Applying Marketing Automation Across the B2B Customer Lifecycle

09 June, 2022

Most B2B sales and marketing teams have 4 shared goals:

1. Generate a regular flow of qualified leads 

2. Accelerate deal velocity (time it takes a sale to close) 

3. Increase sales conversation

4. Grow key account spend  

Standing in the way of these ambitions is one primary challenge: the complex B2B sales cycle. Selling high-value B2B products and services isn’t quick or easy. Deals typically involve multiple decision-makers and influencers, and can take many months (or even years) to close.   

Marketing Automation plays an important role in addressing this challenge. The technology brings the capability to align marketing and sales, by creating personalised content journeys that engage, educate and influence stakeholders throughout the complex B2B customer lifecycle.

As with any strategy, deciding where to focus is key. Below you’ll find practical examples of how to apply Marketing Automation across the B2B customer lifecycle. We hope this will help inform conversations between your marketing and sales leaders as you work together to grow revenue.

Lifecycle Stage: Exploring

Objective: Capture the prospect’s data and stay front-of-mind until they’re ready to speak to sales 

Marketing Automation Application: Lead Nurturing Journey 

This journey combines key B2B marketing automation capabilities to capture, nurture and qualify leads. It ends with marketing qualified leads (MQLs) being assigned to sales to continue the conversation. Here’s how it works:

  1. Digital advertising focuses on downloadable educational resources such as white papers and industry reports

  2. The prospect clicks through to a landing page with a ‘Download Your Copy’ call to action (CTA)

  3. The web form captures key customer data points such as job role, industry, company size and location. These will be used for Lead Grading. 

  4. Upon completion of the form, the prospect’s digital engagement is linked with their device and they are added to the Lead Nurturing Journey

  5. The journey delivers a sequence of content that closely-aligns with the prospect’s interests, building credibility while keeping your brand front-of-mind 

  6. As prospects click through on emails and engage with your digital assets, their activity adds to their Lead Score (how interested they are in you) 

  7. Their Lead Score, combined with their Lead Grade (how interested you are in them based on their profile) combine to define when a prospect becomes a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

  8. MQLs are automatically assigned to the right sales team or rep for action

Lifecycle Stage: Considering

Objective: Convert MQLs into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)

Marketing Automation Application: Engagement History

Integrating your Marketing Automation Platform and CRM provides reps with visibility into their Leads’ digital engagement history. This includes website pages they’ve visited, emails they’ve clicked on and files they’ve downloaded. This enables reps to start their sales conversation on the right note, focusing on areas of interest.

Marketing Automation Application: Event Journey

Whether you’re running a virtual webinar, or an in-person presentation, a well-run event is the perfect forum to showcase your firm’s expertise and thought leadership to interested customers.

An Event Journey is designed to maximise attendance, guest experience and post-event engagement. Typically, these journeys include:

  1. Database promotional emails (often sent as a personal invitation from the assigned sales rep or account manager)

  2. Event landing page and registration form that adds prospects to the journey 

  3. Confirmation email with ‘Add to Calendar’ integration 

  4. Pre-event nurturing emails, including session agenda, speaker profiles, reminders, registration QR codes and hospitality information  

  5. Post-event emails segmented by attendance vs no-show, including feedback surveys, slide decks and automated rep-to-customer follow up

  6. Lead scoring is used to prioritise post-event follow up from Business Development Reps (BDRs)

Marketing Automation Application: Free Trial Journey

If you're selling a software Application, a Free Trial journey is a powerful way to provide automated rep-to-customer touch points, offering guidance and assistance. By integrating your MAP with your software product’s database, you can also leverage usage data such as logins or utilised features to tailor communication. For example, if a prospect hasn’t used a key feature, you can provide content outlining feature benefits and how-to instructions, inviting them to give it a try. 

Lifecycle Stage: Deciding

Objective: educate and influence key stakeholders throughout a lengthy opportunity sales cycle

Marketing Automation Application: Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

 ABM is a strategic marketing approach, where a marketing strategy is designed specifically to win or expand business within a key strategic account. Although typically employed in Enterprise sales, the concepts can be applied and automated in any complex B2B sales cycle.

The objective is to deliver specific content to each individual stakeholder that speaks to their unique concerns and role in the decision-making process. To do this, within the CRM you’ll need to ensure sales reps are capturing: 

  • The type of sales opportunity e.g. Commercial Office Fitout 

  • The relevant stakeholder contacts and their job roles e.g. Managing Director, Office Manager, Architect 

  • The stage of the opportunity e.g. Discovery, Negotiation 

By capturing this information, tailored content can be triggered to address each stakeholder’s concerns at each stage of the sales cycle.

Note: Although powerful, this strategy requires a significant investment in digital asset and content creation for the myriad of combinations of job role, opportunity type and stage. It may be a strategy you develop as you become more confident in your organisation’s marketing automation capability and CRM adoption.  

Lifecycle Stage: Experiencing

Objective: retain and grow key customer accounts 

Marketing Automation Application: Onboarding Journey 

Often overlooked, a well-designed onboarding journey can align customer expectations and create a smooth digital experience that will have a long-lasting effect on loyalty and retention. Onboarding journeys may combine automated ‘what we need from you’ emails linking to digital forms, educational resources such as blog posts or ‘how to’ guides, or automated check ins from Customer Success Managers.

Marketing Automation Application: Segmented Database Emails 

Many organisations opt for batch-and-blast database emails, thinking that if they throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick. But sending the same message to your entire database will only reduce open and click through rates, and drive users towards the ‘unsubscribe’ link.

By using a well-considered data model, you can segment customers to ensure every email you send is relevant. At the very least, you should be segmenting for:

  • Prospects vs Customers 

  • Geographic Location

  • Job Role 

  • Industry 

Many MAPs also offer dynamic content capability, enabling you to create a single email but replace certain sections with tailored content based on this criteria.  

In Summary 

Educating and influencing customers throughout the complex B2B lifecycle requires an aligned marketing and sales effort. Customers need compelling interactions with both humans (sales) and content (marketing) to give them the confidence they need to buy high value B2B products and services.

To achieve this, you need the right people (aligned marketing and sales leaders), processes (sales process design, customer journey design) and technology (integrated Marketing Automation and CRM) to make it happen.

If you’d like to explore how an aligned CRM and Marketing Automation solution can help your B2B organisation exceed your revenue goals, feel free to reach out to LavaBox consultants on 0800 528 2269.