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Ten tips for marketing automation success

Categories: Best Practice

The March S&M Forum, hosted by TMP, highlighted some key points to consider when planning your approach to marketing automation. Paul Smith, Vice President, EMEA, at Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Paul Everett, Director of Marketing Strategy at The Marketing Practice, and Paul Stevenson, Head of Enterprise Marketing Services at O2 (henceforward known as the Three Pauls), shared their ideas and experiences as pioneers of marketing automation.

Here are their top ten tips for success:

  • The Gates Principle – “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” This is the Golden Rule for marketing automation; you need to have something worth automating.
  • Start small, scale up – You don't have to commit to a full-scale deployment of a marketing automation system until you've worked out how it's going to deliver value for you. Consider working with a specialist to run trials on small-scale projects. They can help you plan your roadmap too.
  • Dig into your data – Celebrate your inner geek and make data fun. You're doomed to fail unless your data is rock solid and up to date. This where the Gates Principle really applies. Again, don't try to do it all at once. Pick a promising area and see how it works.
  • Power to the people – Marketing automation is a key cultural step. As with all significant technological change, it's important that all the stakeholders are onside. And marketing automation doesn't mean fewer marketers – it actually means a bigger, more visible and accountable role for marketing.
  • Content is king – No, really, it is. As with newsletters, or any other form of direct marketing campaign, it's vital to have a steady flow of content that is fresh, relevant and valuable to the audience. With the added power of marketing automation, that content can also be more personalised and timely.
  • Integrate your channels – Marketing Automation is about one-to-one dialogues conducted on a mass scale. Your websites, blogs, social feeds and any other channels need to be part of the plan. Landing pages can be personalised, recognising that the person visiting today is probably the same person who responded to an email last week.
  • Tame your Big Data – You're going to generate much more data than you need, as well as data that you thought you didn't need, but which turns out to be invaluable. You'll need big buy-in from your IT people to help you work out how to get maximum practical value from the mighty flood of data you're about to unleash. But they'll probably recognise how much strategic value you're assigning to them, so they should embrace the opportunity.
  • Pace yourself – What if it works, big time? You need to make sure your organisation can cope with a significant rise in opportunities, or demand for products, or registrations for events. In particular, make sure the sales team know what's happening, what's expected of them, and what they'll need to know.
  • Get sales buy-in – In fact, of course, you'll need to get the sales team on board from the very beginning. Marketing automation is a powerful driver for closer integration of sales and marketing teams. Any gaps between the two will be embarrassingly amplified by marketing automation, but it can help to create strong bonds between them as the results begin to flow.
  • It's the marketing that matters, not the automation – Marketing automation really can be the Holy Grail for marketers, equipping them with the ability to prove the value of what they do and helping to embed marketing-led thinking across the organisation. But it's not a quick, catch-all solution; as with any effective marketing, you need to plan carefully and monitor at every step to keep things on track.

Next steps

There’s more on marketing automation here.


Posted by Stuart Constable | May 30, 2014

Stats from our campaigns across 2013 – part 2

Categories: Best Practice

We’re continuing to compare data from our own campaigns in 2013 to those in previous years to illustrate how audience behaviour is changing and what that means for B2B marketing.

In part 1 we explored the shift to mobile and the number of touchpoints required to create a sales-ready opportunity. The next two stats show how traditional B2B channels are evolving.

Proof point one: What’s happening to email open rates?

e-mail open rates B2B marketing

Email will die out as a tool for mass reach. Not this year, and not the next. But soon, and for the rest of our lives. We need to do two things now if we’re going to survive:

First, we need to start using email more intelligently. More closely aligned to data segmentation, more carefully targeted, and built into long-term programmes where the audience actually wants and expects communications to continue through email. (We did exactly this with AXA Wealth and saw their click-through averages go from 1.6% to 4.4%.)

Second, accelerate our ‘shift from email’ strategies. Inbound marketing and social media (see the next proof point) have a big role to play here. But so do some of the more traditional channels.

