Thought Leadership Interview: Brian Hansford Provides Insight on Using Marketing Automation Effectively

Technology is a critical driver of transformation within the B2B marketing and sales arena. There’s no question marketing automation solutions are becoming standard for best-in-class organizations. However, marketing technology alone cannot improve marketing performance.  That’s why process change and training must accompany marketing automation adoption.  To gain some insight on how organizations can get the most out of their solutions, I asked Manticore partner Zephyr 47’s Brian Hansford to answer 6 questions about how to plan for and use marketing automation effectively.  

You talk a lot about the importance of developing a process around marketing automation. What are some important steps necessary for building a solid marketing process?


Marketing automation solutions are process enabling tools that bring structured workflow to demand generation and lead nurturing.  That said, before an organization even begins shopping for solutions, the customer buying process must be mapped and understood as clearly as possible.  This includes learning how prospects learn about an organization; the prospects’ initial engagement points; how leads are cultivated, qualified and assigned to a sales rep or channel partner; and ultimately what causes a lost sale or purchase.

Additionally, the infrastructure requirements must be understood.  Where are the integration points with a CRM system?  An organization must understand how customers buy and the ideal workflow between marketing and sales.  There isn’t a silver bullet answer with marketing automation.  The better the upfront plan, the better the chances for success.

What are some common mistakes you see organizations make when implementing a marketing automation platform? How can these be avoided?


Common mistakes can be avoided with solid planning.  Most often we find organizations that buy a solution before defining an end-to-end demand generation and customer acquisition strategy.  Another common mistake is not developing a decent picture of the target audience and the content they need at different stages in their buying cycle.  (These are sometimes called ‘personas’.)

With marketing automation, it is better to start with a basic campaign strategy and evolve into more sophisticated practices.  Also, and this is critical, make sure the sales organization is brought in and prepared to manage leads they receive from marketing.  Demand generation without collaboration with the sales team will lead to failure.

What are a few key components necessary for marketing automation success?


At a high level, I believe an organization should do the following:

  • Process definition
  • Cross organizational support, collaboration and communication with sales
  • Set objectives and expectations
  • Training
  • Start simple - and grow from there
  • Test often for optimal performance
  • Measure the right metrics that ultimately impact revenue


Which tools does marketing automation provide to senior managers that they cannot get elsewhere?


Ultimately marketing automation provides ways for senior managers to gain better visibility on customer engagement and revenue opportunities.  The managers can use this information to optimize customer focused processes throughout the organization.

What do you think is the #1 benefit marketing automation provides to an organization?


Marketing automation enables organizations to cultivate more revenue and reduce lost opportunities with predictable and ongoing campaign workflow.  The days of 1.2% direct mail response rates are long gone - at least in the B2B tech space.  Influencers and decision makers want high value content that will help them make the right purchase decision for their organization. I believe marketing automation provides a method for marketers to engage prospects and customers with the content they need based on their stage in a buying cycle.

How has buying behavior changed in the last 5 years and how should marketing and sales adapt?

Buyers are more in control of their research, evaluation, and decision making process than ever before.  And that’s a great thing!  Web search fueled by Google’s leadership and the proliferation of social media channels have provided pivotal channels for buyers to find and consume high value content.  Marketers must adapt to this shift and deliver content at the right time, to the right people.  Relying exclusively on outbound email, direct mail, and telemarketing doesn’t work anymore.  Organizations must make content easy to find and consume.  Marketing automation solutions are ideal to enable organizations carry out this mission.  Ultimately, this should help the sales team engage with more leads that are better qualified by marketing which in turn should convert to revenue in a shorter period of time.

Brian Hansford is the president of Zephyr 47, a services agency that is passionate about helping organizations gain and retain new customers and accelerate sales cycles.  Brian has nearly 20 years of marketing and sales management experience in the dynamic software and services industry working with companies such as Citrix, Open Text, Captaris and several start ups.