Why do B2G businesses need to make marketing automation a top priority in 2018?
Key Facts about marketing automation:
- Gartner predicted that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with businesses and government without interacting with a human.
- Aberdeen Group Inc. claims that companies with the strongest omni-channel (using multiple models and communication channels to reach customers and ensure a positive user experience) customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel strategies.
- Accenture found that 87% of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing a consistent experience.
- A Gleanster study from a few years ago indicated that only 14% of small businesses rated themselves as advanced users of marketing automation, and 90% of small businesses that had not invested in marketing automation said the primary reason was cost.
- An eMarketer report revealed that 74% of marketers who use data-driven marketing say they have benefited from a competitive advantage in customer engagement and loyalty and 55% say they have increased revenues.
Marketing Automation: What Is It? Why Is It Important For Government Contractors?
Government contractors are well aware of how valuable technology is for managing their pipeline of opportunities, and the contracting process. Most subscribe to systems like Deltek or Onvia to help locate and manage opportunities, and use specialized time, expense, and accounting solutions.
However, as competition has grown stronger over the last few years, more and more government contractors have been turning to marketing automation as a way to maximize internal resources, improve lead qualification, and enhance prospective customer communication to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
And yet, for smaller and some mid-sized businesses, the cost of marketing automation software has been a consistent barrier to implementation.
For larger businesses – the lack of marketing professionals experienced with managing an automation system has resulted in missed opportunities and wasted investments. Too often, expensive systems get put into place, but months and years can pass before their features are fully unleashed and true ROI is learned.
But, what exactly is marketing automation? And why is it important?
In short, marketing automation is a form of CRM or customer relationship management. It is a software tool (typically cloud-based) that allows marketers to better manage their engagement with prospects and customers on communication channels such as: websites, e-mail, social media, online search, and advertising. [Click to read “What Is Marketing Automation,” for a more detailed explanation.]
How Does Marketing Automation Benefit B2G Businesses?
One of the core benefits of marketing automation is to automate communication with prospects and customers. This increases efficiency, and enables a company to engage people with relevant information or information that connects to a user’s behavior.
As we mentioned above in the “Key Facts” section, business and government prospects are looking for more consistency in the information they receive, and timeliness. If they have questions, or need resources, they want to be able to access or receive them without difficulty or delay. This is one reason why marketing automation is on the rise. Automating the responses to basic inquiries speeds up the delivery of information, and reduces the potential for a back experience. It also frees-up your team to focus on more important tasks.
Another core benefit to marketing automation for government contractors is that you are able to collect information every time a prospect or customers interacts with your business. Using anonymous IP tracking or other methods, a marketing automation platform can capture leads even before they submit a form or make a request. Those records can then be added to the CRM, which allows both the automation system and your team to better qualify leads, and communicate with people in a more educated way.
How Does Marketing Automation Work For A Government Contractor?
In the definition of marketing automation, we said that it was a form of customer relationship management or CRM. As a tool, it is designed to start working when lead generation has begun, and provide support throughout the lead generation process to a completed sale, and to continue working throughout the time the customer is active.
This means that the marketing automation software is continuing to collect information about your prospects and customers, so that as time goes on and there are more interactions, you have a progressively more detailed profile of a person and/or their company. This profile gives you insight into their needs, and be enables you to become a continuous solution for meeting those needs.
For a government contractor, this constant data collection can be a tremendous asset towards building a competitive bid for a contract, and when the contract is won, ensure that the relationship is managed well, so you can win a re-compete for the work.
Here is an outline of how marketing automation works as it relates to a normal B2G lead generation process:
B2G lead generation campaigns are created, which can include Webinars, product or service landing pages, emails, white papers, and more. Marketing automation solutions have drag-and-drop, easy to use tools to create landing pages, emails, and other resources. This minimizes the time it could normally take to create valuable assets.
Understanding who is coming to your website and interested in your content is critical. In SharpSpring, for example, using an anonymous IP tracker (VisitorID), you can start to identify prospect before they complete a form. Understanding buyer type, buyer persona, title, and interests, and compiling those into a contact record is something you cannot do without a marketing automation and CRM solution in place.
Through “lead scoring,” “tags,” and other forms of data, a marketing automation platform can help you define the intent of your government agency or business prospect. What pages is a person visiting? What links do they click on in emails? What documents and webinars are they interested in? And what questions do they have? This helps you identify your priorities, and does it in an automated and non-subjective way, so you don’t miss opportunities.
Marketing automation also helps you create B2G campaigns that nurture a prospective customer or business partner closer and closer to a decision. If you see prospects are interested in specific topics or solutions, you can build an automated campaign that includes emails, case studies or white papers, Webinar invitations, and one-on-one consultations. This helps you build a stronger reputation and trust in your ability to meet a customer’s needs.
Contract Proposal Stage
The final step in the B2G lead generation process is sales-ready or contract proposal stage. After gathering all the information you can, and showing a prospect you are capable of answering their questions and meeting their preliminary needs, now you get into the stage of writing a contract proposal to try and win an opportunity.
[Click to read “Why Do You Need Marketing Automation?,” for additional details.]
Concluding Thoughts On How Marketing Automation Benefits Government Contractors
Overall, studies have shown that B2G and B2B marketers who are proactive in using data-driven marketing (a key component of marketing automation) were three times more likely to have increased revenues than those who did not leverage data for their marketing campaigns. For B2B marketers, implementing automation – even at the most basic levels – helped shorten the sales cycle. Though this is not a likely benefit for businesses dealing with a government contract, it can help in securing partners / building teams for bidding on opportunities, as well as in straight B2B sales opportunities.
This leads to a couple of important points about B2G marketing, and the effectiveness of marketing automation, that are essential:
- Cost still remains a barrier for some small to mid-sized government contractors; and
- Lack of internal expertise in marketing automation software can limit the short-term and long-term value of your investment by reducing overall effectiveness.