Sales & Marketing Automation: What it is & what it can do for B2B

You likely know that sales and marketing alignment is our jam. We are all about the two teams communicating openly and working towards common goals. But did you also know that we are all about working smarter? Sales and marketing automation can help you with some of the heavy lifting allowing you to scale and spend your time on the things that matter most to your business.

Despite the joint naming, sales automation and marketing automation serve distinct purposes within an organization. In this post, we’ll define both sales and marketing automation and share some of our top tips for implementation. 

Sales & Marketing Automation

What is Sales Automation?

HubSpot defines sales automation as the mechanization of manual, time-consuming sales tasks using software, artificial intelligence (AI), and other digital tools. 

With the sales team focused on one to one communication, automation can help with prospecting and outreach and cut down on response time, making sales uber efficient. More specifically, sales automation helps with:

  • Lead distribution
  • Lead follow-up emails
  • Meeting scheduling
  • Sales quotes/proposals
  • Customer onboarding
  • Lead scoring
  • Approvals
  • Lead qualification

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is using software to automate marketing activities such as email marketing, social posting, and reporting. 

With the marketing team focused on communicating to a group of people, (ideally targeted to personas), automation adds scalability and also personalization. Without marketing automation, it’s nearly impossible to include personalization at the scale needed for most B2B businesses. 

Marketing automation helps to accomplish the following:

  • Updated tracking
  • Real-time alerts
  • Automated lead-hand off
  • Forms
  • Landing pages
  • Social post scheduling
  • Emails 
  • Lead nurturing
  • Lead qualification

Did we mention you can use marketing automation to outsource lead gen? Read more.

Sales & Marketing Automation Tips for B2B

If you’re either considering sales and marketing automation for your business or your current efforts aren’t going so well, this next section is for you. Here are our top five sales and marketing automation tips. 

Tip #1: It starts with alignment

If it feels like your sales and marketing teams are on different planets, adding automation to the mix won’t solve that. It’s best to have a meeting of the minds first. There you should outline responsibilities, define key terms and align your goals. 

Alignment can be a process, but at a minimum, it should be an active process.

MarTech Assessment

Tip #2: Don’t overbuy

Underutilized technology can be a costly expenditure. Not every company needs sales and marketing automation and not every company needs all the bells and whistles of enterprise-grade solutions. Being aligned as a team will help you hone in on the features that are necessary.

Here are some questions for consideration when evaluating the needs of your teams:

  • Are you struggling to segment and prioritize leads?
  • Do your leads require nurturing?
  • Is your sales team struggling to find the time to follow up with leads?
  • Are you leveraging your content?
  • Do you know where your teams are coming from?
  • How are leads handed off?

Tip #3: Have a plan 

Sales and marketing automation can be great, but not without a plan. Having an agreed-upon strategy of what matters to your organization will help you select the tech that meets your needs and execute day to day.

Automation isn’t the entire strategy, but it’s part of it.

Tip #4: Who owns automation?

Bringing on new technology can sometimes have people asking, “Who’s on first?” We strongly recommend appointing an automation internal champion. This person is responsible for adoption, consistency and holding teams accountable.

Tip #5: Don’t forget you’re marketing and selling to humans

When it comes to automation, you can have too much of a good thing because at the end of the day, you’re still marketing and selling to humans. No one wants to engage and converse with a robot, especially if the buyer is in the decision stage. 

 Make sure to:

  • Monitor replies to your automated your messaging
  • Use personalization
  • Practice social listening 
  • Analyze the data and optimize

Avoid these B2B email nurture mistakes that will leave your leads dead in the water.

Tip #5: Automation isn’t set it and forget it

C’mon. Is there anything in sales or marketing that is set it and forget it? The answer is no. There isn’t. Sales and marketing automation tools typically come with better reporting capabilities. Use it! 

Also, there’s part of the story that can’t always be seen in the data. Take the time to talk to the teams and solicit feedback.

Sales and marketing automation can save you time and help your B2B business scale. If you’re considering incorporating automation into your sales and marketing strategy, we’d love to chat.

