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In business, most people view customer behavior as one-dimensional—something to be observed and responded to. As a result, marketing efforts become only a reactive process.

However, what if you could design your marketing to enable—to actually elicit—specific behaviors?

Marketing automation allows you to efficiently plan and enable the behavior you wish to see from your prospect.

It's about planning what you want from your leads—and designing campaigns to elicit exactly that desired behavior.

This article explores why it's important to build campaigns to elicit the behavior you wish to see, and how to do that effectively.

What behavior do you want people to display?

So, how do you create a campaign that initiates desired behaviors in prospects?

For most businesses, the desired behavior is conversion: leads' turning into paying customers. However, there are likely intermediate steps, such as...

  • Reading certain blog posts
  • Downloading lead magnets
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Clicking on email links
  • Visiting sales pages
  • Requesting specific information

It's possible to engineer behavior, proactively, rather than only observing and reacting.

However, you must first decide what actions you want your lead to take, so you can build a process—or journey that customers can go on—to get to that point.


You must be aware of the behavioral displays indicating customers are moving through the buyer's journey. That will allow you to identify any gaps causing leads to drop off; from there, you can intervene and optimize the process.

And we do all that by employing marketing automation.

What role does marketing automation play in planning desired behavior?

Marketing automation is the vehicle that allows businesses to seamlessly deliver the right content at the right time to drive prospects through the awareness stages. It's an effective way to move your leads from Marketing-qualified to Sales-qualified and convert them into paying customers.

Lead magnets are effective in driving demand generation in exchange for obtaining valuable information from leads. However, one of the biggest mistakes B2B businesses make is that they stop nurturing at the end of the initial lead magnet sequence.

The key is to educate your leads to move them along the awareness journey. Then, at each stage, give them the next thing they need to move them closer to purchase.

The role of awareness stages in planning desired behavior?

There are five stages of awareness in the customer journey, determining the content and contact your lead is ready for.

These are the five stages:

  1. Completely Unaware: Prospects are feeling symptoms of problems they don't yet understand. They don't yet know who you are or how you can help.
  2. Problem-Aware: Your prospect knows they have a problem; they are learning about it and looking for solutions. However, they don't yet know about any specific products or companies.
  3. Solution-Aware: Prospects are now aware of the potential solutions to their problem, but they haven't narrowed their research down yet to specific products/services/companies.
  4. Product-Aware: Your prospects are looking for specific products to fit their needs. They are exploring the marketplace to match products/services against their created criteria.
  5. Most Aware: Your prospects are aware of and interested in your product/service. But they need to justify and validate the reasons for purchase, comparing against the alternative.

You must get very specific about understanding your prospects' awareness stage and use that information to engineer the behavior you would like to see. At each stage, your leads will need different types of content, so you have to design your campaigns accordingly.

You can use marketing automation to deliver that content and enable your prospects to move along the stages of awareness from MQL to SQL.

Here's an example:

Imagine you have leads who have downloaded an entry-level lead magnet called "What is marketing automation software." Chances are high they are in the problem-aware stage of awareness and so they aren't ready to commit to buying software yet.

At this point, it's your job to nurture those prospects through the awareness stages. And you can do that by designing a campaign that offers them the natural next step, and push them further along the awareness journey. The content you use could be another lead magnet, a product demo, or something else that caters to the next stage in awareness.

But, ultimately, you must tell your prospects what you want them to do next; that's the key to engineering the behavior you want prospects to display.

So, for example, if reading a buyer's guide will help make your lead Sales-qualified, you need to offer this guide at the appropriate time. Think about how you can get them ready and willing to download your buyer's guide, and plan your marketing automation around that goal.


What happens if a campaign doesn't result in desired behavior?

Here's your ideal scenario: A lead comes into your funnel through a specific campaign, consuming the content you follow up with (including blog posts, lead magnets, etc.). They move smoothly through the awareness journey and convert into a paying customer.

Sadly, that scenario isn't always how things work, especially for B2B, where the typical buying journey is long and more than one decision-maker is involved. So, in reality, each lead will require a hefty amount of nurture in order to eventually display Sales-qualified behavior.

