Marketing automation serves many purposes, but its biggest advantage is in enabling marketers to tailor their activities to the customer's buying process—which has changed dramatically in the past few years.

These days, long before a prospective customer is receptive to connect with a salesperson, that buyer has been busy doing all kinds of Internet homework. Buyers educate themselves, refining their understanding of the problem they hope to solve. They read reviews, sit in on webinars, watch social media conversations, visit websites, and download whitepapers. In short, they control the process, forming opinions about which solutions and vendors can help them, all mostly on their own.

That doesn't mean marketers are cut out of helping to guide the buyer's journey. Interruption marketing doesn't work well anymore, true, but its place has been taken by engagement and nurturing, two strategies that foster interaction and trust between buyer and seller.

Marketing automation provides the structure that allows engagement and nurturing to be executed with relative precision, and at scale, via a marketing automation system.*

Nurturing, in particular, is a key win with automation, delivering quantifiable results:

  • Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads. (The Annuitas Group)
  • Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more Sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Forrester Research)
  • Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (The Annuitas Group)

Lead scoring, another capability enabled by marketing automation, is the tactic of applying points to a customer's characteristics or behaviors. Lead scoring and lead nurturing work particularly well together, with implications far beyond the top of the funnel.

As an example, let's walk through the buyer's journey of Senior Marketing Director Pat Smith. The growth rate of Pat's company is slowing, so she's looking for new ways to expand market share. Pat's been hearing a lot of buzz about a new type of product called the "Virtual Billboard," and she is wondering whether it could help her company.

(Every action outlined in this little story is generated or managed by Virtual Billboard's marketing automation program, and happens automatically. Every point number is a score that the system generates for Pat.)

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image of Atri Chatterjee

Atri Chatterjee is chief marketing officer of Act-On Software, a SaaS solution for marketing automation and revenue optimization.

LinkedIn: Atri Chatterjee

Twitter: @atrichatt