Fuel Your Startup Success: 6 Benefits of Marketing Automation

It’s nearly impossible to talk about marketing strategy today without discussing the benefits of marketing automation and the important role it can play in your startup organization. HubSpot said it best and said it simply: Marketing automation is all about using software to automate marketing activities. 

So, why does that matter? Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have unlimited time or resources to spend on repetitive tasks. Enter, marketing automation. A tool that can automate social media posting, ad campaigns, email marketing, and more, all while providing a personalized experience for customers. But that’s just the start. In this post, we’ll cover 6 benefits of marketing automation that will help fuel your startup success: 

  1. Time Savings 
  2. Lead Nurturing 
  3. Scalability 
  4. Aligned Sales and Marketing Teams 
  5. Higher Conversion and Close Rates 
  6. Reporting 
benefits of marketing automation

Time Savings 

Workflow Automation 

As a startup, you could likely benefit from a tool that allows you and your team to save time, be more effective and efficient. Marketing automation can be incredibly helpful in that department. It can allow for task creation, real-time routing, and follow-up across channels. 

The creation of workflows allows startup companies to have marketing automation systems work both smarter and harder for them. For example, startups can:

  • Route internal requests 
  • Create custom tasks by sales rep
  • Set subscription types automatically 
  • Send custom ‘Thank You’ emails 
  • Set service or product interest categories

Thinking about starting to use marketing automation? Take the assessment to see if it’s right for you. Start here.

List Segmentation/Pulling 

Another benefit of marketing automation and a real timesaver is the ability to both segment and pull lists automatically. It pulls contacts that meet a certain set of criteria based on the information you have set up in your database. Whether your contact database is massive or in the building phase, automated list pulling is a must to save both time and ensure you’re tailoring your messaging to your personas.

In the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, when asked to indicate their top three results, 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue. 

Why List Segmentation Matters in Email Marketing

Lead Nurturing 

Lead nurturing is the building of relationships with potential buyers who are not currently ready to buy but could be an ideal customer in the future. The goal of lead nurturing is to educate the prospect, build their awareness of your organization and its products or services, and build trust. 

How does marketing automation play a role here? It allows you to create lead nurturing campaigns, otherwise known as email drip campaigns. These are a series of emails spaced out over time that help buyers move from the awareness to the consideration to the decision stage of the buyer’s journey. Depending on your persona’s needs and your buying cycle, what to include in your emails, how many to send, and how often, will vary. 

Related Reading: 5 Ways Marketing Automation Can Help Boost Lead Volume

A few examples of actions that can initiate a lead nurturing campaign for startups are if a lead: 

  • Attends a webinar you’re hosting 
  • Downloads one of your case studies
  • Requests more information on a specific service or product  
  • Downloads a piece of premium content like an infographic or ebook

But remember, while ‘automation’ is a large part of this, nurturing campaigns should not be something you set up and let run its course. It’s important to consistently monitor things like email open rates, marketing attribution reports, and engagement. This will allow you insight into what’s working in your workflow and what’s not and then optimize accordingly. 

Scalability

Email Marketing 

Sending one email manually is easy. Sending a couple hundred or even thousands of emails that way, a little less so. That’s where marketing automation comes in. But how do you automatically send emails at scale without losing the personalization your buyers have come to expect? That’s one of the beauties of marketing technology. It allows for that personalization without all the manual labor. A few personalized “tokens” that you could include in your emails include: 

  • Recipient name 
  • Company name
  • Role or job title 
  • The last piece of content they downloaded 
  • Recommending content related to other pieces they’ve viewed or downloaded 
  • And more! 

Pro Tip: Get creative with your personalization, because we know personalization drives more replies, but don’t overdo it. Studies have shown that once you alter 50% or more of your email marketing template, the impact on the reply rate was negligible. Don’t waste precious time and resources on over personalizing. Learn more about more B2B email best practices here.

Source: Oberlo.com

The use of email goes beyond just personalization though. Although an important piece, it’s just one of the ways you can use it. So, what other benefits of marketing automation are there when it comes to email marketing?  

  • Create and save email templates 
  • A/B test your campaigns easily 
  • Automatically segment and pull lists 
  • Schedule emails and campaigns in advance 
  • Better reporting on what’s working and what’s not 
  • Automatically follow up with your leads 

Related Reading: Email Marketing for Startups: 5 Things to Consider Before You Hit Send 

Aligned Sales & Marketing Teams

Maybe a surprising benefit of marketing automation is the ability to facilitate collaboration between sales and marketing teams. Marketing and sales teams are able to use marketing automation to move leads through their buying funnel seamlessly. By creating automatic processes, this allows marketers to bring in leads, assess their readiness to buy, and send them to a sales rep without needing to manually intervene. Here are just a few ideas of sales collaboration oriented workflows: 

  • Assigning lifecycle stages and lead statuses
  • Transitioning Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) to sales
  • Closing the lead quality feedback loop
  • Assessing a lead’s readiness to speak with sales or lead scoring

Higher Conversion Rates 

Ultimately, the goal of all of this is to convert the aforementioned leads into customers. By using marketing automation, you can increase your conversion and growth rates, as it allows you to provide your subscribers with content that’s relevant to their buyer’s journey and as we know, personalizing communication and tailoring your messaging and content to your personas is key for engagement and effectiveness. 

