Monthly Archives: August 2009

Marketing Automation ROI: Efficiency or Revenue?

As a response to my posts 7 Reasons Why Marketing Automation Projects Fail and Marketing Automation ROI, several people mentioned that the benefits of Marketing Automation are not just increased sales. They are also increased efficiency. That made me think: aren’t benefits either cost savings, or increased revenue?

Marketing Automation Increases Revenue

The key marketing performance indicators suggested by SiriusDecisions are all related to revenue:

  • Marketing sourced pipeline
  • Marketing influenced pipeline
  • Investment-to-pipeline
  • Investment-to-revenue

I believe there is a good reason for this: costs savings with Marketing Automation are marginal. The project itself will cost a fair amount of money, both for software as well as for expertise (either hiring an in-house expert, or hiring a marketing automation consultant). Will you save more than you’ve spent? I feel increased revenue is where the real benefits are. But let’s first take a look at efficiency and cost savings.

Marketing Automation & Efficiency

Especially large organizations often talk about efficiency increases as a result of marketing automation. Efficiency in itself is nice, but it’s hard to quantify: will it increase the quality of the work? How does quality impact the bottom line? Is productivity improved? Are there costs savings? Please explain to me the real and measurable benefit of efficiency gains.

Marketing Automation & Cost Savings

Cost savings may be the main result of efficiency gains. However, I don’t think that a marketing automation initiative has ever resulted in significant cost savings. The reason is: the large majority of marketing cost is people, and I have never heard of people being let go because marketing automation software eliminated their job. Maybe spending on lead generation can be better directed, so unprofitable programs can be cut. But in most large organizations there is a budget that needs to be spent: so if you cut on one program, you will spend more on another: more revenue, but no cost savings.

Where Do the Revenue Increases Come From?

That’s a valid question. I suggest three areas:

  1. More cost-effective lead generation
  2. Better conversion rates with lead nurturing
  3. More efficient sales force

Lead Generation: with close loop measurements, you can easily see the effectiveness of each lead generation campaign. One of the best examples is in Marketo’s “Secret Sauce” webinar. You improve your investment-to-pipeline ratio by focusing on the most cost-effective lead generation sources.

Lead Nurturing fixes funnel leakage. If you don’t properly nurture early-stage prospects, they will probably buy from a competitor. If you can increase conversion rates from inquiry to marketing qualified lead to sales-accepted lead, you get more marketing-sourced opportunities.

If sales receives better qualified and better educated leads, they can focus on the most promising opportunities. There are statistics that more sales people make their target if marketing automation does a good job nurturing and qualifying leads (I couldn’t find the source, if you know who published this research, please leave a comment).


So my conclusion is that the only metric that matters for Marketing Automation is increased revenue. I don’t claim that there can’t be any cost savings at all, just that they will be negligible compared to the increased revenue. I realize this is a fairly black-and-white statement, so please let me know what you think.

B2B Marketing University: What Do You Want to Learn About?

B2B Marketing UniversityThere has been quite a bit of change in B2B marketing over the past couple of years. Buyers have moved online, which has had a major impact on the buying process. Prospects now have instant access to much more information, so marketing’s involvement reaches much further down the sales cycle: they need to nurture prospects with relevant content until they are sales-ready. Sales people are still very important, but they can focus on facilitating the buying process rather than distributing information.

In addition to this general trend, a whole array of software tools is now available to help the savvy marketer. 10 years ago, email marketing was in its infancy. 5 years ago was tiny compared to Siebel. And now we have sophisticated marketing automation software that changes how you do marketing.

Continuing Education for B2B Marketers

silverpop logoConsidering these trends, now is a great time to to invest in some continuing education. Doctors do it, so why not B2B marketers? Enter Silverpop. They are organizing a B2B Marketing University this fall, with lots of interesting topics. They visit the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Atlanta and Seattle, with other cities to follow. And just like in medicine, the vendor pays for it all: admission is free for qualified B2B marketers (too bad they don’t have a session in Hawaii).

For more details, see the Silverpop B2B Marketing University website. You can sign up to be notified when registration for the university opens.

LeadSloth will present a session at several of these events. I hope to meet several of my readers in person! Let me know if you’re attending.

Question: What Do You Want to Hear About?

There are lots of new trends that B2B marketers need to know about. Unfortunately, my session will only be 1 hour, so it is impossible to cover everything. What topics do you think B2B Marketers should learn about?

Please leave a comment with your preference, and I will use your input in my session.

7 Reasons Why Marketing Automation Projects Fail

Needless to say, Marketing Automation software is very popular today. It can be used for email campaigns, drip marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, landing page management and for brewing coffee. It is often positioned as something that will solve all your marketing problems for a couple of thousand dollars per month. Okay, I made up the part about brewing coffee.