In fact, in those situations, it's essential to design processes and additional campaigns that follow up with leads if they don't exhibit the desired behavior.

It's known as planning the "if this, then that..."

It's all based on the premise of certain behaviors' triggering conditional statements. In the case of marketing automation, it means putting in place sequences that plan for desired behavior, including contingencies.

Examples of how to use marketing automation to Sales-qualify your leads when things don't go to plan

There are numerous ways to salvage prospects who have not converted from MQL to SQL. Some examples:

  • Retargeting
  • Nurturing long-term
  • Nurturing short-term
  • Bringing Sales into the loop

Again, all these approaches aim to "catch" people—so, rather than losing them, you are just nurturing them differently.

Hopefully, the end result will be the same; you're just ensuring they get there differently.

Here's more on each of those four approaches.

1. Retargeting

Effectively done, retargeting can massively increase your conversion rates. In fact, according to Google, you can sell 50% more with a good retargeting strategy.

What does retargeting look like with marketing automation?

Again, it all comes down to understanding the awareness stages.

Retargeting those still in the early stages of awareness—those who don't know what solution they want—will likely be unsuccessful. However, retargeting those in the later stages of awareness (particularly the most-aware stage) allows you to build on the existing relationship and increase the chances of conversion.

2. Long-Term Nurture Sequence

Fully 96% of visitors who arrive on a website aren't yet ready to buy, and 80% of leads never translate into sales.

Even after an initial lead magnet and email series, prospects might not be ready to purchase.

However, we know that companies that prioritize and excel in lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-qualified leads at 33% lower cost.

If that's the case, you should be moving leads into a long-term nurture sequence rather than letting them fall through the cracks. So, again, that's an automated email sequence that offers potential buyers a value-add.

Long-term nurture sequences are essential for B2B companies with a long sales process because they allow you to nurture and maintain a relationship continually.


Long-term lead nurture can be successful because it...

  • Is a regular touchpoint with your customer
  • Allows you to convey who your business is
  • Engages your list
  • Drives traffic to your website
  • Increases conversions
  • Increases customer lifetime value and customer retention

And, most important, it allows you to keep in touch in a meaningful way with prospects who are not ready to buy yet.

3. Short-Term Nurture Sequence

Is your prospect further along the awareness journey?

Instead of a long-term nurture sequence, you can first move them into another short-term nurture campaign.

This approach will target leads with specific content and campaigns based on what you've learned about them. So if you know they have a particular problem or need, you can address it.

If they don't convert, you can move them into a longer-term nurture sequence.

4. Bringing Sales Into the Loop

Imagine you downloaded a lead magnet about marketing automation software. The next thing you know, you're getting a call from a sales team.

It's probably the last thing you want. You want time to research yourself and move along the awareness journey before speaking to someone.

However, sometimes it's appropriate for your sales team to reach out to prospects to build relationships and overcome objections directly. Again, it's not likely to work in the early stages of awareness, but if you have leads engaging with your email marketing but not converting, involving Sales is a good final step.

It allows Sales to provide the insight for Marketing to address objections and answer questions that may be holding the lead back from moving forward.

Are you ready to plan the behaviors you want to elicit from prospects?

Many businesses view behavior as one-way: observing and reacting. But that isn't as powerful or effective as being proactive and planning your campaigns to elicit desired behaviors.

Marketing automation is crucial to delivering a campaign that results in the desired outcome. For example, understanding the awareness stages allows you to design campaigns that move leads from Marketing-qualified to Sales-qualified.

Get in touch if you need help implementing marketing automation and the campaigns that go alongside it.

More Resources on Marketing Automation Campaigns

Seven Marketing Automation Campaigns That Should Get You Promoted

How to Prepare Your Organization for Marketing Automation

How to Kickstart a Growth Marketing Automation Strategy

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image of Kenda Macdonald

Kenda Macdonald is a forensic psychology major, the Demand Generation Consulting Practice Lead at MarketingProfs, and the founder of Automation Ninjas, the UK's leading behavioral automation agency. She's an international public speaker, a multi-award-winning businesswoman, a doting cat mom, and the author of the best-selling Hack the Buyer Brain.