Source: Moosend.com 


But don’t just take our word for it. We’ll let the numbers do the talking. According to recent studies, 80% of marketing automation users saw an increase in their number of leads using marketing automation software, and 77% had an increase in conversions.

Reporting 

Predictions and Decisions for the Future

How does the saying go, “You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.” Or something along those lines. Well, the same is true for making predictions and decisions for the future when it comes to your business. You have to know how things are currently performing before you can make informed decisions on what to do next. 

At Lake One, we’re about data first. Show us the numbers. But what does that have to do with marketing automation you ask? Well, a lot, actually. One of the benefits of marketing automation is the platform itself and the ability to create different dashboards to view the numbers and reports that matter most. 

Master your B2B website strategy. Grab the guide here.

A few examples of reports you could create for your startup include: 

  • Email campaign performance 
  • Traffic sessions 
  • Lead source 
  • Landing page performance 
  • Contact lifecycle funnel 
  • Sales pipeline 

Marketing for startups can be challenging enough without adding unnecessary tasks and time to your already full plate. So whether your startup needs to save time, nurture leads, scale email marketing efforts, align sales and marketing, increase conversion rates, create reports, or all of the above, marketing automation has you covered.

Best Practices for Writing B2B Sales Emails

Writing B2B sales emails is one part art, one part science, and a whole lot of patience. To get to that elusive, perfect email you have to find the blend between friendly but not over-eager, helpful but not pushy, and naturally follow up without being annoying. 

Here are our experience-based best practices based on writing a B2B sales email.

Writing B2B Sales Emails

1) Know Your Persona

A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal buyer according to HubSpot. Almost everything you do in sales and marketing should start with your persona, and sales emails are no different. When writing a B2B sales email, consider how technical your persona is. While you know and care about how important your product is, your email recipient may not. The CTO or head of the IT department might show interest in the highly technical aspects of your product, but you might not get the CMO to read beyond line two if you start talking about phalanges and gigahertz.

Figure out who you’re addressing and build your strategy around how to solve their pains and problems with your product using their language. 

You’re generating leads, but are they ready to talk to you? Get the guide to lead scoring and learn how to determine if your leads are sales-ready.

2) Be Helpful, Not Sales-y

Which brings me to number two- be helpful. Where impulse can lead a B2C purchase, the majority of B2B searches and buying journeys are set off by a pain point. The need to improve, prevent, encourage, scale, etc. in order to do better business. We know that those B2B buyers are eager for information and resources because 92% of B2B purchases start with search.

Use that to your advantage when you write your B2B sales emails. By knowing your persona, you should have been able to uncover the pain points they experience. By knowing your product, you should be able to relay how your product solves those pains. The key, though, is providing the content, resources, and insights to do so without giving off the used car salesman vibe. If you set out to be  authentic and your intent is to be helpful (rather than desperate for a sale), you may find your emails naturally follow in tone.

3) Offer Content and Resources 

If your sales and marketing teams are aligned, fingers crossed, you have assets to include in your sales emails that provide value. In the spirit of being helpful and not sales-y, the assets I’m talking about are not about you. Yup. You heard me right. Drag all of those sales brochure PDFs on your desktop to a new folder called “for later” and bear with me. 

B2B buyers want information. They set out to gain as much knowledge as possible, map out all their options, and typically present select solutions to their teams for final buy-in: the buyer’s journey. This all starts with knowledge. Your job is to provide that to them, via resources, to make their research process easier. As you move to conclude your follow-up process, you can include those product-specific brochures and sell sheets.

4) Create Personalization and Authenticity

Personalization in a B2B email can improve click-through rate by as much as 14% and conversion rates by 10%. It’s important to know that personalization is more than just a name. It’s mentioning a connection, noting something in common, building a bit of rapport. Doing so builds trust, authenticity, and credibility. 

Here are some ways to create personalization in your emails: 

  • Company name 
  • Noting mutual connections
  • Remembering and excluding information/resources they already found on their own
  • Tailoring content to the specific persona’s needs 
  • Including personalization tokens in the subject line
  • Sending by timezone
  • Acknowledging seasonality 

Your goal here is to identify yourself as a real human (even if you’re sending automated emails) and create a connection.

5) Add a CTA

A CTA, or call-to-action, is a way to encourage your recipient to take a specific next step. Adding one to your email can be in the form of a button or simply in hyperlinked text, but including one is a must.  Do not, however, go overboard in the ‘helpful’ department here. Try to limit the actions you’re requesting to one thing – two tops. 

You can, however, include the same CTA more than once in the same email. Having only one requested action, potentially reiterated, keeps the focus where you want it to be in order to increase your conversion rates. 

Writing B2B Tech Sales Emails

6) Include a Thoughtful Subject Line

The biggest factor in whether an email gets opened or not is the subject line. There are some fantastic recommendations for creating engaging subject lines here. In short, don’t make it about you: make it about them. Find a way to include personalization tokens, like name or company, or even pull out some of those even more personal touches if you’re mentioning them in your email.

