other reasons why marketers need to prioritize personalization. One great reason: personalization pays. According to a 2018 MarketingProfs study, marketers found a 19 percent increase in sales when businesses personalized web experience for a target account. In addition, a 2016 McKinsey study found personalization actually helped to cut acquisition costs in half.

So where does automation fit into all of this? Digital marketers are starting to understand how to make the most out of the marketing automation technologies they have and use them for a singular purpose. That purpose, from what I’ve seen at countless conferences and have discussed in just about as many conversations, is a better overall marketing experience. When used in service of a higher purpose, and combined with the right digital tools, automation can become the engine behind great, engaging, and genuine, experiences.

Marketing Automation Where It Counts

Take, for example, landing pages, the beating heart of many digital events. Under the right conditions, marketers can use automation to eliminate form-fills, one of the most tedious and registrant-repealing parts of signing up for digital events. We did this recently at ON24 and by getting rid of that small tedium — putting in names, numbers and email addresses — we crafted a better experience for return attendees and collected more accurate data in the process. This little experiment-in-automation was so successful, in fact, that we managed to see a significant jump in the number of registrants for a webinar series than we normally see.

The real way to harness the power of marketing automation is to pair it with interactive marketing tools, like webinars, that help you to build experiences and give you the ability to capture every action a prospect takes, assess that activity and share it with the sales team. There are two main reasons why recording and assessing activity is so great. First, it helps marketers hone in on their best leads and better understand audience behavior — creating the foundation for better deals and better content. Second, and best of all, feeding these qualified leads straight to sales provides a seamless conversation.

From Noise to Engagement

Webinar platforms can capture every click, question, download and more. This type of behavioral data will give you a much better picture of who your best leads and what their primary interests are. But that’s not all! By combining this webinar data with marketing automation and CRM systems, we can place these leads with this powerful conversational context into the hands of salespeople. Instead of following up on a webinar, salespeople are following up on a question, a download – even a theme if a prospect is watching a series of particular webinars — they’re continuing a conversation instead of trying to start one.

If you take a look from a 30,000-foot perspective you can see the big picture: that marketers and salespeople are starting to shift away from technology just for the sake of scale and towards technology for the sake of building an experience that converts. That’s something great. That’s something tangible. And that’s something that has to happen if we’re to get the most out of automation today.

The Everything Experience Comes to Marketing

Prospects, leads and customers want everything. They want all the relevant information you can provide them. They want your attention. They want the best deals possible. They want your commitment. They want this every time they interact with your organization. What they want, what they expect, is the everything experience.  

Like Amazon’s claim to be “the everything store,” B2B marketers need to provide “the everything experience,” to audiences at every stage of the buying cycle. Marketers need to develop, consolidate, personalize and publish a comprehensive experience encapsulating all the relevant content from first-touch and close-won to retention and upsell.  And marketers need to do it at scale for nearly every customer.

To their credit, marketing teams are organizing to provide “everything” experiences. But there are a few problems they need to tackle first. They need to know what goes into an everything experience, how an experience works and, finally, how to scale that experience to the variety of markets it needs to address.

The Elements of Everything

First, organizations need to start with the basics. This includes personas, a map to your buyer’s journey and a keen understanding of what content you have. Marketers should also know what resonates with audiences and where within the buyer’s journey that content is most relevant.

Once these elements are mapped out, marketers ought to fill in any content gaps in their buyer’s journey. Prioritize material that scale easily, like case studies, ebooks and blog posts. After that, look for opportunities to craft intimate messages, like videos and podcasts, that address a company’s specific pain point or stage of the buyer’s journey.  

Making The Everything Experience Work

Okay, so let’s say you have most, if not all, of the content you need to address your buyer’s journey. First: congrats — you have everything it takes to create an everything experience. All you have to do now is put the parts in the right order and present them with the help of content hubs. Here, digital tools — like ON24 Target or ON24 Engagement Hub — can help simplify the creation of an experience through standardization and scale.    

