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Behavioral Data Is Key to B2B Marketing Automation

Marketing handles much of the purchase cycle that formerly went to sales

August 19, 2013 | B2B

The internet has become a primary source of information, recommendations and reviews when business decision-makers contemplate potential purchases. This places significant responsibility on marketers, who must now guide and nurture these leads via digital through the majority of the buying cycle.

Relying on automated solutions to create and deploy lead nurture programs is not new, but business-to-business (B2B) marketers are eyeing them with a renewed focus, according to a new eMarketer report, “B2B Marketing Automation: Using Behavioral Data to Power Lead Nurture.”

Ways that B2B Marketers* Worldwide Use Marketing Automation, June 2013 (% of respondents)

Marketing automation is a solution that makes use of technology to perform some of the heavy lifting associated with communicating to prospects and existing customers across multiple channels such as email, social media and a company’s website. Automation can also be used to score leads, segment audiences and nurture those audiences throughout their customer life cycle.

In 2012, one in 10 digital marketing dollars spent by US B2B marketers went to marketing automation, according to a survey by Wakefly, a digital marketing firm that also advises clients on marketing automation programs. Though a greater portion of budgets were allocated to web redesigns and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, marketing automation had the largest year-over-year growth of any area: 233%.

Allocation of Digital Marketing Budget Among US B2B Marketers, 2011 & 2012 (% of total budget)

But most marketers and industry professionals tend to agree that the basic use of marketing automation is insufficient for persuading today’s B2B decision-makers, and relevancy is key.

Achieving relevancy can be difficult. In a February 2013 survey, BtoB Magazine found that the ability to reach the right buyer at the right time ranked as the No. 2 challenge among US B2B marketers looking to meet the changing needs of B2B prospects.

Leading Challenges to Meeting the Changing Needs of B2B Prospects According to US B2B Marketers, Feb 2013 (% of respondents)

Most agree that moving beyond a “batch and blast” use of marketing automation in order to arrive at a more relevant, effective lead nurture program requires one thing: data, and in particular, behavioral data.

“If [companies] are missing title information or firmographic information, they’re going to have to make guesses about what’s relevant to the individual, and a guess is introducing risk to the experience with that individual,” said Maribeth Ross, vice president of marketing at NetProspex, a company that provides B2B marketing contact lists and data services.

Behavioral data, however, can minimize those risks. In tracking a prospect’s digital footprint across websites, email, search and even social, B2B companies can begin to understand a potential buyer’s needs, wants and interests based on as little information as an email address or a cookie ID.

“It all really comes down to using cross-channel marketing automation technology that’s fueled by data to be able to personalize the content we’re delivering to the buyer and keep the sales team apprised of where that individual is in the buying process,” said Joel Book, principal of marketing research and education at ExactTarget, owner of B2B marketing automation platform provider Pardot. “The brand that responds fastest and demonstrates a commitment to really serve the individual by delivering content that is personalized and aids in his or her buying process, that’s the brand that’s going to win the deal.”


The full report, “B2B Marketing Automation: Using Behavioral Data to Power Lead Nurture,” also answers these key questions:

  • How much are B2B marketers investing in marketing automation platforms?
  • What value does behavioral data lend to lead nurture programs?
  • How are B2B marketers combining behavioral data with marketing automation to more accurately segment buyers and then personalize their nurture experience?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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