Most importantly, be sure to test. If you’re using a CRM like HubSpot, it’s easy to run A/B tests on subject lines. (More on that here.) If you aren’t using a CRM, create a simple spreadsheet and run your own tests. Record what’s working and what’s not, and continually build on your success. 

7) Create Templates 

Creating templates for your B2B sales emails will save you time. A lot of time. And also a lot of energy and brainpower. Imagine being able to copy and paste rather than writing fresh emails multiple times a day. Doing so can help eliminate errors and typos as well.

Additionally, having templates aids in your ability to track and monitor your success rates. Does name dropping a mutual connection work better than asking for just thirty minutes of their time immediately? (I’m guessing it might). The tests you can run are endless, but you won’t be able to effectively measure what’s the most successful if you start from scratch every single time. 

Another benefit to templates is that you can use them for multiple people in your organization. If you do run those tests and find something to be highly effective, you can then get everybody into that sweet spot of selling. This also creates brand cohesion, a collective strategy, and a unified voice within your department.

8) Follow up

How many times do you follow up with your sales prospects currently? Once? Twice? Maybe three times? What if I said five times the charm? According to HubSpot, 80% of sales require five follow-ups. Starting to see how important those templates are now? 

You can read more about follow up strategies here, but the most important part I want to highlight is that you are following up. And that you’re doing it more than once. 

Related reading: 3 Lead follow up processes that will turn off your inbound leads

9) Use a CRM

Using a CRM, like HubSpot, will make your life 1,000 times easier. If you use a CRM to create your CTAs, you can track them and A/B test them easily. The same is also true for your templates and your subject lines. These little time-savers add up quickly to allow you to work more efficiently.

A CRM will also give you the ability to automate your email sends and follow-ups using those templates we just talked about. Once an email is sent, you can designate follow-ups to occur based on timing, user actions, or even user inactions. Doing so increases your win rates and reduces your workload. Find out if the HubSpot CRM is right for you here.

B2B tech sales email automation

Even if you’re not testing or automating your emails, a CRM is still beneficial because it helps you keep track of your contacts and interactions. You can assign contacts to a company, easily monitor when or if you follow-ups with somebody, and categorize your efforts into deal stages such as won, lost, bad timing, etc. to keep your efforts organized. 

Lead Scoring

Writing B2B sales emails really boils down to one thing: providing value. The meat of your email should be helpful, specific to your persona, and direct focus to one particular call-to-action. Your subject line should be catchy and your content personalized. Using a CRM aids in tracking and creates efficiencies, such as automation, that will generate more success. 

Lake One-on-One with Jeff Davis: Author of “Create Togetherness”

At Lake One, we’re all about creating harmony between two key departments- sales and marketing. When the two are fully aligned, it’s a match made in smarketing heaven. We also love talking with like-minded professionals about the importance of aligning sales and marketing. That’s why we were so excited to have the opportunity to connect with Jeff Davis on his award-winning book Create Togetherness.

He shared with us why he thinks misalignment is so common, insights he gained writing the book, the three pillars of alignment transformation, his thoughts on building the buyer’s journey, and what he says is the main takeaway from the book. Jeff specializes in helping B2B companies strategically align their sales and marketing teams to accelerate revenue growth. Jeff pulls from his over 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, and business development at Fortune 100 organizations to early-stage startup. 

In Create Togetherness, Jeff encourages B2B leaders to examine the relationship between sales and marketing and head toward alignment. His goal is to transform sales and marketing to exceed modern buyers’ expectations and increase revenue. Music to our ears! 

Related Reading: Lake One’s Guide to Sales and Marketing Alignment

Why Misalignment is so Common 

The misalignment of sales and marketing departments has resulted in companies falling behind their competitors by failing to acknowledge a structural flaw responsible for a significant loss in revenue. 

In the book, Jeff talks about the benefits of a strategic approach to long-term, sustainable alignment. We wanted to get his thoughts on why it was so common for teams to become misaligned in the first place. “They’ve operated in silos for so long, that most companies see them as two completely separate departments. In addition, the functional leaders don’t really know how to leverage each other because working in this way is new and unfamiliar. Most organizations still don’t realize how interdependent these two functions truly are in today’s modern B2B landscape. Because of this, their goals and incentives are not aligned, thus how they go about engaging the buyer is not aligned.”

What Suprised Jeff 

Jeff is an international keynote speaker and business consultant. He has worked with companies such as Salesforce, LinkedIn, Seismic, and Oracle. He speaks regularly about alignment transformation at conferences, company meetings, association events, and more. So, we were curious to know if there was anything new or surprising he discovered while writing this book, on a topic he is so well versed in. 

He said what surprised him the most was, “How marketing was created as a support function for Sales during the Industrial Revolution and how the relationship between the two functions has changed over time. I was also intrigued by the 4 Sales-Marketing Configurations model as I think it helps company leaders better understand when they are at a point where they have the structure to be able to benefit from an alignment transformation.”

