Automation Without Intelligence is Just Not Smart

Ben Bradley
Ben Bradley

Director of Strategic Accounts - Client Consulting

intelligent automation
Intelligent automation image via Shutterstock

The numbers are clear. Most marketers (nearly 70% of businesses) are using some type of Automation system. While there are many success metrics supporting the use of these systems (here and here are just a couple examples) this post isn’t about why you need to use an automation tool – it’s about how you can make it better.

The thing that that is missing from most intelligence systems is insight into what happens beyond your brands touch points. Most intelligence systems can tell you what is happening on your site, or with the brand engagements that you load.

However as marketers we need to remember the average short list of a B2B IT buyer consists of 2-3 vendors. We need to remove the mindset that the only relevant research our accounts/contacts have is with our brand.

As a marketer at TechTarget a huge advantage I am exposed to is being able to see hundreds of marketing campaigns across many vendors and technologies solutions. I have built countless account journey slides illustrating brand touch points like the below:

Click to Enlarge

The core theme that is repeated every single time is that an IT buying account will always engage with editorial content and other vendors equally, if not more than, with your brand. It happens to all of us, it’s a natural part of the research process to gather un-biased info, and then compare solutions and vendors.  The proof, when we looked at over 4,000 confirmed IT Buying projects and their content consumption journeys we saw:

  • 70% of their content consumption journey was with Editorial content (Tips, news, eGuides, eZines, etc.) on the TechTarget network
  • 30% of their content consumption journey was with Vendor content on the TechTarget network

Your view into the buyer’s content journey is further reduced when you consider that the average IT buyer looked at content from about 17 vendors, and has a short list of about 2 or 3 vendors. This reduces your part of the 30% vendor content consumption quickly. Intelligence is only truly gained when you get a view into ALL this activity.

Segmentation is the Holy Grail

One of my favorite marketers Avinash Kaushik has written a lot about the value of segmentation.  A sophisticated marketer is going to segment nurture streams to offer different content and experiences based on their user’s/accounts engagements. The key to segmentation is being able to pull in as many data points as possible.

Automation without intelligence

Let’s look at the above account journey example to see how you might nurture a contact from this journey. You could segment by:

  • One of The 11 assets they have engaged with
  • The event data you have (location, contact)
  • The site visits they had (when maybe who if they completed a reg page).

Automation with intelligence

Automation without intelligence has already been proven to drive massive returns, now imagine how much more effective it can be if you have many additional data points to segment by:

  • ALL Contacts at the account that have engaged in relevant research, not just those that download Your content
  • Priority ranking of all accounts based on key signals and research volume
  • Insight into which competing vendors they are downloading content from and the volume of engagement they have with each
  • Size and locations of the buying team, and changes to the team over the last 30,60,90 days
  • Key pain points and the frequency of research on those (IE – data storage management vs. disaster recovery)

What’s even better about this level of intelligence is that it’s pulled across not just your brands 11 downloads, but it based on all 400+ downloads illustrated above.

The nurture stream and lead management process could dramatically change with this example:

  • You could launch a competitive attack campaign based on the knowing that Named Account X has downloaded 25% of their content from Competitor Y
  • You could deliver thought leadership content in the perfect cadence
  • Expand your account reach and influence on an account level with access to net new contacts
  • Adjust nurture streams based the volume and types of content the brand engaged with holistically
  • Use “signals” such as “Late Stage Signal” to identify when account view product spec sheets, demos and other late buy cycle stage content.
  • Deliver content based on specific pain points

All of this is based on the account journey across your content, your competitor’s content, and editorial content so you are given a better view into the buyer’s journey.

Intelligence only works when it’s actionable

Intelligence should be the foundation of your marketing strategy. Today’s marketers need to make sure they have access actionable intelligence. Actionable intelligence is being able to message contacts based on every step every step of their content journey, even those steps that are not with you.

If you want to continue this conversation, please feel free to leave a comment or connect with me on TwitterLinkedIn, or Google+.

Account-Based Marketing, audience segmentation, automation, content, marketing automation, marketing intelligence

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