3 Steps to Preparing Your Organization for Marketing Automation and How Sales Plays a Role

July 26th, 2011 by Marcus Tewksbury

It may be called marketing automation, but be careful not to leave sales out of the equation, especially during the planning stage prior to implementing a marketing automation solution. Below are three processes that sales and marketing should collectively establish to achieve the greatest possible return on investment from marketing automation.

Step 1: Map the Lead Scoring Model

In general, your lead score will comprise of biographical and behavioral data. Biographical data might include title, industry and company size while behavioral data will include such activities as page views, downloads and engagement with email campaigns.

So how do you weight these attributes and activities? Between the two, I recommend placing greater emphasis on biographical data, a 60/40 split. Within each category, it’s important to analyze past won opportunities. Do your best clients come from a particular industry? Are CMOs involved in a large number of deals and do a majority of customers download a particular eBook during the sales cycle? If so, those are values you’ll want to score higher than others.

Once you’ve determined your scoring criteria and weighted values, you’ll need to agree to a sales ready threshold. What is the optimal score at which time a lead is ready to be passed from marketing to sales? Remember, lead scoring is an iterative process. Over time, changes may be made to the criteria tracked, points allotted and threshold for handoff. At a minimum, sales and marketing should meet quarterly to review and adjust as needed.

Step 2: Define Shared Metrics

Once sales and marketing have agreed to a scoring model, the next step is to define shared metrics. Of course the number one metric for all parties involved is revenue. But you can’t effectively measure improvement on revenue alone. Where marketing automation truly shines is in driving incremental conversion along each stage of the sales funnel. As with creating a lead scoring model, it is important to assess past performance.

Begin by analyzing six to twelve months of lead and sales data. Of all the leads that enter your database, what percentage does marketing deem worthy of targeting? What percentage of these Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are accepted by sales? How many of the accepted leads are then qualified by sales, and finally, what percentage of Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) result in won business?

Once these benchmarks are in place, set realistic goals for increased conversions and confirm who plays a role in driving the improvement at each stage. For example, analyzing which campaigns drive in the highest quality leads will help marketing determine how to better utilize their budget.

Step 3: Coordinate Handoff

With Steps 1 and 2 in place, the organization should be primed to drive higher quality leads into the sales funnel and continuously improve the conversion rate at each funnel stage. However, if that’s where the coordination and agreement ends between sales and marketing, you will be missing out on a key opportunity to increase revenue.

In coordinating the handoff of leads from marketing to sales, it’s important to set expectations of how and when leads will be followed up with. By the end of the initial follow up period, all leads should be moved into one of three buckets: 1) sales qualified leads to be further developed by the sales team, 2) sales rejected leads, or 3) potential leads that are not yet sales-ready and should be returned to marketing for inclusion in a lead nurturing program.

It’s this last bucket that can have a significant impact on revenue. By keeping this subset engaged until they are ready to consider purchase, the sales team will have a greater opportunity of closing the deal once the lead re-qualifies as sales-ready. I have seen companies realize as much as 40% of revenue from these recycled leads.

With the up front work of completing the three steps above, both marketing and sales will see optimal results from employing marketing automation. Marketing will begin to understand which campaigns work best and do more of them, and sales will find it easier to hone in on the best quality leads.

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