Three Pillars of Alignment Transformation 

There are three pillars of alignment transformation that Jeff covers in the book. They are: 

  1. Data
  2. Process 
  3. Communication 

While all three are important to aligning sales and marketing, is it possible that one is more important than the others? According to Jeff, “They are all equally important but having timely, accurate, and relevant data is the lifeblood of any high-performing Revenue Engine, thus it is mandatory to ensure you have a strong handle on your customer data if you are looking to transform these two teams into better alignment.”

sales and marketing alignment

Building a Buyer’s Journey

Have you ever written something and then after the fact thought of another point you wanted to make or a concept you wanted to expand on? We posed the same question to Jeff. Were there any concepts from the book that he’d like to expand on or add any additional insight to, after the fact? 

“Having sales and marketing come together to build a buyer’s journey is an effective way to ensure they can optimally orchestrate their resources and also identify if there are any content gaps through the buying process.” He goes on to list them below:

7 Steps to Creating an Effective Buyer’s Journey: 

1. Clearly define the key stakeholders or personas from the buying committee of your ICP (ideal customer profile) – use quantitative and qualitative data from both teams to verify 

2. Document the customer’s internal decision-making process 

3. Understand the persona’s goals at each stage of the process 

4. Translate the decision-making process into buying journey stages 

5. Map current sales and marketing interactions (content) to ensure that resources exist at each stage that addresses the buyer’s concerns 

6. Identify interaction/content gaps and develop new resources to fill those gaps 

7. Continuously evaluate the conversion effectiveness of each stage and its associated resources 

Key Takeaway 

With any good book, there are likely a few main points the author wants you to walk away with, so we know it can be a challenge to narrow it down to just one. But we knew Jeff was up for the challenge, so we asked if he HAD to choose just one, what would he say is the main takeaway from Create Togetherness. He said, “The main takeaway is about how digital disruption has fundamentally changed the B2B buyer-seller relationship and the only way we will be able to successfully engage the modern buyer and win their business is for sales and marketing teams to work together to create a cohesive buying journey that is easy to navigate.”

Are you a sales or marketing professional, or an executive looking to ensure there’s alignment between the two departments? Then we encourage you to check out Create Togetherness.  There’s value to be had in the pages of Jeff’s comprehensive yet quick read. Order your copy here.

Unsure if your sales and marketing teams are properly aligned? Take the assessment to find out.

More about Jeff 

Jeff is the executive producer and host of the fast-growing TheAlignmentPodcast.com which is heard by B2B professionals in over 25 countries. He and his team of consulting experts also help mid-sized B2B companies build high-performing Revenue Engines that are equipped to win the business of the modern B2B buyer.   

Jeff holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. 

How Marketers Can Prepare Sellers to Keep Pace with Modern Buyers

Today’s buyers are in a class all their own: They’re independent, they do their research, and they demand detailed answers to their questions. Modern buyers don’t want to be sold at, they want to be talked to. They’re looking for content that’s pertinent to their situation, and they want to work with trusted advisors who are ready and willing to lead their prospects through every step of the purchasing process. 

Before marketers can arm their sales team with content worthy of these informed buyers, marketing and sales teams require immediate and convenient access to assets, tools, and training––all within a single source of truth. 

If you’re seeking answers for how to centralize your content and ensure your reps have everything they need to win deals, follow these steps.  

modern buyers

Strive to simplify.

As early as 2016, marketers reported that 47% of buyers were likely to review three to five pieces of marketing content before even speaking to a sales rep (and we can only assume that number has risen in the last four years). Given the multitude of moving parts within marketing and sales departments, it’s now more vital than ever to simplify content production processes and align on providing a cohesive customer experience.

Tips on how to simplify: 

First, develop a plan to consolidate your content across all departments. Identify all content storage locations, and then consider: 

  • Where can these materials be accessed and by who? 
  • Does your team have the means to establish a single, reliable repository for content and training?
  • What tools are in place for notifying sellers and marketers if content is updated? 

Depending on how you answer that second question, it may be useful to implement sales enablement best practices. A sales enablement solution provides a centralized platform for uploading, organizing, managing, and sharing content, including training materials. An advanced solution will also include interdepartmental communication capabilities and analytics — for example, data on content engagement and performance.

Prioritize alignment. 

Buyers expect unique and highly customized buying experiences. And regardless of the challenges, sales reps will have to keep up. Given the heightened competition, well-laid sales plans should keep seller preparedness front and center. 

These trends signal a need for tight sales and marketing alignment. Working in lockstep will save companies time and effort by keeping teams in sync when it comes to content creation, usage, and performance. Once the teams are properly aligned, companies can then implement an integrated strategy for managing, stockpiling, and disseminating all sales-related materials. As a result, marketers and sellers will be able to breathe easy knowing that the sales team will always be prepared for every customer conversation. 

Tips on how to stay aligned: 

When determining whether or not your sales reps have the knowledge and tools to make their next pitch, ask yourself: 

content mapping

Once you’ve answered these questions, make a point to re-examine marketing and sales processes with an eye to fixing any gaps you may have identified.

Keep content current. 

Sales reps are well aware of the expectations that fuel their results-driven fire. They likewise know that they need access to all content and training solutions necessary to provide their buyers with real value. Plus, reps need to find and deliver materials specifically curated for each individual buyer, making the job that much harder. 

