Why marketing automation is not a day at the beach

A few months ago, I attended a free educational event hosted by a marketing-automation vendor. The half-day event was full of great tips … but there was one marketing message that I found to be misleading.

Namely, slides showing a marketer chilling at the beach, drink in hand. Because with all the time marketing automation would save you, you’d have more time for the relaxing things in life. Like drinking margaritas on the beach, presumably on a Tuesday while less tech-savvy marketers are toiling away on new landing pages.

Yeah, right. I wish.

If you are the lucky (hands-on, tactical) marketer who is in the trenches using marketing-automation software, it is not going to decrease your workload. It’s going to increase it – considerably.

Instead of creating one monthly email newsletter, you’ll be creating dozens of nurture emails, along with all the segmentation and logic that tells them when to fire. You’ll be in charge of fixing things you never had to worry about, like how your leads travel through the entire sales funnel, and all the little places data can get lost or corrupted all along the way. You’ll be doing more testing and optimizing and metrics reporting than ever before.

You’ve been warned.

Marketing automation is not going to lead to playing hooky on the beach while your boss praises your brilliance in absentia.

But here’s why it can be worth the extra work.

It allows you to be more scientific, specific and effective with your marketing efforts than before:

  • So you can stop sending thousands of people email they don’t want in favor of sending hundreds of people a message that’s actually meaningful.
  • So you can stop referring to people who filled out a form as “leads” until they actually engage in behaviors that indicate a willingness to buy.
  • So you can measure how much your leads are contributing to pipeline and revenue, proving your value to your company’s bottom line.

Marketing automation is powerful. It can help you be a better marketer. But it ain’t gonna earn you extra beach days. Nope, not this summer. Sorry.



Why I’m excited about the Salesforce acquisition of ExactTarget/Pardot

As a B2B and demand-generation marketer, the news of Salesforce buying ExactTarget – and by extension, Pardot – for $2.5 billion shot me straight to my computer like a rocket. As a lover of marketing automation, my head is exploding as I think about how quickly this will allow Pardot to capture market share and improve on its offering.

I didn’t always love marketing automation, and I didn’t always love Pardot.

I started using Pardot in fall 2011, and my first exposure was pretty darn painful. My employer at the time had hastily installed Pardot, without thinking through or testing its integration with SugarCRM and home-grown backend systems. As the new demand-generation manager, I inherited a complicated mess.

Added to this mix, I was frustrated by a lack of features in Pardot … problems with the GotoWebinar integration, problems with not being able to easily segment out email responders from nonresponders, problems with lots of little things that kept me from being able to do the kind of sophisticated marketing that marketing-automation software is supposed to facilitate.

But then an amazing thing happened.

Over the next year, Pardot developers quickly released wave after wave after wave of new features that solved all my biggest complaints one by one. I was won over by Pardot’s amazing and amazingly sweet customer-support team that always bent over backwards to answer my questions and solve my challenges.
And right after ExactTarget’s acquisition of Pardot, I spoke at Pardot’s Elevate 2012 user conference, where I applauded loudly at their product roadmap and walked away with a permanent soft spot in my heart for the company. Pardot has a truly great group of employees that puts the customer first.

In terms of features and functionality, Pardot still lags Marketo and Eloqua when it comes to sophistication. But with all the additional money and market share that the Salesforce acquisition will bring, I predict that Pardot will quickly catch Marketo and Eloqua when it comes to its technical capabilities.

I’m excited to see how this plays out in the marketplace – but I’m even more excited to see what it means in terms of better offerings for marketers like me.

Tripling clickthrough rates for email newsletter

The problem: Readers barely reacted to B2B software company’s email newsletter.
The publication had low open, clickthrough and click-to-open rates.

The solution: I applied a variety of best practices and relaunched the newsletter with relevant content.
I resolved deliverability issues, improved segmentation, set a new editorial strategy, optimized for mobile and performed multivariate testing.

The results: Clickthrough rates nearly tripled, open rates more than doubled and click-to-open rates improved by 74 percent. Continue reading

Driving 23 percent response from direct mail and microsite campaign

The opportunity: A B2B software company wanted to go after a new industry vertical.
The outbound sales team relied primarily on cold-calling to industry lists and needed some way to take the prospects from ice cold to warm.