For example, we’ve seen something changing with direct mail – people are remembering it better (recall rates up from 40% two years ago to 75% in 2013).

Proof point two: How many target decision-makers have active social media accounts?

Number of B2B decision makers on social media

We now gather social media contact details as a standard part of most data-building exercises. And the results are clear: it’s well past time to stop saying “our audience isn’t on social media”. Unless you’re targeting MI5 perhaps.

But if social media is going to pick up the slack from declining email response rates, we need to get better at managing social data and capitalising on the opportunities to engage.

This means making sure that Marketing Automation systems are used as much more than glorified email-sending tools. We should take advantage of all the social monitoring, analytics and content management functionality they can tap into.

And at the other end of the scale, social media gives us a chance to get back to having better 1-2-1 relationships. There’s a lot that marketers can be doing to support our colleagues in Sales as they move to ‘Social Selling’. And that’s a trend we’ll hear more and more about this year as both Sales and Marketing respond to changing buyer behaviour.

(Coincidentally, this is the topic we’ve pitched for our next S&M Forum)


Posted by Matt Hanks | May 22, 2014

Social selling: generation 2.0

Categories: Experiments

Salesforce claim that social selling has been around for millennia. The argument goes that all selling is social, and always has been.

That’s fair enough. They mean that people have always asked for reviews from friends, that buyer behaviour often moves through social circles, and that where once shoddy products were the subject of cock fights and bar brawls, now we have Twitter social servicing and brands like Tesco Mobile being celebrated for their witty retorts.

Social selling in the modern sense has started to mature. Fewer people are questioning its importance, more are panicking about being left behind.

One example of this maturity is the concept of ‘piggybacking’: a term I made up to refer to a growing trend in social selling. Piggybacking is when brands or individuals use social listening software not to understand audience demographics and engage, but to piggyback on competitor activity to spot the best opportunities in the market.

It’s logical really. Any B2B brand engaged on social media should have a social media strategy. And that strategy is likely to involve how to:

a) Identify decision-makers in target organisations

b) Initiate and build upon a relationship with those decision-makers on social media

c) Listen for tactical opportunities such as competitor complaints or RFPs

The question begs: why devote all of your social media resource to sifting through the noise, just to do what your competitors are doing too? Theoretically, you could piggyback on your competitors’ activity (such as RTs, mentions, connections) to predict where opportunities may be about to arise. Or at least to get an insight into their strategy: are they targeting any of your existing customers, and is there anything you can do to nip it in the bud?

So far, there aren’t too many hard and fast examples of this strategy working. But there’s no reason why it shouldn’t, and there are certainly lots of people out there claiming they’ve made it work for themselves, even if it’s more on an individual level than business level. Perhaps it could be a good way to bring out the competitive nature of your sales team in a more productive way?

Here are a couple of ways you could get started:

  • Have a look at who’s following your competitors’ business profiles on LinkedIn to see if you can identify their current customers, or even some of yours that might be looking elsewhere.
  • You could also look at the connections of the key salespeople or account managers within your competitors’ organisation to spot the links, if they’ve got that information set for public viewing.
  • Build a list on Twitter of your competitors and monitor their activity. Or, better still, use a tool like Tweetdeck to monitor every @mention of them if you’ve got only a couple of key rivals.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the world of social selling a lot over the next few months, so keep an eye out for more news, opinion and examples ahead of our next S&M Forum on the subject. You can also follow me on Twitter @MattDHarper.


Posted by Matt Harper | May 19, 2014

The S&M Forum: making Marketing Automation pay its way

Categories: Best Practice

Marketing Automation is high on the B2B marketing agenda, with a growing number of Marketing Automation case studies now available to business-to-business marketing decision-makers.

Which is the kind of opening sentence you get when you're trying to be search friendly.

So I went to the S&M Forum to get some Marketing Automation insight straight from the front line. Paul Stevenson, Head of Enterprise Marketing Services at O2 UK, and Paul Smith, VP at Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, were both there to give presentations on their first-hand experience of making Marketing Automation work.