When a buyer requests a certain asset, be it a case study or contract, a seller needs a seamless, expedited process for creating, distributing, and monitoring that material. Moreover, all company content (educational or otherwise) should feature the most up-to-date, relevant, brand-compliant information available. 

Tips on keeping content up-to-date: 

The key here is to implement systems for complete content evaluation, including plans for tracking buyer and seller engagement as well as for assessing content performance overall. 

Begin by considering:

  • Is sales content current?  Do you have a way to ensure that the assets that sales reps use have the latest messaging and design? 
  • How does your content change over time? What edits are your reps making to your assets once they get out in the field? 
  • How well does your content perform with buyers? How can you measure this performance in a quantifiable way? 

Sales enablement solutions can handle content management and offer comparative views of different versions of specific assets, demonstrating how a piece of content is modified over time. These tools can give marketers a fuller understanding of how their content is performing and can likewise alert marketers as to whether or not the alterations made to an asset remain acceptable and on-brand. Content engagement capabilities provide insight into how buyers interact with your marketing materials with a variety of valuable KPI metrics, from website scroll depth, to click activity, pitch views, asset downloads, and more. This raw data can be used to glean insights, which can, in turn, inform the creation of new content campaigns.

In this new age of the educated buyer, marketers can gain a real advantage if they deploy the tools and techniques that make it easy to partner with their sales team in driving business growth together. Innovative technology, such as sales enablement solutions, make it possible to meet the demands of modern buyers.  By integrating a holistic system for organizing, sharing, and analyzing all content, marketers will be better able to focus on creating content that sets their sales team up for success. 

Thanks to Highspot for this guest post.

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Lead Generation Guide: Basics of Lead Gen

If you’re in sales and marketing, there’s no doubt you’ve heard about lead generation. Business folks, in general, are probably at least a little familiar with it. Maybe it’s discussed in business conversations you’re apart of or you’ve seen it in sales and marketing materials. But what’s all the fuss about? What’s so important about lead generation? We’re here to break down the basics of what it is, what’s tough about it, why it’s worth it, trends to watch for and how tools can help with it all. 

HubSpot defines lead generation as the process of attracting and converting strangers and prospects into someone who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service. Lead generators are things like job applications, blog posts, live events, coupons or online content. These types of things {hopefully} create interest and attract potential customers. The goal is to create unique ways to get people, the right people, interested in your business. 

Lead generation sounds simple enough, right? Well, if it were that easy, everyone would do it and do it successfully. We know it’s not that simple, so we put together a few insights into lead generation to help get you started.

Click here to have the lead generation guide emailed to you.

The ROI of Sales and Marketing Alignment: A Smarketing Case Study

Hubspot provided a definition to smarketing in 2014, and that hasn’t changed. The gist is a process by which your sales and marketing team get on the same page around goals and communicate regularly. The results can be huge. A 2016 LinkedIn report found nearly 60% of teams that reported sales and marketing alignment saw customer experience improvements, and a 2013 report from Marketo found companies with sales & marketing alignment are 67% better at closing deals and drive 209% more revenue. In this case study, we’ll walk you through real sales and marketing alignment ROI from a Lake One client.

For a deep dive into driving sales and marketing alignment, check out our comprehensive guide on the topic. Today we’re going to take a look at smarketing in practice; there’s plenty on the internet that can define smarketing. What we’re going to look at are examples of sales and marketing alignment operations at work and its impact. 

This review will follow key topics touched on through past posts on sales and marketing alignment. 

Commit to Sales and Marketing Alignment from the Top Down

In order for any smarketing effort to be effective, you have to commit to it throughout your organization – starting by leading from the top. 

Over the past year, our work with a client who believed in this from the C-level to the front lines has seen significant benefits from tight sales and marketing alignment. 

But how do you measure the benefit of sales and marketing alignment commitment? This isn’t a scientific, double-blind survey, but on average, our client whose leadership team not only buys into smarketing alignment but drives it forward, has seen faster time to marketing traction and ROI. This is especially impactful for inbound which on the short end can take 9 months or even up to 18 months to start showing in the numbers. 

Get started with your sales and marketing program now. Schedule a consult.

If the anecdote above leaves you wanting more sales and marketing alignment proof, keep reading. We share some down and dirty numbers that back up our smarketing claims.

ROI of sales and marketing alignment

Establish & Track Key Measures

Knowing what and how to measure smarketing alignment can sometimes be a challenge. The two teams are often coming to the table with only their view of the funnel. But at the heart of a harmonious sales and marketing alignment, lies marketing qualified leads (MQLs).

You may have a program that with your first pass at an MQL definition is driving good volume, but when push comes to shove, your marketing contributed revenue isn’t all that great. 

The benefit of this is when your best-educated guesses go wrong. We have a favorite saying at Lake One, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” – multiple sources

Over the past 12 months, our unified sales and marketing alignment with our client resulted in increasing marketing-sourced revenue while actually flattening the volume of MQLs.

smarketing example

Wait, what? MQLs flatlining? It truly is about quality over quantity. Fewer, better quality MQLs could only be accomplished because of regular communication, and in two quarters of work, we saw a little over two times the marketing sources impact on revenue. 