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5 Enviable B2B Website Examples & Why We Love Them

Have you ever visited a website that you can’t click out of fast enough? Maybe it has a poor user experience, hard to navigate, visually unappealing, or just not worth the eyeball-time? We’ve all been there.  But why? We all know that a company’s website is its digital storefront. If that same company has an actual office, they likely, or hopefully, spent some time and money to make sure it looks nice and is a comfortable space for their employees and visiting customers. Their office should reflect their style, what they stand for, who they are, and what they do. The same could be said, if not more so, for their website. Here are some of our favorite B2B website examples.

b2b website examples

1) HubSpot 

If you’re not familiar with HubSpot, they offer a full stack of software for sales, marketing, and customer service. One of the reasons we love this site is because everything is laid out nicely, without attempting to overload the homepage with copy and leaves you unsure of where you should be looking. HubSpot displays the different subpages they’d like visitors to go to where you can find more details. We also like to say it passes the “blink test,” which means you can tell what they do or offer right away. The site is easy to navigate, not super content-heavy, and has enough icons, imagery, and multimedia to keep people engaged. 

HubSpot is an awesome b2b lead gen tool. Learn more + see our other tool recommendations here.

2) Trello

Say Hello to Trello. Trello is a project collaboration tool that uses boards, cards, and lists to help organizations or teams. What do we love about their site? You’re able to see how it works via interactive slideshows, which is a great way to keep visitors engaged while also showing how Trello works. It’s laid out in a simple way that’s easy to understand. With their minimal copy and a good balance of imagery that shows how to use Trello, they definitely make the enviable B2B website examples list.

b2b website examples

3) DropBox 

DropBox has been around for a while, but we’re liking the new direction they’re trying to take. File storage and sharing are still a big focus, but now they’re introducing features similar to that of a project collaboration tool. When you first hit the homepage, it gives you the option to sign in or download. Once you scroll down, that falls away so your screen is freed up to learn more about DropBox. They also have another cool scrolling function that keeps the content on the left locked, while the pictures corresponding to it move on the right. Most people are already familiar with DropBox, so the site is simple and provides the necessary information upfront. 

Why is SEO important to your B2B site? Read more.

4) MailChimp 

MailChimp is a marketing platform and CRM. They’re often associated with email marketing, but they’re much more than that. We like their site because it’s short and to the point. It offers the right balance of content and characters, without being distracting. The dropdowns at the top are easy to use and navigate to get you to their subpages. So while the homepage is short and sweet, the subpages provide much more in-depth information on what services they offer. The site also has fun colors without being too distracting.

b2b website

5) Asana

Last, but certainly not least, is Asana. If you aren’t currently using Asana, you’ve at least heard of it. They are everywhere these days. Asana is a work management platform that teams use to stay organized, connected, and on track with their projects and workload. Why do we enjoy their site? As always, we love a site that’s easy to use, easy on the eyes, and easy to tell what they do at first glance. As with some of the other sites we like, Asana’s site also hosts helpful videos showcasing what they do and how to use their tool. Don’t even get us started on how user-friendly the actual app is to use.

Sensing a theme with these enviable B2B website examples? All five of them make it clear what they do right away, their sites are easy to navigate, most display videos, interactive slideshows, or images of some sort, and the homepages are all are pretty content light. They save the heavy stuff for the subpages. We also love that they keep users engaged with the right aesthetics, interactive media, and different characters and icons. If you’re looking to revamp your site and need a little inspiration, we recommend you take a look at these.

7 Best B2B Lead Generation Tools for 2020

Like all things sales and marketing tech-related, there’s an ever-expanding supply of options. Rather than inundate you with a list of 100 of the best B2B lead generation tools, we’re going to keep it focused. Here are the top seven tools we’re digging for generating new business leads in 2020. Seven, not a hundred.

1. Unbounce

b2b lead generation tools

Long time fans and users of Unbounce, they’ve significantly expanded the platform beyond landing pages. For organization’s who maybe lack design and/or tech resources, Unbounce makes lead capture easy peezy. With a diverse set of integrations, you can connect it to email platforms and other tools to build a marketing stack if you don’t have an all in one platform, like #2.

2. Hubspot

b2b lead generation tools

When you’re ready to scale and want a more unified view of your lead generation activity, Hubspot is the way to go. As they’ve expanded their product line up from a marketing tool to a platform for marketing, sales, and support, it offers tools from lead generation all the way through your customer journey. But even just getting started with some of the free marketing and sales tools will help ramp up your b2b lead generation efforts in 2020. For example, use forms and live chat on the free version of marketing to immediately start converting some of your website visitors.