In reality, Marketing Automation can help you automate existing campaigns, and also create new campaigns that would not be possible without automation. But there are limitations to what Marketing Automation can do, and I’d like to mention 7 possible reasons for project failure. And please share your Marketing Automation “horror” scenarios in the comments below!

prepare for project failure

1. Unclear Prospect Profile(s)

Part of a good lead management process is knowing exactly who are involved in the sale. For best results, the website and nurturing campaigns need to be highly relevant for them. Also, lead scoring only works if you know who you want to target. If possible, create personas for all people involved in the buying process.

2. No Interesting Content

A marketing automation system is great for continuously running campaigns. In complex B2B sales situations you cannot rely on product-centric communications, nor on discounts (“this week 10% off!”). For each persona you need to have relevant content: whitepapers, blog posts, case studies, webinars, and so on. Even more: the content should match the phase in the buying process, from awareness to validation. If you currently don’t have interesting content, and you don’t have capacity to create lots of interesting content, then there is a big chance your project will fail.

3. Not Enough Leads

A Marketing Automation system does not generate inquiries (or “raw leads”). It develops inquiries into sales opportunities. So if you have few raw leads, you should solve that problem first. An exception is when you have a lot of customers, and want to use the Marketing Automation system to cross-sell and up-sell.

4. Sales & Marketing Don’t Get Along

One of the primary goals of Marketing Automation is to deliver better qualified leads to sales. However, if Sales doesn’t believe in the benefits of Marketing Automation, that can kill the project.

5. Lack of Expertise

“Ease-of-use” is big theme in Marketing Automation selection. Several vendors claim to have self-service solutions that does not require IT involvement. The fact that no IT is involved doesn’t mean that you don’t need expertise. Getting the most out of a Marketing Automation system is hard, and if you don’t have people on your staff who’ve done it before, you may want to hire some expertise to avoid failure or unmet expectations.

6. Bad Business Model

A lot of startups and high-growth companies are using Marketing Automation to help them grow faster. However, if growth has stalled because you’re selling the wrong products to the wrong people, Marketing Automation will not help. You will just try harder, and still not sell anything.

7. Selling Simple Products

Marketing Automation is ideal for long sales cycles involving many different people. If you sell low-priced widgets with a very short sales cycle, Marketing Automation won’t help you. You are better served with B2C merchandising tools.

Have You Seen Marketing Automation Failures?

First of all, I think Marketing Automation software has great promise. But I hope we can avoid the same disillusionment phase that CRM went through. So if you have any advice or suggestions, please leave a comment.

What is the ROI of Lead Management?

Earlier this year I downloaded Silverpop’s lead management workbook, and I planned to write about it. Unfortunately, not enough time… Last week I received a copy of Marketo’s Lead Nurturing workbook. Similar books, but each with their unique approach and lots of smart advice.

Both books show how you can increase sales by nurturing all leads, from inquiry to opportunity. Heck, why not nurture customers too? (that is one of the great suggestions in Marketo’s book).

lead management roi

Both books cover lead nurturing and ROI calculations, and Silverpop also explains lead scoring. Silverpop’s book is a little more high-level and written in magazine style, while Marketo’s offers more practical advice on how to set up your nurturing campaigns. Read them both!

By the way: on August 19th Marketo has a webinar about lead nurturing and on August 20th Silverpop has a webinar about lead scoring (hopefully a recording will be available afterwards).

Why Lead Management

Both books do a good job of describing why you need Lead Management. A proper follow-up ensures that leads are nurtured until they are ready to talk to a sales person. And – because of the nurturing – they are much better educated, making the sales person’s job a lot easier. Because you can follow up with 100% of your leads, and because your sales people can be more effective, you will turn more inquiries into sales. See also my post on the MarketingGenius blog for an introduction to Lead Management, and The 4 steps of Lead Management.

Lead Scoring

Silverpop includes a great overview of Lead Scoring. They explain that sales & marketing need to jointly create a definition of a qualified lead. Then you can implement scoring rules to identify those leads, based on implicit and explicit criteria. Marketo has published separate Lead Scoring Guide with similar suggestions. See also my introduction to Lead Scoring.

Lead Management ROI

The word “ROI” is often abused, but not in these workbooks. Marketo provides several worksheets that make it easier for you to calculate your return on lead management. Silverpop presents a 5-step process for proving the ROI. Both vendors suggest to look at conversion metrics between buying stages: from inquiry, via qualified lead and opportunity to a closed deal. This is the best way to get quick indicator of improvements, because waiting for the closed deal can take a while if you have a long sales cycle.