The solution: Marketing ran a direct mail and microsite campaign to open doors.
The purpose was to get prospects’ attention and give Sales an interesting way to start the conversation.

The results: The campaign achieved a 23 percent response rate – more than 10 times higher than industry averages*.
Twenty percent became warm leads, giving Sales a way to prioritize their cold calls. Continue reading

Achieving page one SERPs for long-tail keywords

The opportunity: A B2B software company drove most of its site traffic through organic search and wanted to rank well for long-tail keywords.
Historically, the company had marketing staff that specialized in SEO and SEM.

The solution: The company optimized each page for a different keyword.
As I wrote and published new pages, I paid close attention to SEO and worked with the SEO specialist to make sure I was adhering to the finer points.

The results: I was able to achieve page one SERPs for new keywords.
When the SEO specialist moved on to a new company and wasn’t replaced, I was still able to achieve page one SERPs for new long-tail keywords. Continue reading

Doubling traffic to lead-generation landing pages

The problem: Content-marketing assets were buried on a software company’s website and received very little traffic.
One small link on the company’s home page led to its Resource Library.

The solution: As part of a complete relaunch of the corporate site, I made the Resource Library more visible and attractive.
Prominent home-page, sidebar, login-screen and navigation elements drive traffic to content-marketing assets.

The results: Average daily visits to lead-generation landing pages more than doubled after the site relaunch. Continue reading

Acquiring new content-marketing prospects

The problem: Content-marketing assets weren’t driving enough traffic and converting enough new prospects.
A B2B software company had a decent library of educational content, but email, SEO and word of mouth alone weren’t enough to drive traffic. The assets weren’t reaching a high volume of new prospects.

The solution: I ran an advertising campaign to promote a new asset.
I tested a range of publishers and marketing tactics, methodically tracking ROI metrics. I performed multivariate testing on landing pages to determine the best converter, and I instituted drip nurturing to help drive sales-ready leads.

The results: The company gained as many new prospects from content marketing in one quarter as it had previously acquired in the prior year.
Of people who filled out a landing-page form, 95 percent were new prospects and 61 percent were from the company’s desired industry vertical. Continue reading

Increasing the rate of sales-accepted leads by 60 percent

The problem: Marketing was passing a high volume of junk leads to sales.
At a SaaS software provider, everyone who signed up for a free trial of the company’s software was automatically passed to Sales for follow-up, whether or not they met sales-ready criteria.

The solution: I revamped the marketing-automation system so that it scored and filtered leads before passing them to Sales.
I diagnosed tough technical issues, rewrote lead-scoring rules and got Sales and Marketing buy-in on which leads should be filtered out.

The results: The conversion rate of marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) to sales-accepted leads (SALs) went up 60 percent year-over-year. Continue reading

Wowing the crowd at a marketing-automation user conference

The opportunity: I wanted to share my knowledge with fellow users at Pardot’s Elevate 2012 user conference
In less than a year, I went from a complete novice to a power user of the Pardot marketing-automation platform. I solved several tough issues for my company, and wanted to share my hard-fought knowledge with fellow users. I answered a call for session abstracts, and my pitch was accepted.

The speech: 911! How to fix common marketing-automation mistakes
My goal was to create the kind of session that I would actually want to sit through. What kind of information might have helped me when I first started using the platform? What lessons had I learned along the way? What problems could have been prevented?

The results: I gave one of the most buzzed-about sessions at the conference (and made a lot of new marketing buddies).
Attendance was high – standing room only. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. My slides were viewed or downloaded by more than 100 visitors to my personal file-sharing account. And the buzz was so great, it reached the CEO of Pardot, who personally congratulated me on my presentation the next day. Continue reading

Creating compelling case studies that drive leads

The problem: Company’s existing case studies were cookie-cutter.
A provider of cloud-collaboration software had built a large library of quick-read case studies. However, the case studies didn’t tell memorable stories and were interchangeable.

The solution: I created in-depth, magazine-style case studies that made the client the hero (not the product).
I set out to create case studies that read like articles in trade publications – and that would serve as a resume showpiece for the featured customer.

The results: The Sales team loved the new format and shared the case studies extensively with prospects.
The first case study in the new format received more than 800 downloads in its first eight months. Continue reading