3. LinkedIn Sales Navigator

b2b lead generation tools

For sales teams taking a targeted, account based approach, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a must have lead generation tool. One of the features I find the most useful is the account and lead recommendations. As you interact with and tell Sales Navigator what kind of leads and accounts you’re interested in, it surfaces new contacts and accounts that are similar but might not have been on your account based targeting list. It’s a great way to expand your scope with the accounts you can truly add value to instead of randomly selling to anyone with a pulse.

LinkedIn Marketing Guide

4. Calendly

b2b lead generation tools

There is nothing more annoying than trying to schedule meetings back and forth with someone. Calendly eliminates all the back and forth – but it also makes it easier to open up your calendar to potential prospects, referral partners and others who can bring value to your network. Setting aside a time for “office hours” and making that meeting link available opens you up to letting potential partners book time with you in a far more convenient way for everyone – and easily generate a lead.

5. Vidyard

b2b lead generation tools

Video is a hot topic these days – and for good reason. It’s a far more engaging and easily consumed form of content. When it comes to lead generation, personalizing outreach has a significant impact on improving response rate. My favorite tool for this is Vidyard. It makes personalized video super easy to produce and distribute. Don’t worry – you don’t need to be Scorcese – just get started.

6. Meetup

b2b lead generation tools

Depending on what you sell, generating B2B leads with Meetup could be your new secret weapon. Here’s how – find events and meetups related to your topic, in your area. Reach out to the organizer and see if they are looking for speakers. Many times – they’re open to it and it’s an easy way to get in front of an interested audience of potential buyers. Other options, if you’re a product and you need focus groups or beta users, you can find meetups that are often willing to share these kind of opportunities with their members. Do some research and see what groups are already getting together and how you can add value but increase your awareness.

7. Feedly
b2b lead generation tools

Keeping track of buying signals in your target accounts, verticals etc. can be a nightmare. Maybe you’ve set up a bunch of Google Alerts that have now been relegated to a folder in your inbox that you never actually check. Maybe you have an intern putting together a spreadsheet. Alternatively, you could setup feeds in Feedly to monitor accounts or industries to identify opportunities for reaching out with your b2b leads. Feedly goes with you on your phone and makes checking updates on the go a lot easier too.

Methodology for Best B2B Lead Generation Tools of 2020

I realize there are a lot of tools out there, but this list focuses on helping sales people do more of what they want to – selling and less of what they don’t – managing tools. That said, we’re looking at tools that help scale activity, make prospecting better and help drive b2b lead pipeline. We also love to hear about new tools so leave a comment if there’s something you think fits this criteria.

Lake One’s Seeds of Service Campaign Kick-Off: Second Stork

At Lake One, giving back is important to us. Like it says in our mission, we believe business can both pursue profit and be a force for change, leaving the world a little better than before. That’s why we’re proud to announce our Seeds of Service campaign for 2020. We created this campaign to give back to the communities who have supported us and live out our mission.

This quarter, Lake One is partnering with Second Stork, a Minnesota based non-profit helping new parents in need.

Welcoming a newborn into the world should be one of the happiest times in a person’s life. Those early days are meant for soaking up newborn smells, sites, and snuggles. The last thing parents should be worried about is how they are going to clothe and feed their little one. The reality is that many new parents are financially stretched, anxious and unprepared to bring their baby home from the hospital. Often, they don’t have the basic supplies to keep the baby safe and healthy during those first few weeks of life. It’s because of this reality that Second Stork was born. 

Second Stork, founded in 2009, provides essential infant-care items to families in need. Completely free of charge. Items like newborn clothing, a safe place to sleep, an adequate supply of diapers and wipes, receiving blankets and other necessary items. Second Stork operates entirely on volunteers, such as school groups, corporate teams, families and charitable groups.

The Lake One team will be volunteering at the Second Stork warehouse to help pack diaper bags full of essentials! If you’d like to get involved, check out the Amazon Registry to purchase items for families in need or donate directly to Second Stork here.

