Webinar Recap: Channels and the Future of Marketing Automation

Featuring: David York, Founder of Sureshot and Nate Pruitt, Head of Digital for Zilker Partners

David: I’m really excited to talk about Channels and the Future of Marketing Automation. Today, I’m joined by Nate Pruitt, who I have known for a long time. Over the years, we’ve worked together in a variety of different capacities. Nate is one of the folks that Sureshot often partners with to help customers solve different problems within their martech stacks.

Meet Nate Pruitt

As Head of Digital at Zilker Partners, Nate provides web strategy and inbound marketing services to companies striving to generate revenue via various marketing channels. An advisor and consultant with deep marketing and sales experience, his previous roles include analyst, Marketing Director, Regional Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Vice President of Sales, and Senior Director of Demand Generation. He’s also a board member of several industry-leading companies.

Questions to Think About

  • What channels are you using in your marketing?
    Email, SMS/MMS, Messaging Apps, Chat, Direct Mail, Voice, etc.
  • How well-integrated are the channels you use with your current martech stack?
  • Are you planning to add any new channels in the future?

A Pivotal Meeting

David: Circa 2003, I was working at an HR company in Texas, and I went through the process of buying a marketing automation system for the first time. The interesting part of this story is that the person that sold me that software is today’s guest, Nate Pruitt. As I mentioned earlier, Nate and I have worked together in a variety of capacities for almost two decades. He’s someone who definitely has insights on the future of marketing automation. But before we delve into the future, I think it’s important to take a brief look at the past and how marketing automation has evolved.

My First Marketing Automation System

David: Eloqua was my first marketing automation system purchase, and I bought it because I wanted to consolidate my web analytics and email capabilities. That was the extent of our martech stack back then. We were using an email vendor and we had web analytics, and Eloqua gave us the ability to combine those two things. Of course, we did have forms on our website, and we fed those into Eloqua, too, but the primary use case I was trying to solve for when it came to marketing automation was combining email and web analytics.

The History of Marketing Automation

Before we delve into automation and channels, it is important to know the history of marketing automation, which is now a little over 20 years old.

Key Dates in the History of Marketing Automation

1999 — Eloqua founded

2006 — Marketo, Pardot, Hubspot founded

Key Features of Early Marketing Automation Platforms

  • Basic database
  • Email
  • Forms
  • Landing Pages
  • Website Tracking
  • Drip Campaigns
  • CRM Integration
  • Lead Scoring (added later)

Assumptions: All marketing activity flows into and through the marketing automation platform (MAP)

David: In the beginning of marketing automation, there was a basic database to hold your contacts. Marketers were moving from using Excel to using a simple database on the back end of the marketing automation tool. It managed email, forms and landing pages, which were in a fairly simplistic state, and it did some basic website tracking. Later, other features were added, like Dripper, nurture campaigns that were integrated into the CRM and lead scoring.

The Hub and Spoke Model

David: At that time, the marketing automation platform used a hub and spoke model, in which the marketing automation system was the hub, and all other pieces of your marketing tech stack were the spokes. Data was expected to move through that system in order for all things to work as they were intended and be used by the marketing automation platform. Many of you may be at different points in your journey on the marketing automation side, and may have adopted your system in a different time, but this is important to know when we consider where all of the technology and solutions, and we as marketers and marketing operators are going.

The Shopping Mall Marketing Automation Platform Model

David: An analyst firm called Real Story Group, which I recommend you follow, developed the current theory of the Shopping Mall Marketing Automation Platform Model. In this scenario, martech stacks look more like a shopping mall map with multiple anchor platforms and tools, of which marketing automation is one. Other anchor tools may include the CRM [Customer Relationship Management system], CDP [Customer Data Platform], data warehouse, ABM tools, etc. In addition to the anchors, there are a bunch of other tools working in conjunction with the anchor platforms.

When Martech Is Decentralized

David: This model is much more distributed, and kind of disparate, when it comes to data and the way that the technologies are integrated. In fact, some of these component parts may not ever interact with your marketing automation system. While working with customers day-in and day-out, we have continuously seen the fragmentation of capabilities in areas where marketing automation was solely relied upon in previous years.

Lead Scoring’s Impact on Martech Decentralization

One of the best examples of the decentralization of marketing technology was the rise of lead scoring a few years ago, which was a precursor to ABM and predictive lead scoring. Most of the marketing automation tools have some form of lead scoring built into their platforms, but the predictive element of lead scoring and specialization of lead scoring by separate vendors is a good example of how something that was once a core function of the marketing automation platform became very decentralized. Moreover, it happened quite rapidly once a lot of those technologies came to the market.