ROI of sales and marketing alignment

Get Acquainted & Communicate 

Just saying we’re going to agree to a few measurables isn’t enough to drive an aligned sales and marketing organization. You need to develop a sales and marketing plan for regular communication and alignment checkpoints. 

Two heads are better than one, a whole group of heads – that’s magic. With the client we’ve been mentioning throughout this post, our smarketing alignment is tied into all of our marketing program meetings. Sales is represented in every meeting so we get to hear weekly what’s working, what’s not, and what’s coming up. This kind of immediate connection between two teams that don’t traditionally work together opens up lines of communication. Both teams feel comfortable lobbing ideas over the fence in between those meetings. 

These ideas have paid off. The ROI of sales and marketing alignment lead to optimizations seeing traffic nearly quadruple – a 3.4 times increase in traffic -and leads nearly double in 6 months. 

ROI of sales and marketing alignment

Smarketing Results and You

This is just one sales and marketing alignment case study from one client of how smarketing can drive impact throughout the funnel on an organization. Every organization is different, but with so much attention, smarketing or sales and marketing alignment or whatever you want to call it is getting we thought it was worthwhile taking a look at how bringing the two teams responsible for revenue closer together – can actually make a measurable impact. 

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B2B Sales Enablement: What it is and the Role Marketing Plays in Making it Happen

We often discuss the age-old battle that can go down between sales and marketing. The tale of two disparate teams. Well in case you didn’t know, now it’s all about alignment. And… enablement.

Sales enablement according to HubSpot, is the technology, processes, and content that empowers sales teams to sell efficiently at a higher velocity. And brace yourself for this one: marketing plays, or should play, a key role in the sales enablement process for B2B companies.

Whether the above sentence has you ready to fall out of your chair or stand up and clap, read on. We’ll cover why sales enablement should matter to marketers and their role in B2B sales enablement execution.

B2B Sales Enablement

Why Sales Enablement Should Matter to Marketers

Today’s modern buyers are different from buyers of old. The sales process is heavily led by the buyers and dictated by the market. Who specializes in the buyer’s journey and converting leads to customers alongside sales? Marketing.

A Seismic article quoted Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, as saying the following on an episode of the Sales Enablement Shift podcast, “If you’re in B2B marketing today and you’re not thinking every day about sales, what the pipeline looks like, or how close the organization is to hitting the number, then you’re not nearly as integrated in strategy – let alone tactics or activities – as you should be.” Yaaaasss. 💯

We created a guide to make sales and marketing alignment easier. Click here to get it.

This quote really says it all. If the company isn’t making money, more than just the sales team will be in hot water. The above just drives home the fact that strategy, goals, alignment, and yes sales, should be driving teams company-wide.

Successful sales are everybody’s business, but marketing has the skill set to enable sales to be successful and propel growth.

Marketing’s Role in Sales Enablement

Sales enablement is really less about sales and more about serving the buyer through the buyer’s journey. It results in an empowered sales team that sells at a higher velocity which ultimately equals happier customers.

B2B Sales Enablement

With that being said, there are several ways marketing can move the needle and enable sales.

Lead Qualification

Reporting needs vary from company to company, but one constant is the need to qualify leads. Every B2B company has to have some type of lead qualification process. Marketing’s role falls under the Sales and Marketing SLA, but more specifically, the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) process. [Read more about SLAs here.]

At a high level, MQLs are leads that are ready to be qualified by the sales team. Once the criteria are set and agreed upon, marketing can help with the implementation and qualification process. When marketing does some of the qualification and heavy lifting up front (digitally of course) it ensures sales are talking to leads that are ready to be talked to. It’s a win for everybody including the buyer.

Lead Scoring is a way to put your qualification process into action. Download our guide to learn more.

Content

A major component of sales enablement is arming the sales team with information they can use when selling. Don’t let your brain pigeonhole you into a sales deck. Information can range from internal best practices to customer-facing sales sheets. According to the TOPO blog, regardless of the form the information takes, it needs to be easy to consume and reusable across the sales organization.

Content Audit

Speaking of easy to use, have we mentioned content audits? Content audits at Lake One are a living breathing workbook that houses all of the client’s content (both internal and external facing). The workbook also notes what part of the buyer’s journey that piece of content serves, the location of the document, the persona, if it is a fit for a workflow, etc.

The best part of the document, though, is the collaboration tab where sales can add content ideas. Think repeat buyer questions, a need for a case study, and more. Marketing can pull directly from the tab to help fill the content calendar.

Email Templates & Automated Sequences

Marketing teams should be pros at nurture sequences (if they’re not, contact us) and pros at moving buyers through the buyer’s journey from a lead to an MQL.

That precise expertise applies to the email template and automated sequences of sales enablement.

How do those differ from marketing based workflows? The email templates and automated sequences can be used pre-marketing qualified lead state or even as a way to qualify MQLs to a sales qualified lead.

Despite the differences, the same basics of sending personalized tailored emails to the buyer still apply. Marketing can leverage their knowledge of lead engagement and automation to enable the sales team.

