Tl;dr - Marketing automation can improve the effectiveness of manufacturing marketing and machinery sales. But the software is just a tool that must be expertly applied in the context of process and culture.
What is Marketing Automation and Why Should it Matter to Manufacturers?
Marketing automation is both software and mindset.
The American Marketing Association defines it as:
Marketing automation refers to the use of software and technology to expedite and improve repetitive or time consuming marketing activities. For example, many organizations utilize marketing automation by way of email marketing systems, social media scheduling platforms and many others.1
The really important starting point is that the mindset is what matters. Software is only an enabler. Investing in marketing automation software to more efficiently vomit up more self-serving information about your company, products and services will simply make you efficiently ineffective.
But for manufacturers that earnestly seek to provide better buyer experiences in pursuit of more consistent and predictable sales, marketing automation can help.
Where Does Marketing Automation Sit Between CRM and Sales Acceleration?
There are north of 8,000 different marketing technology software products available according to Scott Brinker.2 That means a pressing need for differentiation, which in turn means lots of buzz words, lingo, and tortured contrasts between products and vendors each trying to position theirs as "must-have."
There is a lot of overlap.
Generally, CRM is for sales. That includes contact database, logging communications, reminders for tasks, and pipeline management and forecasting.
Sales acceleration platforms sit on top of CRM to improve the efficiency of outbound communications by automating "cadences" and recording phone calls for AI analysis and coaching.
Marketing automation sits behind these and isn't often apparent to the sales team although it should be executing a number of tasks to enable the sales efforts. Generally, marketing automation software facilitates email, content, and social media execution.
Each software should provide insight into KPIs to measure performance. Generally, marketing automation will integrate these KPIs in a marketing analytics dashboard to enable closed-loop reporting with attribution so that management can understand precisely which investments drove which corresponding revenue dollars.
The reality is that there's a continuum of software and one CRM will include features which another might not, or which some would consider being more appropriately part of marketing automation or sales acceleration toolkits - and vice versa.
None of the software matters, though, without a growth culture and mindset. And just as many folks can be trained to operate CNC controls and load drawing files, a select few are really great operators. It takes artistic talent as well as an understanding of the checklists.
Let's look at 11 specific ways in which marketing automation (combined software and mindset) can support capital equipment sales efforts.
11 Opportunities for Marketing Automation to Support Machinery Sales
1. Refine, Improve, Manage the Process
Manufacturers understand OEE or overall equipment effectiveness. There's an analogous approach that I call ORE - overall revenue effectiveness™ which can be applied to the sales effort.
Just as automation in manufacturing can reduce variance, improve efficiency, and drive consistent quality with less labor, marketing automation can do the same in the revenue growth process.
The impact is more predictable outcomes.
2. Metrics to Empower Management
Measurement is key to improvement. Knowing the degree some marketing approach works relative to the investment allows a business to pull the right levers to manage the rate of growth with available resources.
Understanding which employees have the biggest positive and negative impacts allows management to optimize talent to drive growth.
As B2C experiences converge with B2B buyer expectations, personalization becomes more important. Delivering the right experience, messaging and engagement are critical. That applies to website look and feel and content, email templates, chatbot experiences, and more.
Marketing automation should integrate with the CMS (content management system) to allow personalization.
Yes, industrial email marketing does work. It's often frustrating, but it's effective when done right. That means a strong platform to guard deliverability, and integrated dynamic segmentation to focus delivery to maximize engagement.
Some emails will be sent en masse to groups of recipients, while others will be triggered automatically to individuals based on actions they take.
5. Revenue Attribution
Which trade shows should you repeat? (based not just on # of leads, but on active projects and closed deals) Which blog author consistently writes posts that drive traffic that then becomes leads? What social media platform drives the most traffic that eventually leads to projects?
And then, what tactics are most successful at moving early prospects through the process fastest?
All of those are examples of attribution which can't be tracked and reported without marketing automation.
6. Enhanced Scoring and Lead Qualification
Too often lead scoring is a static, one-time activity that's based on a single snapshot. That ignores the reality that conditions are constantly changing.
Marketing automation can pull observations of prospect activity into algorithms to dynamically update scores and refine lead qualification statuses to focus sales efforts on likely prospects.
7. Dynamic Segmentation
If someone who has never visited your website reaches out by chat, should they have the same experience as a prospect who's the primary contact for an active opportunity that's due to close in two weeks and who's on your site page that talks about service support?
Of course not.
Job role (function and seniority), industry, lifecycle stage, geography, recent site visits/email opens & clicks/chat conversations/form submissions and other factors will all influence how you optimally engage. Marketing automation should dynamically bucket people to deliver appropriate experiences.
8. Improved Buyer & Customer Experience
If your company is different, it's not enough to chant the mantra about how you're different. You have to demonstrate that. Eventually, your products or services should do so, but for prospects, you have to create an experience that conveys the difference. Marketing automation helps by automatically creating experiences based on segmentation.
The same applies to customers. A known contact who supervises the maintenance of five of your machines should be treated differently than an unknown contact.
9. Safety Net
You invest big dollars in generating leads. Periodically you probably stumble across a situation where a really promising lead, or a many from a particularly expensive activity (e.g. a tradeshow), weren't followed up on as agreed.
But it also raises the question, how often does this happen? And what is appropriate follow-up? How quickly do we expect quote requests to be answered? How many touches do we expect our salespeople to attempt before disregarding a lead?
Marketing automation can be used to monitor, remind, and report - even to dynamically reassign - when leads or opportunities aren't fully engaged according to your expectations.
Similarly, you can constantly meter your interactions with latent prospects and satisfied customers rather than having some simply disappear in a CRM database black hole.
10. Sales Coaching and Enablement
In more sophisticated implementations of marketing automation, you can use the tools to push dots closely together for your sales team. Just as you would draw inferences from a conversation in person, you can create logic in marketing automation to consider and construe variables into a context (segment) and to then offer appropriate recommendations based on that.
For instance, as you notify a rep of a new lead, you could suggest questions for them to ask, remind them of appropriate case studies and videos to share, and even recommend the best email template for them to send.
11. Platform Integration
Despite the fact that every one of the 8,000+ marketing technology platforms offers free trials and promises ease of implementation, the reality is that there's a productivity overhead to learning, managing, and juggling multiple platforms.
Integrating multiple functions into a single platform can substantially improve efficiency and the consistency and accuracy of data that is possible with a single marketing database vs. multiple data silos. Even if each component isn't best in class, the aggregate efficiency (and often economy) are compelling.
How Would Effective Marketing Automation Change your Complex Sales Environment?
Successful marketing automation is more than just software. While there are multiple software options, it's important not to obsess inordinately about the choice. (My experience is that HubSpot is a good fit for middle-market industrial manufacturers.)
More important are really understanding buyers and the process of digital marketing, aligning marketing and sales, and creating a culture of growth.
Too often I've seen marketing teams start a journey only to have passive-aggressive sales teams simply ignore (sometimes outright reject) the opportunities.
If you think you can foster the required culture, check out this free downloadable guide with some "food for thought" on how to apply marketing automation to your business.