Assuming you’re using a digital tool, you’ll want to create different content hubs — the centerpieces of each experience. For example, you can create several content hubs that map to a typical buyer’s journey — top, middle, bottom (or awareness, consideration and decision) as well as a hub that helps new customers to onboard, or make use of, your solution. Combined, these hubs provide the everything experience.  

Once these hubs are outlined, it’s time to map your content to them. However. There are three elements you’ll want to emphasize: interactivity, two-way communication and personalization. Don’t worry, these aren’t complicated concepts.  

Interactivity simply means providing opportunities for visitors to click, download and otherwise interact with content. This can be as simple as providing a report to download or as complex as providing an on-demand webinar with additional content to interact with.

Two-way communication is any dialogue where you ask a question and the audience provides feedback — or vice versa. Polls, surveys, feedback prompts, on-demand webinars and “contact us” buttons are some great examples where you can dialogue with your audience.

Finally, personalize it. Hubs targeting a specific account, for example, should have personalized welcomes and content addressed to the account (even if it’s only in the title). Introduction videos, ones showing visitors how to interact with the hub, where relevant items are and how they can reach your team, are a great way to add a personal touch to your hubs as well.

Providing Everything at Scale

Alright. So you have your content, you have your hubs. You have, in essence, the everything experience in place. There’s just one thing left to do: scale it up to address a growing roster of accounts and industries.

Once you’ve got one in place, duplicate content experiences for different audiences is easy. Tweak your messaging, adjust your content and suddenly you’ve created an account-based marketing campaign.

And as you iterate, you can also assess. Specialized digital content hubs — like ON24 Target and ON24 Engagement Hub — are useful tools for content creators. Here’s why: they show who interacted with what content and how often. With this data, you can identify what connects, what doesn’t, who’s most interested in your services.

The best part is that you can continue to make this assessment over time. Depending on how you deploy your everything experiences, you can even A/B test titles, headlines and additional content to learn what you need more of, how you can make your hubs more interactive and provide the perfect everything experience every time.  

Consumers have enjoyed the everything experience for a long time. B2B buyers, consumers themselves, are starting to expect the same treatment. Being able to adapt to these demands means taking the content you have and serving it up differently. It means thinking just as much about the delivery of your content as the creation of it. The everything experience is everything marketing should be — providing audiences a seamless, unlimited way to engage with your brand. The leads will follow.

The Biggest B2B Trends Around Content and Experience

We surveyed our sponsors for TOPO Summit 2018 and asked them to identify three trends their companies are following in 2018.  Based on those responses, we will be publishing a series of blog posts over the next several weeks, categorizing their thoughts into six themes: AI and Data, Everything Account-Based, Content and Experience, Sales and Marketing Alignment, Marketing and Sales Development Orchestration, and Sales Focused.

Want to hear more from these companies? Be sure to meet with them at TOPO Summit, where these topics, and more, will be covered by our speakers and our sponsors.

CONTENT

Loopio  – Thoughtful Personalization
With multiple organizations vying for a prospect’s attention, personalization is becoming more important. We’re seeing this in creative outreach methods e.g. white-boarding and video, but also in responses to information requests, such as proposals. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t effective anymore. Targeting is becoming more important and the shift towards Account Based Marketing and Sales is helping to focus outreach to target accounts and personalize in a more scalable way.

Radius – Direct Mail
There is a belief that direct mail is dead however we think it couldn’t be more alive. In a digital world, direct mail is a breath of fresh air. It is highly personalized, highly targeted and easily measurable.

LinkedIn – The Blockbuster Approach to Content Marketing
Content marketers have two key hurdles: Producing quality content and producing enough of it. The Blockbuster approach helps content marketers get over both hurdles. It’s possible to produce quality content with frequency. With the Blockbuster approach, marketers borrow the Hollywood model of building sequels from powerful brands such as Star Wars or Toy Story. B2B marketers can mimic this approach by creating Blockbuster or Big Rock content on a regular basis. Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report is an annual hit for Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. Similarly, LinkedIn has seen success with our regular Sophisticated Marketer’s guides. The fact that marketers can “turkey slice” this quality content into blog posts, Tweets, LinkedIn articles goes a long way to solving the content quantity/frequency issue.

