Marketers love predictions, and they love being in control. But where is the marketer’s value? How do you successfully use marketing automation? In the era of artificial intelligence, on what must B2B marketers focus their efforts?

By discussing with various fellow marketers you realise how easy it is to philosophise about how useful our different tasks are, and and of so-called “marketing automation” tools.

The term marketing automation covers a range of tools that aim to save the marketer’s time. And because time is money, the return on investment becomes attractive for businesses. However, even if the purpose and method remain similar, uses vary significantly between B2C and B2B.

1. B2C and B2B Marketing Automation: two very different uses

In B2C, marketing automation tools consist mainly in gathering as much information as possible on consumers in order to push them to buy more. This is done by cross-referencing data and through algorithms each more complicated than the next.

In B2B, marketing automation mainly consists of supporting a lead through the purchasing cycle in order to accelerate the decision-making process which takes several months. But in the end, the first thing that comes to mind when talking about marketing automation, is the word “workflow”.
When it comes to B2B marketing automation, there is little to do with algorithms.

Also, marketing automation as a whole is often summarised as a winning trio: trigger, rule, content:In human language, this means: “If Smith does this, send him that.”

The marketer will create engagement workflows, because it’s cool, and it’s rewarding. They’ll create lots of them, such that the least action on a website will trigger the workflow.

Consequently, marketing automation will look something like this:Image représentant le ressenti potentiel d'un prospect non intéressé qui recevrait trop de messages de solicitation avec des workflows de marketing automationBut that’s not all! As a “scientifically proven” statistic has stated, you need to make contact six times to make a sale, so you don’t send ONE single piece of content, you send a whole series of content. So shouldn’t it be the size of the workflow that counts? Why only send one email when you can automate a whole series of emails?

And there we go: because all marketers are doing the same thing, prospects are being subjected to the hard law of sales and marketing pressure:GIF représentant la pression marketing et commerciale que peut ressentir un prospectSo, is marketing automation bad? Are we mad at Plezi?…

Of course not, simply because marketing automation cannot be summed up by simple workflows, as this image shows:

2. Workflows = trying to predict the prospect’s behaviour

Creating workflows comes back to making assumptions on what your leads will want to do next.

If prospect 1 downloads content X, there’s are a strong possibility that they will be interested in content Y. If they open my email, there’s a strong chance that they like my product. So, I’m going to offer them a demo.

The problem?
It is almost impossible to predict anything. A study has even demonstrated that the fact you are an expert in a field does not make you more reliable at predicting the behaviour of a consumer than… luck is.

The second problem: how do you manage marketing pressure when a lead is part of several workflows?
 How many times have we received several emails in a row because we’ve taken several actions on a company’s website?

The third problem: should I update my workflows each time I publish a new piece of content?

In the end, the real question is: where do you want to invest your time as a B2B marketer?

3. What is the marketer’s value?

There are things that we do better than machines do, and other things that we don’t.

Predicting the behaviour of a consumer is better left to a machine (or luck).

Creating poor-quality content: you can leave that to the machines too. To create content with high value-added, only humans will be cable of this (for the time being at least).

Our multiple discussions with B2B marketers show us one thing: the best are those who know how to choose their battles. 
The “growth hacking” trend worships “hacks”, even if that means losing time.

The value of the marketer consists in determining where they add the most value, and acting as the conductor of an orchestra in order to combine the best tools to create a real “marketing machine”, meaning tools and methods that can be scaled as the business grows.

This is what we have done at Plezi, for example, with what we call “smart campaigns”: engagement workflows that work without using the trio: trigger, rule, content.

Pieces of content are distributed according each stage of the purchasing cycle. They receive “tags” allowing segmentation based on interests or targeting and are directly integrated into these campaigns. The lead will therefore experience “marketing pressure” in accordance with where they are at in the purchasing cycle, and the “most suitable” content for that moment will be sent to them. 
No workflow, no time wasted.

Imagine, for example, starting with a piece of “temporal” content: you would have to update all workflows and come up with numerous rules to be able to automate its distribution to the most suitable prospects. With smart campaigns, it is done in three clicks.

Of course, to do this you need to let the algorithm work, but the gain is huge:

• the content sent is the most relevant
• the marketing pressure is appropriate and will not “kill” the business relationship
• you forget workflow updates as soon as you produce a new piece of content

Finally, you have more time to create content, a lighter mental workload, and therefore a much greater ROI. So, B2B marketers, stop trying to predict the unpredictable!

Workflows can be relevant to very specific objectives such as accelerating the purchasing cycle. They are perfect for proposing the next action for key uses but should under no circumstances constitute an overall strategy. In the end, as soon as a workflow has more than two stages, there’s a strong chance that you’re being impertinent…

P.S. for those that prefer manual gearboxes to automatic ones, we also have workflows at Plezi. 😉

Joelle Gilbert

Joelle Gilbert

Partnership manager, she helps Marketing agencies and agencies' clients grow their B2B inbound marketing skills.

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