Using Marketing Automation to Optimize Your Sales Game

By David Greenberg, CMO, Act-On Software

One of the age-old challenges of working in sales is achieving true alignment with your marketing team. The two teams need to be on the exact same page so the marketing-sales handoff is seamless and imperceptible to prospective customers. Beyond being a good business practice, sales and marketing alignment is lucrative— research suggests that companies that prioritize this inter-departmental collaboration are 67 percent better at closing deals.

A marketing automation platform will take sales and marketing collaboration to the next level through its efficiency, ease of use, cutting-edge capabilities, and behavioral insights. Read on to learn how marketing automation can help sales teams vet, nurture, and qualify their sales leads.

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Identifying sales targets with behavioral data

A marketing automation platform is like an all-in-one toolkit for both marketers and sales professionals. When the platform is integrated with a CRM, the toolkit becomes an encyclopedia brimming with vital information about not only active and pending marketing campaigns, but also comprehensive data about a company’s prospective and current customers. When it comes to sales, knowledge is power — the more you know about your targets, the better you can anticipate and meet their needs — and the marketing automation platform is a powerhouse of customer intel.

The beauty of marketing automation is that it captures data every time a customer interacts with a brand, whether it’s a website visit, contact form submission, content download, event registration, SMS response, or social media interaction. For sales professionals, each datapoint is a stepping stone towards understanding customer needs and attributes, and the marketing automation platform makes it easy to learn about each prospective lead and create tailored game plans for future outreach.

When integrated with a CRM, marketing automation platforms are supremely useful for identifying sales leads because not only do they house a plethora of information about individual prospects, they also help sales professionals interpret the customer data in context, relative to other prospects. If you understand how a particular prospect fits into the bigger picture of your sales outreach, you can better strategize the steps necessary to guide customers through the sales funnel.

Nurturing leads

Beyond the initial identification of promising sales leads, marketing automation platforms are also instrumental for nurturing both cold and recycled leads through automated nurture campaigns.

One key benefit of marketing automation platforms is, of course, the automation. Marketers and sales professionals can easily collaborate to create automated lead nurture campaigns, which send timely, personalized communications at predetermined intervals to specific segments of their audience. In contrast to “batch and blast” campaigns, which cast a very wide net with a one-size-fits-all approach, automated nurture campaigns are much more deliberate and tailored to each carefully constructed segment. They are designed to gently move audiences through the customer journey over time, and the campaign automatically adjusts communications based on how the audience responds. For instance, if Customer A engages with Email B, she will automatically get advanced to Campaign C, which is farther along in the funnel — and the cycle continues. The best part is, this deeply personalized campaign doesn’t come at the expense of scale — sales reps can get the best of both worlds and send tailored communications in a programmatic way to enormous audiences. This is the power of marketing automation.

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Ranking and Qualifying Leads

Sales professionals must be experts at project management, and staying organized is crucial. One way that sales reps keep track of their priorities is by ranking and qualifying leads, and they can do so with marketing automation platforms that analyze behavioral data.

Ranking leads (also known as lead scoring) might sound complicated, but it’s quite simple — especially when you leverage marketing automation. Marketers and sales reps assign point (or score) values to specific customer interactions like visiting a particular webpage, downloading a whitepaper, or submitting a contact form. As customers continue engaging with the brand, they obtain more points. Sales reps can easily pinpoint a customer’s positioning in the sales funnel by looking at their score total, and a quick glance at the scoreboard is all it takes to check in on current or priority targets.

Once sales reps assign point values to the brand engagement interactions, the marketing automation platform takes care of the rest and updates score totals in real time. Sales reps can even create audience segments based on lead scores, which takes lead nurturing to a whole new level. Sales development professionals can use lead scoring to better prioritize inbound leads and spend more time with those ready to buy. Meanwhile, account managers can introduce lead scoresheets to their own clients, to help them track customer satisfaction and engagement. With marketing automation, it couldn’t be easier for entire sales teams to keep tabs on their prospects and engage more meaningfully.

The takeaway

Marketing automation platforms are incredibly powerful tools for marketers and sales reps alike. The platform captures a valuable amount of data based on customer interactions and makes it easy for reps to see who is engaging with the brand, what their interests are, and what they need. Sales reps can effortlessly identify key leads, nurture them with automated campaigns or data-informed conversations, and implement lead scoring to be at the top of their game. All in all, a marketing automation platform is a sales rep’s best friend and handiest tool, compiling crucial customer data during every stage of the sales funnel.

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