Old Paradigm vs. New Paradigm

In the old marketing automation paradigm, everything centered around email marketing. It was the one channel that marketing automation was responsible for, and it still is. However, in the new paradigm, we marketers are using a lot more channels. And according to our poll, everyone’s expecting to add one to two more channels within the next 12 months. Most of the channels B2B marketers are adding now didn’t previously exist in the old paradigm. However, they are essential now, and the desire and need for us as marketers to automate them in order to enhance the customer journey is only going to continue to rapidly increase. It’s not that we weren’t doing direct mail before, but it was entirely separate from our other campaigns. It was a fragmented approach. The idea now is to create a holistic customer journey and improve the customer experience. There’s an expectation from customers that we have a handle on this, and therefore we need to be able to connect and integrate and automate all these different elements into the new paradigm.

Old Channels Paradigm

  • Email Marketing

New Channels Paradigm

  • Email
  • Display/Retargeting
  • SMS/Messaging Apps/Push
  • Chat
  • Direct Mail
  • Social

“Not that these channels didn’t previously exist, but the desire and need to automate them as part of the entire customer journey has increased.” ~ David York

Welcome Nate Pruitt

Nate: David, I appreciate you inviting me to talk about channels. As David mentioned, we’ve known each other for quite some time. A quick background on me: I’m Head of Digital for Zilker Partners. We’re an Austin-based firm that provides both placement and digital services. Companies come to us because they have work that needs to get done and we help resource it. We do full-time hires and part-time contractors, as well as fully outsourced digital services, which is the side that I run.

A Witness to the Dawn of Marketing Automation

As David mentioned, regarding the history of marketing automation, I’ve been there since the beginning. I was an early employee at Eloqua, and was fortunate enough to meet David and get him hooked on Eloqua and the marketing automation space. What I would like to do now is talk about the expansion of channels, and how I work with clients on strategy and help them solve problems in their marketing stack so they can get to their buyers in a more effective manner.

As Marketers, We Know…

  1. Marketing is hard.
  2. Everyone around you is a marketer and thinks it’s easy. Just spend more money on paid and we’ll have more leads!
  3. When sales are down, it’s marketing’s fault. When sales are up, it’s because sales did everything right. 😊
  4. Some days it’s hard to know what you should be working on in order to increase leads and revenue.
  5. One-off campaigns rarely work over the long haul.
  6. Marketing is hard!

Nate: I think everybody can agree that marketing is hard, but unfortunately everybody around us, especially specific companies I’ve been at in the past, think it’s easy. I think we can all relate. When sales are down, it’s because leads are down, so it’s marketing fault. When sales are up, it’s because sales did everything right. One of the things I hear from clients and people I talk to is it’s really hard to understand what to do on a particular day, as in what should you be working on in order to increase leads and revenues? Those are things that I push our clients to really fundamentally understand through data. I want them to be able to have a plan every day that allows them to say, “I’m going to work on this today in order to be able to move the needle.”

One-Off Campaigns Don’t Produce Results

Nate: Marketers used to think of the world in terms of campaigns, but in my opinion, one-off campaigns don’t work over the long haul. They may work to accelerate leads in a particular seasonal activity, but in terms of actually having a consistent flow of qualified leads and revenue, they don’t work.

Marketing Is Hard

Nate: We all know marketing is hard. There are a lot of moving parts, and although the martech stack and marketing technology have boomed over the last 15 years, there’s so much overlap. In many cases, it’s hard to understand what you should be using and what you shouldn’t. Before you think about exploring other channels, you have to get what I call the foundation of your marketing house in place—for your marketing to really be effective.

Understanding Your Data and Knowing Your Total Addressable Market

Nate: Your total adjustable market (TAM) and data are two things that from day one, when I work with clients and customers, we talk about. It’s important to understand and think about your data and what your total addressable market is. You need to know:

  • What percent of your TAM are you reaching today?
  • How many companies could you potentially reach?
  • How do you identify “net new” companies and contacts to build out your TAM over time?
  • Are you continuously cleaning, updating and sourcing new records from all data sources?

You may have a ton of data in your marketing automation system, in Salesforce, in your CRM—and even a call database, but do you have a good picture of who you’re reaching? One thing I don’t see very often, but something every company should be doing is continuously cleaning, updating and sourcing new records through not just one data source, but all data sources.

