13 Jan 2012 1:22 PM Most Marketers realize the importance of utilizing a CRM system to improve sales and marketing effectiveness. Effectively managing relationships on a 1:1 basis is the lifeblood of your business. The emergence of the internet, and in particular, the use of Search Engines has changed marketing and sales forever. Today, 93% of B2B buyers use search to begin the buying process (iMEDIA CONNECTION). More than 55% of IT professionals "use social media to make better decisions based on insights from like-minded professionals." (Toolbox.com) and 9 out of 10 buyers say that when they're ready to buy, they'll find you (DemandGen Report). What this means is that sales people are no longer the primary interaction point for your potential customers, it's your digital marketing engine. While this represents some challenges in terms of marketing, it also represents great opportunity, thanks to technology. What is Marketing Automation? Marketing Automation has a focus on lead generation with targeted marketing programs to drive awareness and interest in a company's products and/or services and nurture leads from first interest through to sale. Commonly used in business-to-business (B2B), business-to-government (B2G), or longer sales cycle business-to-consumer (B2C) sales cycles, Marketing Automation involves multiple areas of marketing and is a combination of email marketing technology and a structured sales process as defined by a CRM system. Why Marketing Automation? Each time a potential customer communicates with your organization, that encounter contributes to their opinion and perception of your product and services and helps steer them toward their decision of whether to buy from you. There is great advantage is being able to remember every encounter; even those that happen digitally on your website. It means that with the right implementation and use, you can maintain a complex relationship over a series of encounters, over any period of time via trade shows, direct mail, webinars, phone calls, emails, and social media. A word of caution Marketing Automation is not for everyone. It is an advanced marketing tool that generally requires a large shift in thinking for any company that isn't already very marketing-centric. Before considering an implementation there are a few core things you will require: A CRM System that you already use across sales and marketing. A deep knowledge of your customers and prospects and they buy. A clear definition of "what is a lead" that both marketing and sales agree on. A content strategy: Marketing Automation requires lots of content (emails, offers, videos, web landing pages etc.). A dedicated (preferably full-time and experienced) marketing manager.