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Key Takeaways

  • A successful sales team should be everyone’s business
  • Sales enablement is really less about sales and more about serving the buyer through the buyer’s journey which leads to an empowered sales team selling at a higher velocity.
  • Marketing contributes to sales enablement in the following ways:
    • The definition and implementation of marketing qualified leads.
    • The creation of content that supports sales and in turn, the buyers.
    • The creation and implementation of email templates and sequences.

B2B Smarketing Check: How aligned are your sales and marketing teams?

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”

— James Cash Penney, founder, JC Penney

Sales and marketing misalignment can lead to a domino effect of problems such as internal tension, inability to achieve goals, and even revenue loss. Yikes.

But in order to grow and move forward, it’s crucial to assess and understand where you’re at currently with your smarketing efforts. How aligned are your sales and marketing teams?

B2B Smarketing

Here are 8 must-ask questions to understanding your company’s B2B smarketing state of the state.

Interested in some mind-blowing sales and marketing alignment stats? Check out this post.

B2B Smarketing Question #1: Are Teams Speaking the Same Language?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the first areas for assessment is verbiage and definitions. Communication is key but can be extremely difficult if teams aren’t speaking the same language or starting from some place of commonality.

Questions to ask:

  • Do your teams have a common definition and understanding for the following terms?
    • Marketing Qualified Lead
    • Sales Qualified Lead
    • Disqualified Leads
    • Lead Status
    • Contact Lifecycle Stages
    • Deal Stages
    • Traffic Sources (direct, referral, search, etc..)

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the sales and marketing alignment terms, but it’s a start. At a minimum, it should get you analyzing the common ground (or lack thereof) between the two teams when it comes to defining the sales and marketing process.

B2B Smarketing Question #2: Are Teams Targeting the Same Buyers?

We have stressed time and time again the importance of buyer personas. Buyer personas (in conjunction with research) should drive your strategy and be another common denominator among your sales and marketing teams and really, the company as a whole.

Questions to ask:

  • Are buyer personas defined?
  • Did both teams have influence in their creation?
  • Are the personas still relevant or do they need to be updated?

B2B Smarketing Question #3: Are Teams Working Towards the Same Goals?

Sales and marketing can be impactful independently, but joined together and working towards the same goal? Teams will achieve much more.

Nothing sets you on the fast-track to success like SMART goals.

Questions to ask:

  • Do the teams separately have SMART goals?
  • Are the goals well-known among the two teams and agreed upon?
  • Are the goals measured and tracked?

In need of a SMART goal refresh? Then this worksheet is for you.

B2B Smarketing Question #4: Are Teams Promoting the Same Products/Services?

Not all products and services are created equal. Through defining your buyer personas or crafting your smart goals, you likely surfaced key areas of focus whether it be new product offerings, key industries, revenue generation, etc.

For example, if demos have been unsuccessful but consults are effective, marketing likely shouldn’t be pushing demos as their bottom of the funnel offer in the nurture sequences.

Questions to ask:

  • Is sales aware of the products/services that marketing is promoting and vice versa?
  • Are both teams in agreement on the best direction?

B2B Smarketing Question #5: Are Teams Creating Content Together?

Although content creation doesn’t necessarily fall under the job descriptions of the sales team, sales should have an influence in content topic selection. Why? Because they are the front lines and literally the voice of the customer inside the company. Pairing sales’ insight with marketing’s keyword research skills is a great start to creating valuable content for your buyers.

Insider tip: We like to take it one step further and create what we call a content audit. It’s a living document that houses links to all of the content created and breaks it down by buyer persona and stage of the buyer’s journey. There’s also a tab for content requests that’s a direct line into marketing’s content topic queue. Here are some additional smarketing best practices to help.

Questions to ask:

  • What processes currently drive content topic selection?
  • Does sales approve?
  • Is there a way for sales to communicate content requests to marketing?
  • Does marketing have an audit document or something like it?

B2B Smarketing Question #6: What is Marketing’s Lead Handoff Procedure?

Marketing curates leads through inbound or paid media and then at some agreed upon point, the leads need to be passed to sales to be contacted and qualified. There are a few ways to accomplish the handoff. Our favorite is using marketing automation software (HubSpot) to do the heavy lifting. However, software aside, aligned smarketing teams should be able to answer the questions below.

Questions to ask:

  • At what point in the process does marketing handoff a lead to sales? What triggers it?
  • How is sales notified of the lead?
  • What is the follow-up expectation from sales? (i.e. how many days do they have before they make contact, how are they contacting the lead, etc.)

B2B Smarketing Question #7: How Does Sales Provide Feedback on Lead Quality?

In order for marketing to continue to deliver the sales team quality leads, there needs to be a feedback loop. Sales needs to communicate through lead status- the quality of the lead. This ties back all the way up to the first question about definitions.

Questions to ask:

  • How does sales communicate a rejected lead? (marketing automation software or otherwise?)
  • Does sales have a way to communicate why leads were rejected? (Poor timing, bad contact information, no budget, etc.)
  • What does marketing do with the rejected leads? Where are the leads at now?

B2B Smarketing Question #8: Do Teams Have Regular Meetings?

Actually meeting in person, having conversations, and building rapport are critical to sales and marketing alignment success. It’s so much easier to work as a team when you have a strong foundation to work from.

