Marketers, consider this your wake up call. Now, more than ever, buyers have more control over the sales cycle. Many prospects are anywhere from 54% to 80% of the way through the buying cycle (PDF) before they're even comfortable inviting a sales rep into their evaluation process.

Marketers must therefore evolve with the buying cycle and find some new ways to own the early part of the sales process. How? Well, by incorporating recipient behaviors into their marketing strategy.

Change can be a bit scary. But considering that the goal of every marketing department is to deliver awesome experiences that encourage consumers to partner with and develop relationships with your brand, focusing on recipient behaviors should already be second nature, especially as data collection processes have improved over time.

For those marketers still using old-school processes that may not be incorporating buyer behavior, marketing automation technologies can help you make that transition. Marketing automation is commonly viewed as a time-saving, efficiency tool for marketers. But automation also enables greater possibilities when you use buyer data.

Here are a few steps in the journey toward a buyer-centric automation strategy, which I like to call "behavioral marketing automation."

Segmenting, and Sending Messages, Based on Behavior

The first step of behavioral marketing automation is to determine which target audiences exhibit similar characteristics. Upon identifying clusters, you can send those groups relevant messages based on shared characteristics. Harnessing other factors related to context, like timeframe, can also boost the marketing relevance of your messages.

Though a simple drip nurture program—sending something periodically to everyone not ready yet to buy—is always a good place to start with automation, shifting your marketing automation into a second, more focused (and so more appealing) behavior-driven gear can really afford you greater influence over the sales cycle.

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image of Ellen  Valentine

Ellen Valentine is evangelist at Silverpop, where she focuses on coaching and mentoring clients. She has more than 20 years of experience as vice-president of marketing/CMO for various technology companies, with expertise in launching new products, evaluating product and market positions, designing go-to-market strategy, and managing digital marketing initiatives.

Twitter: @EllenValentine

LinkedIn: Ellen Valentine