Second Stork and Lake One are grateful for your donations that keep the “stork flying.”

Amazon Registry

Subscribe to the Lake One blog to see all of our Seeds of Service adventures this year.

Using Marketing Automation to Outsource Lead Generation

Entrepreneurs and small business leaders are the ultimate hat-wearers. Unlike bigger, resource-opportune corporations, startups are scrappy. Anybody in a sales role likely isn’t doing just sales, the marketing person might double as HR, and the CEO likely wouldn’t be able to fit all his or her descriptive titles on a business card. Resources are scarce in order to put revenue back into the company for growth. If this sounds familiar, marketing automation can likely help you free up your employees’ time and aid in your business growth while you focus on all the other things your business needs. 

Marketing Automation to Outsource Lead Generation

What is Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is the use of technology to automate elements of your sales and marketing processes. While you are always looking to get more leads, implementing marketing automation allows for lead nurturing and followup at scale. There are many aspects and angles of marketing automation, but let’s talk about email marketing. 

Marketing Automation through Workflows

One of our favorite ways to use marketing automation to outsource lead generation is through workflows. Also called drip campaigns or nurturing sequences (and likely a few other names I’m forgetting), workflows are a series of emails intended to automatically move a buyer along in the journey. 

Learn more about the basics of lead gen in our guide. Get it here.

Enrollment

So how do you kick off a workflow and start automating your lead gen? Well, there are a few ways, but they all involve the user taking a specific action- visiting a specific website page, adding items to their online shopping cart but then abandoning it, making a purchase, etc.. We typically enroll users into workflows using content or “lead magnets.” We offer up a piece of content (eBook, infographic, comparison guide, etc.) that a user fills out a form to access. We get their contact info – including email- and they get their content. (Read more about this exchange here.)

From there, we know 1) who the user is, 2) what they downloaded, and 3) have the ability to infer what they are interested in. You might even get more info from your user like when they want to purchase and the persona they identify with depending on your form. (Again, here’s more information on forms and conversion funnels if you want to know more on that subject.)

Nurturing

Once a user is enrolled, your goal is to move them along. Nurture them with useful content and keep your business top of mind. We usually do 10-15 emails in each workflow campaign starting with a friendly, “Thought you might like this thing my company has” and ending the last email with a direct, “Contact us.” Three things to keep in mind here as you build out the contents of your emails:

1) Interest 

What are you emailing your leads about? Go back up a paragraph and find the word useful before the word content. Super important distinction. The most successful workflows are ones that continue to pique the interest of the user. If they downloaded an offer on subject A, don’t email them about subject Q. Your workflows should walk your lead through a natural progression of subject matter that ultimately leads back to a bottom of funnel call to action (contact us, schedule an appointment, buy this, etc.). 

2) Timing 

The timing of your workflows can be critical, and sometimes it can be hard to get exact. Too frequent and you’ll make an enemy. Too infrequent and they could move on to other options or lose interest entirely. As a general rule, we recommend about 7-10 days between these types of email communications, gradually increasing in frequency as you start to close in on your sale.

If you captured any timeline from the user on your form, use that, too. If they indicated they are looking to buy in the next 2 months, a more aggressive workflow might be in store. 

3) Other communications

What other marketing do you have going on? Make sure your leads aren’t enrolled in more than one workflow at a time. Additionally, use this opportunity to uphold other marketing efforts and communicate consistently.

Marketing Automation through Sequences

Another way to use marketing automation to outsource lead generation is by sales sequences. Take this scenario: Somebody submits a Contact Us form on your site. You email them back. No reply. You email them again. No reply. One more time for prosperity’s sake? No reply. So much wasted time. With sales sequences, you can automate that follow up. Draft templated followup emails to leads and have them automatically sent on a predetermined schedule. 

The same is true for cold-calling/emailing. Trigger your sequences by sending the first email out to your target(s) and let automation handle the followup. You can set followup and reminder emails to go out at specified intervals automatically rather than having to remember to do it yourself. For instance, you can send a cold email out on a Monday, and have marketing automation email that Thursday, at the end of the following week, and perhaps once more a week after that. Without automation, you would need to set reminders to do this and would likely be writing every new email rather than falling back into the loving arms of a template. Check out these leads followup tips to help you get started.

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