And yet, something about the event conjured a whole different perspective for me. So when I was asked to do the write-up on the event, I found myself channelling something between Edgar Allan Poe, M.R. James and the King James Bible. Who can account for such things?

Anyway, somewhere in there are some nuggets on the pros and cons of Marketing Automation, from people who know their stuff. I just hope you can pick it out between the Olympian Adonises and strutting divas.


Posted by Stuart Constable | May 15, 2014

Seven new priorities in B2B marketing: Sales enablement

Categories: Best Practice

Continuing my attempt to bring order to the changes that are rocking (probably in both senses) B2B marketing…

In my first post, I talked through the overall story of the seven new priorities (summarised in this full version of the graphic below).

We’re now onto the fifth priority, sales enablement.

7 New Priorities of B2B Marketing


5. Sales enablement

We’ve all heard the argument that buyers don’t want to engage with sales until they’re 70% of the way through the buying process. That’s rubbish. (see here for more)

But what is true is that buyers don’t want to be sold to. They want to be informed, educated and supported. So salespeople are under more pressure than ever to add value in meetings and engagements.

Which begs the question: why are salespeople scrambling to put together basic presentations and leave-behinds on the day before the meeting?

Why Sales needs Marketing

Sales enablement is crying out for the creativity, storytelling and tech tools that marketing can provide.

Why Marketing need Sales

I’d also argue that Marketing could do with spending more time in the kind of detail that the best sales enablement contains. Some of the strongest content marketing ideas come from things that salespeople have been sharing with prospects for years – but never thought to tell marketing about (or were never asked!).

Seven steps

So if I had a magic wand and was asked to fix sales enablement, what would I do?

  1. Make sure the proposition is right in the first place (we’ll come to this in point seven)
  2. Invest in stories. We need to do more to give salespeople stories to tell about the propositions they’re taking to customers. That’s what they’ll remember long after the standard features and benefits.
  3. Spend more time on the road with sales (and less time in the office asking what they need).
  4. Plan sales enablement as a long term campaign. It’s not a one-off ‘launch’.
  5. Look at the platform you’re using to share sales enablement assets. Is it mobile? Is it intuitive?
  6. Create some flagship assets. This is where marketing creativity and new technologies can come in. Don’t try to theoretically re-engineer the way sales enablement works across your whole business until you’ve proven it for one proposition/sector.
  7. Align sales enablement more closely to marketing programmes. Equipping sales to convert marketing opportunities sounds obvious, doesn’t it! There’s also the angle I mentioned above that marketing can benefit from the kind of content that goes into sales enablement.

We’ve described this joined-up Sales and Marketing approach to sales enablement in a 2-page overview. It also lists 10 categories of sales enablement content you should consider developing.



Posted by Paul Everett | April 22, 2014

Something is happening here, but I don't know what it is.

Categories: At the Barn

"Like Bob Dylan’s immortal classic ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’, so is the purpose of the electricity distribution network."
A quote from the annual report of a utility company based in the Pacific Rim.


I was reviewing company annual reports as part of a business-to-business lead generation campaign, when suddenly there on the page was a voice from another lifetime, one of toil and blood. Could this possibly be another side of Bob Dylan?

No reason to get excited. If my memory serves me well, the freewheelin' Bob played no part in the growth of the electricity distribution network. It was just a shadow I was seeing that the executive in the report was chasing.

Of course it ain't no use to sit and wonder why. I guess the generation that turned Bob into their spokesperson has reached that age where they're big boys and girls now, running big corporations. They're talking of situations, reading books and repeating the quotations that shaped who they are.

But if Dylan is shaping corporate strategy, it's easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred.

So how does it feel to see Dylan's words used this way? Well, for a moment, it was a pain that stopped and started like a corkscrew to my heart. I could feel the heart-attack machine being strapped across my shoulders, while the motorcycle black Madonna two-wheeled Gypsy Queen disappeared into the cold distance. And the wind began to howl.

But then I thought twice and actually, it's all right, ma. It's life and life only. I find that my heart has the courage for the changing of the guards.

