It's never the easiest to generate leads as a small business, but it need not seem an uphill battle at every turn. Marketing automation software can greatly aid the lead generation process; to know if it might work for you, it's imperative that you undrestand its most basic features and tenets. Here are nine terms every marketer should know before implementing a marketing automation platform.
Marketing and Sales Alignment
It is often assumed that a marketer's perspective of the sales process sits at odds with a salesperson's understanding of customers. Ultimately, however, both departments share the same goal: to produce revenue for the company they serve. Marketing and sales "alignment" is a process, or the result of a process, that creates mutual understanding and a partnership mentality. Marketing automation is a marvelous tool for this, as it offers a framework that helps sales and marketing see their common interests and agree on the tactics or strategies used.
Demand Generation and Lead generation
The concepts of "demand generation" and "lead generation" are often used interchangeably. There are no standardized definitions of the terms, and some practices can be used to support both.
We asked marketing expert David Raab from Raab Associates for his personal definition of the terms. He responded that, "'demand generation' classically means to actually create demand for a product by educating potential buyers about why they need it and who they can buy it from." Generating this awareness and interest can involve a wide range of activities, including magazine, TV, radio advertising, direct mail, email, and all kinds of inbound and outbound marketing activities, such as sign-up opportunities for email newsletters, webinars, whitepapers, e-books, and so on.
"Lead generation' is a narrower term," advised David, "involving getting potential buyers to identify themselves and agree to be contacted by the company; to, in effect, raise their hands.'" An example of lead generation is advertising that draws people to a website where they can indicate strong interest or receive something of value (a newsletter subscription, webinar registration, etc.) by providing some form of identification, usually an email address at the minimum.
Not every prospect identified will be at the exact same stage along the sales pipeline. That's why the process of lead qualification proves so vital, as it identifies the exact place a lead has reached and sends the offer needed to urge him or her closer to a close. Automation takes the manual labor out of this.
Some companies find it useful to qualify leads with a ranking system that tells salespeople how close each lead is to a purchase. That helps the company decide which offer to put in front of the lead next; it also helps the sales professional prioritize their time by focusing on the hottest leads. Usually the ranking is an aggregate of scores earned through prospect behavior such as click-throughs, website visits, or webinar attendance. Automation makes this much easier.
Lead conversion is the term used to indicate that a buyer has taken a step in the buying journey. For example, depending on your organization's terminology, a prospect could convert to a lead; a lead could convert to an opportunity; an opportunity could convert to a sale; and so on. Marketing automation tracks conversions automatically.
Drip marketing is the practice of sending messages and offers on a schedule, "dripping" out over time. With marketing automation, you can create a drip program that triggers in response to a specific action by a prospect.
Lead nurturing is a specific type of drip marketing. If someone isn't ready to buy right away, but has expressed interest, it's a rewarding practice to keep "touching" the lead with new information or offers. Nurturing uses scheduled drip communications to keep your brand top of mind with the prospect until they're ready to buy.
While the concepts of qualifying and nurturing leads are fairly simple, execution is not. The typical marketer is managing multiple segments, multiple campaigns, and different offers across multiple channels. That's where marketing automation comes in, with lead management tools including list segmentation, scoring, nurturing and more to help marketers ensure that no lead gets dropped or abandoned, and that every lead gets the right communication at the right time. This not only increases conversions throughout each stage of the sales funnel, but lowers the cost per lead. It can also help document how marketing campaigns contribute to closed sales, demonstrating marketing attributed ROI. That's nice too.
Marketing automation software provides an efficient way to manage demand generation and leads, and communicate timely information with the sales department. Marketing automation systems allow a company to identify leads from the outset, gauge their readiness to buy, automatically send each lead offers that will help move them closer to a purchase, and automatically alert sales to qualified opportunities. In short, it creates greater sales and marketing alignment, and results in greater sales.