So how do you build rapport? Meetings. But let’s be clear, quality of meetings should be prioritized over quantity. Nothing disengages teams like pointless meetings.

Questions to ask:

  • Do teams have monthly and/or quarterly meetings?
  • Do teams have a way to easily communicate outside of meetings? (Like Slack or Skype)

The trick to these meetings are to make them engaging, yet structured. Here’s an article with some great tips for doing just that.

B2B Sales & Marketing Alignment

B2B Smarketing Key Takeaway: Communication is a Must

Do the questions above have your head spinning or wondering where to even start to begin to achieving sales and marketing harmony?

Start with communication. If there is one commonality that leads to the improvement of sales and marketing alignment, it’s communication. It fuels defining the terminology, the buyer personas, content creation, and the entire smarketing process. Whether facilitated through technology or happening in regular scheduled meetings, it’s critical.

Need a little help with your sales and marketing alignment? You’re in luck because that’s our specialty. Contact us here.  

6 Key KPIs for Sales and Marketing Alignment

According to HubSpot, 39% of marketers say proving the ROI of their marketing activities is their top marketing challenge.

Statistics aside, even anecdotally, the age-old battle of sales and marketing is centered around proving the value of ROI and activity from the often separate teams. Before you can begin to prove ROI, however, you need to determine collectively, which metrics are worth tracking.

Abnormalities in data, whether spikes or declines, can point to issues, gaps, and ultimately, misalignment. Smarketing is everything but a ‘fix it and forget it’ initiative. Measuring sales and marketing alignment may differ slightly from company to company, but there are several KPIs that hold value across the board. Here are six key KPIs for sales and marketing alignment we recommend keeping an eye on.

KPIs for Sales and Marketing Alignment

Still need to fine tune your Sales and Marketing Alignment plan? Download our Ultimate Guide to learn more.

1. Overall Revenue

Every company’s end game is to make money, therefore, everyone should be working towards the common goal of generating revenue. At Action19, we heard Josh Fedie say sales is everyone’s job. And he’s right. Revenue and sales are everybody’s job and everybody’s business quite literally.

For smarketing purposes, the overall revenue metric can be broken down a little further into marketing-sourced revenue. For example, how many leads that came in from paid social became customers? How much revenue did the customer from paid social generate? You can follow a similar deep dive across traffic sources and evaluate each channel.

2. Sales Cycle Length

Tenfold names the sales cycle length as one of the most important KPIs for sales and marketing alignment to track. Here’s the reason they said it makes their list. “The total length of the sales cycle has important consequences that ripple throughout the entire organization and shortening the buying cycle is usually particularly important to the sales and marketing teams in order to minimize bottlenecks in the process.”

In theory, the shorter the sales cycle, the more qualified the lead. Tenfold goes on to say that the tracking shouldn’t stop at just the length of the cycle overall; you should look at each stage individually to determine lags and gaps in the process.

3. Marketing Qualified Leads

HubSpot defines a marketing qualified lead (MQL) as a lead who has been deemed more likely to become a customer compared to other leads. Why? They have taken a specific set of actions and or they fit the lead criteria, like role or ideal company size. The criteria qualifying MQLs are set by both sales and marketing and are part of the foundation of the SLA. Tracking MQLs as one of your main KPIs can help you determine if your team is moving in the right direction with generating quality leads.

4. Marketing Qualified Leads to Sales Qualified Leads Conversion Rate

This conversion rate speaks to the building blocks of the sales and marketing SLA, the point in which sales evaluates leads that marketing deems qualified.

KPIs for Sales and Marketing Alignment

How leads are actually handed off to sales (typically by using software to automate the process) varies from business to business, but the value in the conversion rate does not. What is the percentage? How many MQLs are considered quality (an SQL) by sales?

This also points to why it’s critical both sales and marketing buy into the plan. If this number is low, there’s definitely a problem. Regrouping and going back to the basics can help troubleshoot and realign. 

5. Content Audit & Usage

Another key KPI to track for sales and marketing alignment is your content. How spot on is it? Does it align with target buyers? Is it attracting the right personas? All of these questions can be answered by digging deep into the data and probing to answer the following key questions about content consumption.

  • Which content offers are being downloaded? Which ones aren’t?
  • Are your target buyers downloading your offers or is your offer attracting a secondary or tertiary role?
  • Out of all of your customers, how many actually downloaded a content offer?

In taking a look at the above you’ll be able to determine if your content is in alignment with sales and marketing and benefiting your overall goals. If it’s not? You might need to consider refreshing your personas or brushing up on some keyword research. Here is a refresher on inbound marketing.

6. End to End Conversion Rate

The end to end conversion rate measures the conversion ratio for the full buyer’s journey from attraction phrase through to closing customers. According to Forbes, “Benchmarked over time this metric highlights leakages and inefficiencies between stages, sales and marketing, and enables more accurate forecasting and target performance setting.”

The more aligned an organization, the more stable the rates and rations. See a spike or dip in the data? Better start digging.

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The Sales & Marketing Alignment Meeting

Now that you have your critical KPIs to measure smarketing performance, share and circulate the data amongst the team. Do this quarterly at a minimum. Share the findings, deep dive, optimize, rinse and repeat.