We may be businessmen and women. They may call us doctors or they may call us chiefs. But we all have to serve somebody, and I'd rather it was Bob than Judas Priest.

Or Frankie Lee, for that matter.

And in the end, the grey-topped utility executive managed to feed my soul with thought. It was good to have Bob come see me again; I hadn't listened to him for a while.

But it was still odd to see the adopted anthem of the Sixties social revolution in an annual report. I suppose the moral of the story, the moral of the song, is simply that one should never be where one does not belong.

(Yes, I had to search some lyrics – but I knew where to look).


Posted by Stuart Constable | April 4, 2014

Don’t forget the Development Director!

Categories: Best Practice

The next stage on our whistle-stop tour of the forgotten IT audience parks us outside the door of the Development Director.

So who are they? What are they responsible for? Who should be talking to them? What do they want to talk about?

It’s all about applications

Also known as the Head of Applications Development, Director of Software Development or Business Systems Director, this character is responsible for all applications and systems in his/her business (i.e. software, not hardware).

They’re typically responsible for managing the entire application development cycle, from gathering and understanding business and strategy, to ensuring continual application availability.

Who should be talking to them?

Any vendor who specialises in business applications, development platforms or application infrastructure solutions.

It’s also worth remembering that Development Directors may influence decisions about broader technology solutions, so they’re definitely worth considering in any IT-specific campaign!

Find out more

Watch our SlideShare presentation to get under the skin of the Development Director (including what they’re responsible for, who they interact with, what they care about and how they spend their days):


Posted by Claire Lund | March 31, 2014

Why I’m giving my bonus to a good cause this year.

Categories: At the Barn

I recently made a decision to donate my bonus for the year to a good cause. Everyone I’ve told has reacted with mild astonishment. Why would I do such a thing?

When my boss asked me whether I would tell anyone, my initial reaction was no. Not out of any sense of modesty, more an instinct not to make a fuss. But then I thought that not to tell anyone would be silly. It would miss at least half of the point.

Because the first reason to do such a thing is to look good. It wouldn’t do to make a grandiose gesture like this and keep it to yourself. As Larry David points out, smug anonymity may be a worse sin than taking the credit.

Second, it makes me feel good. Not only because of the good my money might end up doing for others. That’s great, of course, and it’s a nice thing to reflect on. But it is also important that it feels ‘principled’. I am doing something here which reflects my values.

It might be having a baby son has made me soft, but listening to the news can make me feel very bleak about what we (the big, grand we) really hold dear and value.

Corporate profit levels and individual wealth are, at their excess, sickening. I’m not about to start calling for a revolution or blaming any particular system. I don’t think anyone would give much of a monkey if I did. But I do wonder what we could achieve if we all thought differently about what we do with our discretionary spend.

To be clear, I’m not being particularly Spartan in my level of sacrifice. I’ve got all I really need, I live well. In giving away my bonus, I might be sacrificing ‘excesses’: a holiday, or a new gadget, savings.

For me, though, it’s about where to set the bar. It’s this that I think surprises people about my decision. Beyond the very rich, I think, most of us won’t have considered giving 10% or more of their income to charity. Of course a lot of people genuinely wouldn’t be able to afford it. But that still leaves an awful lot who could.

I plan to donate the money to support people with ideas about how to change the world around them in a positive way. Schemes like the Ashoka Foundation or Unltd. In this way, the money becomes an investment which could grow and grow. The return on this investment is not more money - I’m not expecting anything back. But it may be measurable in terms of lives improved.

Perhaps it is all rather naïve. But it does feel good to do something positive that reflects my values. And it might make a few other people think about how they might do the same.

1 Comment

Posted by DvanSchaick | March 28, 2014

Stats from our campaigns across 2013

Categories: Best Practice

We've just been comparing data from over 100 campaigns in 2013 with those in previous years. I’ve picked out a couple of stats that illustrate some of the fundamental shifts in behaviour we’ve seen over the past few years.

