Interview: Mac McIntosh Shares How Marketing Automation Can Impact Your Bottom Line

In the new era of marketing accountability, it is critical for marketers to adjust their marketing processes to reach farther across the funnel and help drive revenues. Marketing automation plays a critical role in helping marketers accomplish this. To help you gain some insight on what it enables you to do and how to use it effectively, I've invited BtoB Sales Lead Expert Mac McIntosh to answer a few questions about the value marketing automation can bring to your business. How can marketing automation help marketers stay in tune with the multiple channels buyers use to make buying decisions?

One of the exciting benefits of marketing automation is its ability to help marketers communicate with buyers across multiple channels.  For example, you can:

  • Email via your marketing automation system with links that allow recipients to “tell a friend” or “tweet” about it;
  • Send direct mail using the same messages, offers and links as you emailed about, and then drive responders to the same landing pages with some hidden code that allows you to track the source of those visitors and form completers;
  • Blog, post in LinkedIn or tweet about the same content you are offering in your marketing automation campaigns to extend its reach;
  • Have all the forms on your website, blog, email landing pages bring responders into your marketing automation campaigns automatically;
  • You can enter all leads from your trade shows into your marketing automation system and create an automated follow-up campaign to further qualify those leads;
  • You can leverage your content and events as online “offers” in your marketing campaigns and track response rates;
  • And much more.

What's the #1 mistake you see companies making with marketing automation and what can we do to fix that?

Good question.  I’m thinking it is buying marketing automation then only using it for batch-and- blast emails. One-size fits all communications, especially emails, don’t get the job done anymore.  Segmented, well-targeted and relevant communications get much better results.

The real benefit of marketing automation is exactly that: the ability to deliver the right message with the right offer to the right prospect at the right time.  In other words, true one-to-one marketing to many--something that we couldn’t do to any scale before marketing automation came along.

What does sales struggle with that marketing automation can simplify?

If you consider the steps in the B2B buying process as described in Robert Jollies’ book, Customer Centered Selling (illustration below), you’ll see that sales spends almost all their time where buyers are spending only a small percentage of their time.  Marketing automation is an ideal vehicle for communicating with and engaging prospects throughout their buying process.

Marketing automation can also help sales overcome additional challenges, such as:

  • Staying in-sight and in-mind with lots of prospects at once, including those not yet ready or receptive to being contacted by sales;
  • Keeping in touch between sales calls;
  • Touching the multiple influencers and decision makers that are involved in the buying process;
  • Automatically scheduling the next touch or step in the sales process;
  • Delivering relevant information as prospects move forward in their buying process.

How does marketing automation help lower the cost of sales?

Research on the cost of sales calls by Reed Business found that the average cost of a business-to-business in-person sales call was $392 in 2001. (This is the most recent research I could find on the subject, so the cost of a sales call is probably much higher now.) The same research said that it took an average of 5.1 in-person sales calls to close a B2B sale. So the total cost of sales visits required to close an average B2B sale was just a hair under $2,000.

Want to lower your cost of sales?  Simply replace a couple of those expensive, in-person sales calls with lower cost-per-contact marketing-automation driven contacts, then do the math again, replacing two of the $392 sales calls with five marketing contacts at as much as $30 each for the prospecting and qualifying steps. The result? You've invested only $150 to complete the first two steps that otherwise would have cost your company $784 to accomplish with in-person sales calls, saving $634 and lowering your cost of sales by more than 30 percent.

Here are some other numbers to consider:

The research I referenced earlier also showed that the average salesperson spent less than a fifth of his or her time meeting with new prospects. This works out to be approximately one day of every business week. When you consider vacations and other time off, that works out to less than 50 days of new business development a year!

How many prospects do you think your salespeople can visit during a given week? Unless their territory is limited to the immediate neighborhood, I'd say they'll probably be able to schedule a maximum of four meetings a day and only be meeting with prospective clients one or two days a week. The rest of the time is used for things like telemarketing, sales meetings, training, paperwork, travel, writing proposals, entering orders and problem-solving for existing clients.

Assume eight meetings a week and you'll find that your average salesperson can complete 400 in-person sales visits a year at most (100 days multiplied by four visits). Divide the 400 visits by 5.1 (the average number of in-person sales calls required to close a sale, as mentioned earlier), and you'll find that if they close 100 percent of the sales to prospects they visit, they'll close a maximum of 79 sales a year. However, my experience says that average B2B close rates are closer to 30 percent, meaning that the average salespeople will only close around 24 sales from their 400 in-person sales calls!

How much more productive would they be if they only had to make an average of three sales visits to close a qualified prospect that was generated for them by marketing? The answer is 40 percent more productive at closing sales.  In this case closing 34 sales instead of 24. So instead of adding more salespeople to knock on more doors, use marketing automation campaigns to cost-effectively contact your prospects and fill the sales pipeline with qualified leads. Doing so will result in more sales-ready opportunities that your salespeople, reps, resellers or distributors can turn into new business, meaning greater sales revenue and profits for your company.

How can marketers use social media in conjunction with marketing automation to improve lead generation?

I’ve found that social media, as a stand-alone tactic, doesn’t results in lots of leads for B2B marketers. However, as an integrated component of your B2B marketing campaigns, it can help with initial awareness of, and preference for, your company and its products or services.  And, as I mentioned in my answer to your first question, it can be used to extend the reach of your marketing automation campaigns, content and influence.

What are some sources of ROI delivered by marketing automation systems that help marketers do more with less?

As I see it, these are the big ones:

  • Lower marketing costs (once it is up and running);
  • More qualified, sales-ready leads;
  • Lower cost of sales;
  • Increased sales efficiency;
  • More closed sales.

Mac McIntosh is a b-to-b marketing and sales consultant and writer of the popular blog Sales Lead Insights. With 20 years of advertising, marketing and sales experience, Mac specializes in helping companies get more high-quality B2B sales leads, turn them into sales, track and measure results, and prove a favorable return on investment. He has earned a enviable reputation for getting results for his clients.