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Marketing Automation: The Need for a Behavior-Based Program

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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.

Driving Immediate Behavioral Messages

Once you've established your initial segments and clusters, you're ready to take things to the next level: letting contact behaviors take the wheel on an ongoing basis. Establish programs that automatically send a contact a message based on an action the person did—or did not—take. Doing so allows for your message to be delivered when your brand is top of mind for the recipient, while communicating to them on their terms rather than yours.

Why Behavioral Marketing, in the First Place?

Consider that virtually all email marketers are confronting lower response rates and, as a result, they're being forced to step back and reassess how they're interacting with customers and prospects. Ask yourself: Are you marketing to a segment of thousands, with one generalized message? Or are you delivering relevant, targeted messages to individuals? If you're doing the former, you're most likely pushing many potential buyers away.

Let's say a potential buyer visits your website and spends a significant amount of time on a particular product page. Are you going to send a follow-up newsletter a month later—the same message you would have sent anyone who visited your site? Or are you going to respond with an email that is relevant to that user's behavior?

If you want to capitalize on a prospect's attention, and drive sales by presenting an informed brand, targeted behavioral messages are going to be your best response.

Sending individualized, targeted messages can seem like a daunting task, but with the Web tracking capabilities of modern marketing automation, this strategy has never been easier to execute. Moreover, why would you want to miss an opportunity to provide potential buyers with what they want, precisely when they want it?

Why Dynamic Content?

Dynamic content is not merely a powerful way to boost email engagement, conversions, and revenue; it's also a great way for you to hit the marketing jackpot once you combine it with behavioral data.

Integrating dynamic content into your organization's website—using content blocks or areas that are tailored for the individual visitor, based on the values in your behavioral marketing database, to serve up relevant photos, text, and videos—will encourage site visitors to take action.

Keeping Score

Also important is a scoring system that allows you take certain demographic attributes and behaviors that indicate engagement or interest and assign them point values, allowing you to rank contacts depending on the objective you're trying to achieve. You can then combine the powers of marketing automation with your scoring platform to serve up timely, relevant content to these contacts.

You have many data points to capture—Web data, email data, social data, mobile data, purchase data. If you're savvy, you're capturing that data across channels and platforms in a centralized marketing database, and then acting on it by delivering relevant and timely communications with an automation platform.

It's time for marketers to move beyond marketing to people as a group. By addressing an individual person's needs and wants, you'll deliver campaigns that greatly increase customer and prospect engagement and ultimately drive sales, which should truly be the end goal for any marketer.

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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

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  • by Ritchie Thu Jun 13, 2013 via web

    I definitely think there is value in Marketing Automation, but mainly from a B2B standpoint. Marketing Automation is all about capturing vital information (email address) and building a persona as the person revisits your website (name, phone, company, etc.) - its almost like building a relationship over time where you slowly get to know someone. We have a cheat sheet on Do's and Don't of Marketing Automation on our website that I encourage you to check out: (

  • by Keely Thu Jun 13, 2013 via web

    What automation tools or services would you recommend other than Hubspot or Infusionsoft?

  • by Tyler Fri Jun 14, 2013 via web

    Working off Ritchie's comment below I think it is easier to see the benefits of marketing automation within a B2B environment because of the more complex sales cycle. However, B2C marketers can gain more from marketing automation faster, especially in retail, hospitality and entertainment. Having the ability to re-message a customer who has abandoned their e-cart in real time asking them if they need help from a live agent at your company or if they are looking for a different type of product is very valuable. Also working of past purchasing history to re-message customers for repeat business is critical. For instance we have a client who crafted a marketing campaign of the birth of their client's child, thus over the first year of that client being a parent they would receive email tips on products that could make their job easier at the specific point of their child's development. For example: Best baby recipes/baby food in month one, and then in month 8 the top 10 strollers on the market, etc. This was pretty powerful, and our client achieved Total Cost of Ownership ROI within the first few months of their utilizing our marketing automation platform. That's just one example of B2C success we have.

  • by JonL Wed Jun 19, 2013 via web

    @Keely - you can find more options here other than HubSpot and Infusionsoft.

    Found that list shared over on Facebook recently so I think it's worth sharing it to you as well.

  • by Email Monks Wed Jul 17, 2013 via web

    Behavioural Data is the core of marketing automation! Automation rules will rely heavily on the past behaviour of the subscribers. Right offer, right person, right time and right channel will become the game changer. Marketing automation with a better behavioural database will also help marketers to specifically do user activity testing than the normal subject line testing and email testing.

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