Silverpop suggests starting your ROI calculations with a simple metric, such as the number of leads. Marketo has a great recommendation to identify how many opportunities come from fast-moving leads (say under 30 days old) versus older leads (> 30 days old). If you have few opportunities from older leads, your nurturing should be improved.

I’ve just published a introductory post on Marketing Automation ROI on the MarketingGenius blog.

Some Highlights & Smart Ideas

I don’t want to summarize the entire workbooks in this post, but I’d like to highlight a couple of smart ideas that are mentioned in these whitepapers.

Marketo mentions Accelerator campaigns, in which the prospect can choose to speed up the nurturing campaign. A simple and nice idea. Also, their workbook gives lots of examples of their own nurturing processes (used by Marketo themselves): this makes the recommendations come to life.

One of Silverpop’s lead scoring tips is to decrease the weight of scoring activities over time: older activities are just not as relevant. But how long should you wait? They recommend to take the length of your average sales cycle to start decreasing, and twice the sales cycle to completely omit the activity.

Both papers suggest setting the duration of your nurture campaign to the length of the average sales cycle. By that time the average lead should be sales ready. If not, you can put them on a long-term nurturing program. In principle, leads should not just ‘sit idle’: you either nurture or toss them.

Both papers also look at the buyer roles (e.g. economic buyer, end-user, IT, etc.) and the stages in the buying cycle (e.g. awareness and evaluation). For each stage and role you need to have optimized content. Yes, that means a lot of copywriting!

Oh, and both have hired illustrators to make these whitepaper pretty colorful. Does that make it a not-so-whitepaper? :- )


Big kudos to Marketo and Silverpop for creating these comprehensive workbooks on lead management. Their best practices are useful for any demand generation practitioner, and are not tied to one particular marketing automation system. And even as an experienced marketer I read several new and interesting ideas in both books.

Have you read these books? What do you think: are they good or do you see room for improvement?

B2B Pay Per Click Advertising

Interview with Terry Whalen from CPC Search

terry whalen cpc search To generate demand for your products, it’s not enough to nurture the existing leads in your database. You also need a steady stream of fresh leads coming in. There are many ways to find these new leads: inbound marketing, search advertising, tradeshows, lead programs, etc. They all have their pros and cons, and most companies use a combination of strategies.

I have written a lot about Inbound Marketing (social media and search engine optimization): it’s free, but takes a fair amount of time to set up. Search advertising (pay-per-click) is another popular option: it costs money, but it immediately starts driving people to your site. I recently got in touch with Terry Whalen of CPCSearch, a B2B PPC agency, and he offered to answer some questions: this turned out to be a great B2B Search Marketing primer. If you have additional questions for Terry, please leave a comment below.

Jep: Some of my friends claim that B2B paid search is less interesting than B2C because the average B2B search budgets pale in comparison with B2C. What is your take?

Terry: B2B paid search tends to be more challenging to get right versus B2C – so if you like challenges, B2B paid search can be quite fun. It’s true that measuring true ROI usually takes a longer time and more effort than measuring ROI for B2C campaigns – so, when the ROI data does start to come in, it’s all the more exciting.

Jep: What are some of the key differences in running a B2B paid search campaign vs. a B2C campaign?

Terry: As I mentioned, it typically takes much longer to determine things like lead quality and ROI.  To me, this means that we want to be very careful to be clear on the true value proposition delivered by the client’s products and services when we are crafting ad text. I’m a little less inclined to “think outside the box” when it comes to B2B ad testing. Compare that to a B2C account where you are measuring credit card transactions. Because we’ll get super quick transaction and revenue data on any testing we do, we may feel more inclined to test “crazy” ad ideas that – if they do not work – can be quickly killed.  Same goes for keywords. For B2B keyword and ad testing, we tread with a bit more caution.

Jep: How would you describe the unique benefits of Paid Search in the entire spectrum of options that B2B marketing managers have to promote their products (such as banner ads, list rentals, telemarketing, etc.)?

Terry: Well, the reason paid search has become so big is that ads are matched to user searches.  When paid search works well, solutions (ads) are matched to needs (searches). If you can figure out which keywords are aligned with the user intent you are targeting, then you can have ads appear that are relevant to the user, and relevant to what your company provides.  Above all, paid search is very measurable and controllable. So, advertisers have a lot of wind at their back in terms of testing and iterating to get their campaigns working well for them.

Jep: Is there a typical target group that is easier to reach with PPC? E.g. promoting software to developers vs. selling a value-based proposition to C-level executives?