SalesLoft  – Video becomes an integral part of the rise of multichannel prospecting.
Email is a quick, easy way to “touch” prospects without the threat of rejection. But 130 billion B2B emails are sent daily– which renders the channel less effective, with nearly 80 percent of sales emails not even opened, let alone read. A multi-channel touch is important! In our experience, incorporating personalized video can drive open and click rates three to four times the average message.

ON24  – Making human connections at scale
One trend we’re tracking, and that plays close to home for us, is forging a human connection at a digital scale. We’re of the philosophy that marketers can no longer simply push content out into the world and expect their audiences to digest on their own. Instead, marketers have to engage with and build a relationship with their readers, listeners or viewers with great material.

Fortunately, the digital tools available to us today make this relatively easy. Anyone, for example, can launch a podcast, which a great educational, influential and attention-grabbing medium. Webinars, which are my bread-and-butter, are another worthwhile format, especially when you can push additional content, measure engagement and hone in on your most interested audience members.

EXPERIENCE

LeanData – Aligning brand to customer experience
Marketing and sales teams need to focus on getting back to the basics of branding and storytelling to engage with their customers. Customers want to work with brands they believe in; brands need innovative technologies that deliver customized content to customers. At LeanData, we’re committed to pushing the humanity of our brand and technology forward with content that’s relevant, relatable, and actionable.

ON24  – Interactivity
As marketers, we want to know if our audience is engaged and interested in our product. One of the best ways to measure that interest is through interactivity. So, we’re constantly looking for solutions that help create two-ways experiences. Video is a great example. Traditionally, it’s a one-way street where the broadcaster speaks to an audience. New technologies, however, are bringing more interactivity to the medium, letting broadcasters push polls, examine chat streams and a whole lot more. Any opportunity to bring the audience in and engage with them on a one-to-one level is, to us, something worth looking at.

LeanData – Improving relationships with customers, partners and employees
In 2017 and now 2018, platforms such as Gartner peer reviews, TrustRadius and G2 Crowd have enabled brands to connect deeply and build lifelong relationships with their customers and prospects through peer reviews and ratings. Account-based marketing, specifically with account targeting, have helped sales and marketing teams drive revenue, but also create better connections with customer prospects.

ProsperWorks  – Design takes center stage in the 2018 enterprise world
Despite the plethora of innovative new solutions that have hit the market in the past year, one problem remains inherent in the majority of enterprise software: design. Clunky, hard-to-use tools are increasingly becoming a pain point, and in 2018, companies that fail to prioritize design will begin losing business to a younger cohort of startups that provide enterprise software with a consumer-like experience.

Mintigo – More precise and genuine customer journey with data
The beauty in predictive marketing is it enables companies to really understand their target customers and directs them towards those who have the highest likelihood to buy. It saves companies time and effort and gives them the opportunity to be more productive by focusing on high-quality leads and accounts. With this powerful technology, the next step is for companies to dig deeper, into a more individualized level, to explore avenues that truly synchronize with the customer journey, and to offer genuine value that resonates and sticks with the customers. In other words, predictive marketing is only going to intensify real connections between brands and customers.

Radius – Omnichannel
Because of their experiences in the B2C world, B2B Buyer expectations are transforming the way B2B sellers deliver products and services. Buyers expect product information and messaging to be consistent across every channel. When done right, omnichannel can be a powerful competitive advantage

Mintigo – Best-of-breed/vendor partnerships
Customer journeys are complex. Aside from individual customers having various levels of intent, expectation, and brand trust, they also use different platforms and approaches when interacting with a brand. While predictive marketing helps companies improve their engagement with customers, vendor partnerships are necessary to reach its full potential and to strategically navigate this multifaceted market landscape. Vendor partnerships mean creating mutually beneficial collaborations that empower all parties involved. It’s about orchestrating best-of-breed marketing stack that enables everyone to tap external resources, easily scale up and down based on changing needs, and gain new skills and access to long-term expertise at a lower cost.