These first two stats relate to concepts that have been discussed in the market for a while now - but here we have the solid evidence that the trends are now a reality.

Proof point one: How many touchpoints does it take to create a sales-ready opportunity?


The number of touchpoints (inbound and/or outbound) needed to create a sales-ready opportunity has been rising steadily. What does it mean for us?

For outbound campaigns: short-term campaigns are only scratching the surface of available opportunities (if your campaign has 3 touchpoints you may get just 25% of the potential leads).

Too often we’re still building marketing plans around one-off campaigns (without even light-touch ongoing communications), rather than planning long-term journeys nurturing the audience with a blend of relevant activities.

For inbound campaigns: we need to be confident that we have enough of the right content to satisfy the audience – we don’t want them turning to the competition for their insight and education.

Proof point two: What proportion of the audience are viewing emails on mobile devices vs PCs?



What’s more surprising is the number of emails, landing pages and content assets that don’t take any advantage of mobile or tablet optimisation. This optimisation is far more than just a technical task – it’s about thinking through audience journeys and what we’re expecting them to do after receiving our communications, and then building content/calls to action based on that.

Bonus stat: How do we compare vs goldfish? (not well)

This isn’t one of our stats, but I couldn’t resist including it. There’s increasing evidence of the effect that ‘the internet’ is having on our brains. One of the more worrying trends is the drop in attention spans. Just something to bear in mind the next time you plan to create a 30 minute demo or 20 page whitepaper...



Posted by Paul Everett | March 28, 2014

LinkedIn will discontinue company product/service pages on 14th April. Is it all just a big experiment?

Categories: Experiments

Just logged into The Marketing Practice's company page on LinkedIn and saw this alert (linking to a help center page about shutting down product pages):

products tab alert

So company Products & Services pages will all be deleted next month.

The Products & Services tab is a place where you can describe - you guessed it - a company's products and services. You can post relevant videos and gather recommendations from across LinkedIn.

It doesn't matter very much for The Marketing Practice ourselves - we set one up to test it a year or two ago but haven't used them in anger (indeed, no-one seems to have been willing to recommend our go-to-market workshop!):

services tab

Although I was rather proud of the disclaimer text (will need to find a new place to use it now):


But there are companies who seem to have been taking it more seriously. Cisco was the first example I looked up - they have 10 products listed with around 250 recommendations. Here's a link to the Cisco page, but it won't work after mid-April! https://www.linkedin.com/company/cisco/products?trk=top_nav_products

cisco products

I don't think it's a bad decision for LinkedIn to remove these pages and concentrate on other areas. For example, the recommendations on Cisco's pages don't tend to be very useful/detailed and I imagine that LinkedIn would have struggled to monetise these kind of pages. (There are some people who disagree strongly though.)

Basic, static messages on these product pages are being replaced by shareable content in areas like company updates, blog post publishing direct to LinkedIn, Influencer content, the Pulse service and Showcase pages (see our new example here on B2B Social Media). In comparison with the reach that some of these offer, I guess the product pages have paled into insignificance.

But can we trust LinkedIn as a home for our content and contacts?

So no-one's likely to mourn the passing of product & services pages. But I think it makes a useful reminder that LinkedIn isn't just a 'social network' any more. We're putting more data into it, hosting content on it and even starting to use it as a CRM system. It's worth bearing in mind that any of these features/content could be removed or changed at a couple of months' notice.

For example I've just been experimenting with it as a publishing platform for blog posts (LinkedIn is opening up its publishing platform for all users, not just 'Influencers'). It was all very exciting when my first post had a couple of thousand views (although my second has barely scraped 50!):

LinkedIn post

And LinkedIn has been busy upgrading its CRM-style functionality. You can now make custom notes against any contact, along with storing extra contact details, adding reminders etc:


All of this is great, but perhaps for now we have to accept that we're living in a 'beta world' where these experiments could change at any point...


Posted by Paul Everett | March 23, 2014

The Marketing Practice generates demand and builds customer relationship programmes for clients including Atos, AXA, Canon and Oracle.