Terry: I’d say it’s easier to target certain groups for the very simple reason of size. For example, there are many more software and web developers in the world than there are CIO’s of F1000 companies. So, if you are selling into CIO’s of F1000 companies, you will certainly have a tougher time – the population you are targeting is a small population, and the number of daily searches done by this group will be a much smaller number than searches done by software and web developers.

Jep: How do you track opportunities or revenue associated with specific AdWords Campaigns? Do your clients use Salesforce for Google AdWords, Marketing Automation systems or other tools?

Terry: For the most part, clients use Salesforce-for-AdWords, which is a very elegant way to link leads with valuable AdWords data like keyword, search term, campaign, etc. For clients that are using marketing automation platforms like Marketo or Eloqua, there is a bit more integration to do, but the links can still be made to work. At the end of the day, we feel that the most important piece of data is the search query – so, if you can just get a hidden field to capture this data and connect it with a lead, you are ahead of the game. In AdWords, you would just append a parameter to each active ad you are running, e.g. keyword={keyword}.

Jep: Could you see some kind of integration with Marketing Automation systems that would make running a profitable PPC campaign easier?

Terry: Yes, in a very general sense, anything that can increase the value of a lead after it has been acquired – which marketing automation can certainly do – should have the effect of increasing ROI from your paid search activities, thus making it easier to rationalize larger budgets and higher cost-per-lead targets, which can lead to additional keyword and ad testing, higher keyword bids, and more leads.

Jep: Do some of your clients use lead scoring together with PPC advertising? If yes, can you use the lead score to refine the campaigns?

Terry: Yes, some do – and yes, we certainly can and do use that to inform our target cost/lead for various clients. Lead scoring can be a great way to speed up the time required before we know if we’re on the right track with certain keyword groups and ad messaging, without having to wait for the lead to have been closed (won, lost, etc.).

Jep: What are you tips for creating effective landing pages and/or microsites?

Terry: I think it’s important to be clear and transparent about what it is that your company brings to the table, include the lead form on the page, have the cursor already be in the first field (if possible), and include at least a logo that will take users to the home page if there is no other navigation available on the page. If you are getting sparse conversion data, consider using less fields in your lead form. If the sales folks are complaining about poor-quality leads, remember that one way to increase lead quality is to raise the number of mandatory fields in your form. There is no set amount of fields that are best.  We have never found microsites to be a good investment of our time.

Jep: What kind of conversion offers (whitepapers, webinars, trials, etc.) do you find most effective?

Terry: Trials, then webinars, then white papers.

Jep: Terry, thank you very much for this introduction to B2B pay-per-click advertising.

NOTE: if you have questions or remarks, please leave a comment below.

Measure Your ROI on Social Media Leads

On Tuesday announced the Genius URL Shortener (GURL), which makes it easier to measure the results of social media campaigns. At first I thought: “what’s new about that?”, and Marketo wrote a post on an alternative way to create tracking links. But when I read Ardath Albee’s post about the Genius URL Shortener I really got it: GURLs are cool!

Lead Source Measurement Needs Improvement

Tracking where a visitor comes from is not a new technique. I first used it inside AdWords, in which they offered cross-media conversion tracking. You could create a tracking URL, which you would include in non-AdWords advertisements, email blasts, and so on. This allowed you to see how many people registered (= converted) for each source.

After that, Google Analytics provided similar tracking features by appending variables to the existing URL (see the Google URL Builder tool). There are two big limitations for using this in B2B marketing:

  • You can only see conversions, not opportunities or revenue (because that information is in the CRM system)
  • You can’t see data on individual users

Marketing Automation to Measure End-to-End ROI

The Google tracking is from before Twitter, so the URLs were long and ugly. Twitter made the URL shorteners popular, like tinyURL and So in my opinion Genius now provides similar conversion tracking, with four improvements:

  • It has short and clean URLs
  • The URLs are easy to create, and anyone in the company can create them
  • It provides end-to-end tracking to see associated opportunities and revenue (pulled from
  • It ties into existing identified visitor tracking functionality (so clicks on GURLs and the entire web session are added to the lead record as metadata)

Of course, Social Media is all the rage, but I would also use the Genius URL Shortener for online advertisements, list rentals, and so on. The only place where you wouldn’t need it is in your own email blasts, because those are already tracked automatically.

The one feature I would like to add is the ability to associate links to specific campaigns, so you can see which lead sources were most effective for a particular campaign (Marketo’s approach covers this, but is not so easy to use).

So in my opinion this is a very interesting new  tool that is makes it easier to track campaign ROI for Social Media and beyond.

How would you use this lead source tracking tool? Let me know your suggestions.

Disclosure: I am a guest blogger on the MarketingGenius blog