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Ellen ValentineProduct EvangelistSilverpop
As product evangelist for email marketing service provider Silverpop, Ellen Valentine works with clients on implementing and maximizing marketing technology to drive campaign performance.
Valentine, who was named one of the Top 50 Women in Technology on Twitter for 2012, spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren Fisher for eMarketer’s B2B Perspective series, about how companies—particularly business-to-business (B2B) firms—are using data and marketing automation to create more personalized lead nurture programs.
eMarketer: What are some of the trends you’re seeing among B2B companies using marketing automation for lead nurture?
Ellen Valentine: There’s a lot of change afoot in lead nurture, and it’s getting much more sophisticated and tailored for buyers than just emailing out something every week or two. We’re starting to see some marketers do some really cool things centered on interweaving marketing automation and email together.
Probably the best way I can describe this trend is to give you an example of one of our clients, NetProspex. In the past year, it’s pulled together more than 100 pieces of new content. And instead of just drip nurturing the content and simply adding each piece to the email queue, NetProspex adds the content to its email for two weeks and then puts it in its resource center.
When a buyer starts clicking on the homepage of the website, NetProspex is capturing that person’s buyer persona based on which one of the three main navigation fields the buyer is visiting.
If a buyer clicks on “Grow” to grow its leads, NetProspex assumes it is a demand generation person. And when the prospect goes to the resource center, all the content is personalized to speak to demand generation, but that person won’t see all the demand generation content at once. NetProspex actually feeds it to the buyer over a period of time.
The resource center is dynamic. So when the buyer returns, it continues to capture additional information about that prospect via progressive profiling. If the buyer doesn’t interact with the resource page for a while, NetProspex will push an email urging the person back there. I love that interaction between the marketing automation platform and the email channel for nurture. NetProspex really has the web platform and the email platform working in sync.
eMarketer: Would this type of dynamic, personalized website content require a content management system or another piece of technology?
Valentine: You would need a content management system to fuel your website. Many people are at the point where they’re redoing their websites and realizing they have a lot of content, so we are seeing more people looking to content management systems to do this.
I’m starting to see more and more marketers wanting to pull together content management systems, the website, marketing automation and email into a cohesive go-to-market strategy.
eMarketer: What about social data?
Valentine: We actually just announced a product called Universal Behaviors. It allows us to pull in all sorts of behaviors users exhibit in social channels and on webinars.
From there, marketers can build rules-based programs that say if this person visited the website and retweeted one of our tweets, then I want to send him or her a content offer or an email. This platform allows us to look at behaviors across different channels.
eMarketer: How are you tracking those channels?
Valentine: On the social side, we’re partnering with a company called Argyle Social. Its listening platform plugs into our platform and sends that social media behavior over to the Silverpop automation platform in real time.
So if the system sees @EllenValentine just retweeted Silverpop’s new white paper, it gets passed back to the system, and the system looks to see if it has the email address for @EllenValentine to send an email that says, “Thanks for the retweet. Here’s a new case study or white paper you might also be interested in.”
eMarketer: So you’re actually crossing channels by seeing their initial behavior on a social network and then responding to them via email?
Valentine: Yes. Most of the things we have in the first generation of social listening have been manual. It’s been a marketer or social media manager noticing someone was giving the company an “attaboy” and responding back via social media. But with this new platform, we can automate both the listening and response and take action across channels, as you said.
My prediction is the business-to-consumer (B2C) brands will probably jump on this first, but we’ve got a few very progressive B2B clients, like NetProspex, that are going to be keenly interested in jumping on this to help them dramatically scale their social listening capabilities.
eMarketer: We’ve talked a bit about social and website behavioral data. What other types of data do you see marketers leveraging for marketing automation?
Valentine: One area is SMS mobile. It’s probably more of an area for B2C, but it absolutely is a possibility for B2B marketers. People can opt in with their mobile device and then receive an SMS each time a new piece of content is available.
What we’re seeing overall is a move to more holistically learn about customers by using a marketing database of record to collect multichannel behavior and then use that data to tailor the experience. We need to move away from a one-size-fits-all push-type nurture program. If my preference is to get an SMS text, then I should be receiving content via SMS.
In the past, it’s always been a generic nurture program that pushes out an email that tries to get buyers to come to a static website. And now with social listening and dynamic content and the ability to take that marketing data and really change the website experience, everything is really moving toward that one-to-one nirvana we’ve been talking about for so many years.
eMarketer: So behavioral data is playing a significant role in personalizing these automated programs?
Valentine: Yes, it’s playing a huge role. Before, it was about getting a few fields into a database and using that to segment offers. But now because everything is behavior-driven, you’re actually communicating that message when the prospect wants to hear it. So it moves from being a pure push to a more interactive process.
eMarketer: How has this affected sales’ involvement in the purchase process?
Valentine: One of the things I preach every time I talk about B2B marketers is the study by Corporate Executive Board, or CEB, where it found B2B buyers are, on average, 54% of the way through the sales cycle before they want to talk to a sales rep.
That’s a massive shift. Marketing really has to step up and own that first 54%, and it needs to happen digitally. It means sales is going to get fewer leads, but they should be much more highly qualified. It’s an organizational change that requires getting up to the C-level and educating the chief sales officer or CMO on what’s possible with technology.
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