Salesforce has sponsored and released a massive, 45-page guide to marketing automation platforms, called (fittingly enough) B2B Marketing Automation Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide, describing:
The capabilities B2B marketers need in a MAP, and
How B2B marketers can select and implement a MAP that’s right for their needs.
What a MAP does. The Salesforce MAP guide begins by explaining the role of marketing automation in B2B marketing: marketing automation, it says, “focuses on defining, scheduling, targeting and tracking marketing campaigns, allowing the marketing and sales organizations to nurture leads with highly personalized content aimed at attracting and retaining customers.” Any marketing automation platform should also integrate well with your other martech tools, including (most importantly) your CRM.
How a MAP is used. The guide explains that more B2B marketers are leveraging their MAPs to enhance and drive personalization, using customer data to tailor and send the right messages to the right customers/accounts at the right time. Another important MAP use case focuses on deploying a platform to support account-based marketing approaches. This is where marketers and their sales teams engage with B2B buying groups on larger-scale purchases that tend to have a longer, more complex buying journey than B2C.
6 must-have MAP capabilities
The guide says that big trends in the MAP space include building artificial intelligence into many of the available features, making it easier for MAPs to integrate with other martech via open architectures, and increasing the number of apps available to enhance what MAPs do. With that said, here are six of the most important capabilities marketers should be looking for in any MAP:
1. Email marketing capabilities. The first MAPs were built on a firm, historical foundation of email marketing campaign planning and execution. All modern MAPs enable users to create, send and measure personalized email campaigns. MAP vendors may differ in how email content gets created and personalized, explains the guide: “Some offer wizard-based campaign design or content templates, while others provide a more customized approach.” MAPs should also help you with improving email deliverability.
2. Lead management. Managing leads and accounts (with ABM) may be the most strategic function of any MAP, because it’s central to demand generation. Any MAP should support B2B marketers seeking to dynamically segment their customers or conduct lead scoring and lead prioritization. MAPs today need to be lead nurturing machines, explains the guide, “keeping prospects engaged through periodic, personalized communications or campaigns until they are ready to buy. MAPs may offer pre-built nurturing steps or actions, as well as allow users to customize their content and process.”
3. Mobile marketing. Mobile marketing is expanding because more customers and accounts are engaging with brands via their mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets). And today’s mobile marketing goes way beyond the ability to integrate SMS/text messaging into your campaigns.
The content your MAP sends out must be “mobile-ready.” If it isn’t, then you’re losing a lot of engagement. As the guide explains: “many MAPs [now] include responsive templates for email, landing pages and web forms. Several vendors integrate with email testing tools such as Litmus, which allow users to preview email messages across clients and devices.”
4. Predictive analytics. Using your customer data to anticipate buyer behavior is a massive trend in the MAP/marketing automation space. With more and better AI coming onto the scene, MAPs are getting better at analyzing customer behavioral patterns and providing insights based on those patterns to support personalized, relevant engagement.
As the guide puts it, “more [MAP] vendors are offering predictive analytics and models based on machine learning. This uses algorithms to process data and surface trends or insights that enable marketers to customize visitor experiences and marketing campaigns.”
5. Support for ABM. Account-based marketing requires an “account context” around buying groups that make big purchasing decisions on behalf of companies. If a MAP doesn’t comprehend that a certain account has a buying group of seven people, and instead views each person as an individual lead, that necessary account context is missing, and ABM becomes impossible. MAPs are stepping up their ABM game and creating that account context, identifying buying groups, and enabling targeted engagement of the account as a whole.
6. Connecting with the larger martech ecosystem. Your MAP isn’t an island, so should connect with other marketing automation tools. Integrations are important, so carefully consider whether your MAP has native integrations built-in or how it otherwise enables needed connections with your other tools. If it’s a big challenge to integrate your MAP and CRM, for instance, you’ll have a hard time aligning your marketing and sales teams around shared, real-time data.
Most MAP vendors also have “app marketplaces” so you can enhance your MAP’s capabilities. As the guide explains: “App marketplaces can be an important area of differentiation for vendors. Cultivating relationships with developers who create add-ons and integration tools adds to the software’s utility without requiring the vendor to develop those integrations.”
The bottom line here? There’s a ton of competition in the MAP space around the core capabilities described above, not to mention around issues of price and service. In the second post of this series, we’ll offer tips and insights on selecting a vendor and implementing a MAP.