Store and Manage Data in the Right Systems

  • Warm data (inbound/opt-in) and cold data (procured from lists, not opt-in) should be managed in different ways
  • Orchestrate a process to move data between systems based on cold >> warn

Nate: I think a lot of us are tempted to go out and license Zoom or a specific vendor, but we really need to think about multiple data sources because they all bring something to the table that’s different. They also bring a lot of overlap. It is critical for marketers to understand, manage and store data in the right systems. If you haven’t really thought about it before, you should. You need to be able to differentiate between what your warm data looks like and what your cold data looks like. You need to know how you are going to orchestrate moving data between your systems based on where a buyer is in their journey.

Split Your World Into Warm and Cold Data

Warm Contacts Are Typically Stored in Your MAP

  • Email marketing, retargeting, SMS, Direct Mail, Chat, and all viable channels
  • The ability to orchestrate a customer journey via warm contacts is relatively straightforward, but requires smart data management and integration with sales

Cold Contacts Should Be Stored in Your Cold Outreach Platform (Salesloft, Outreach, Appollo.io, etc.)

  • You must treat cold contacts differently. Keep them separate and communicate directly with caution, i.e. Cold 1:1 email, Email Retargeting, Direct Mail, and other viable channels. SMS is not an example.
  • Building out a prospect to MQL process requires orchestration between multiple systems, not just point-to-point dumb integrations.

Nate: Everybody understands the concept of inbound and outbound, which has been around for a long time. In the early days of Eloqua, marketing automation was all about sending outbound emails and nurture emails, and then tying web analytics, chat and email together. You wanted to know that your customer received the email, opened the email, came to the website and did specific things that would then prompt an outbound phone call. That was cutting edge back in the late ‘90s and something that we pushed ahead of HubSpot, Marketo and others. It was also an enlightening experience for marketers to see that data. But it was mostly warm data, as in these people came by your booth, and opted-in.

Organizing Warm and Cold Data

Nate: Warm contacts are typically stored in the marketing automation platform. They can be in different data sources, but they are typically stored in the MAP. From email marketing, retargeting and SMS, to direct mail, chat, and beyond—all of those channels are pretty readily accessible and straightforward. However, it requires real thought around data management, customer journey orchestration and integration with sales.

The Mistake of Mixing Warm and Cold Data

Nate: An area where a lot of people make a mistake is storing warm and cold data together. If you source data, or let sales reps download a bunch of data from a third party, and then pump all that data into Salesforce, you’re going to create real problems for yourself. As a marketer, I cringe when companies put warm and cold data together. Salesloft, Outreach and Apollo are cold outreach platforms, and I encourage our customers to use them to source data, fill out their TAM, and do what I call a proper outreach to cold contacts using other channels.

It’s important to keep cold data separate from warm because you have to communicate with them with caution. One-to-one emails, email retargeting and direct mail are all viable channels for cold outreach, but channels like SMS are not something you should use for cold outreach. It violates lots of policies. On that note, I don’t recommend mass emails for cold outreach either. If you pump all this raw data into Marketo, HubSpot or Eloqua and send out mass emails, you’re going to get a lot of bounce data and your accounts will get suspended. I’ve seen that happen several times.

Moving Prospects Down the Pipeline

Nate: I encourage people to think about their process for taking good prospects through the MQL process and ultimately to a closed deal. To do it well, requires real orchestration between multiple systems. It’s important to note that point-to-point dumb integrations don’t work any longer. Although most martech tools provide some sort of point-to-point integration, these types of integrations don’t have the ability to orchestrate a process that says, “I want to do this with this system, and I want it to happen at this time, and trigger these actions.” That type of integration is known as an intelligent or smart integration, and it’s what we as marketers must use if we are going to successfully perform cold outreach in a cautious way without violating any rules or causing issues with our marketing automation systems.

David: I think that’s a good point, Nate. I was on the phone with a customer yesterday, and they were talking about their lead management process and how much of a struggle it is with their current system. Their lead management process is very narrowly defined by their current system. As marketers, we’ve all experienced the evolution of lead management processes, which have grown much more complex over time. Oftentimes a point-to-point integration doesn’t have the ability to handle the complexity or challenges that marketers incur now that there are so many other elements, channels, tactics and technologies involved in the process.

Nate: Yeah, I totally agree. This is where the integration between marketing, sales and operations, starts to get really, really hard because you have to define a process that—in a lot of different ways—needs to work for everyone. You want sales to be doing their own outreach. You want marketing to be able to drive some of the outreach. You need to know how that process will flow from a reporting perspective. These are the things you have to think about when you’re planning to add more channels. You also need to consider the tactics you’re using, the quality of your data, and how you are leveraging your cold data versus your warm data.

Surround Your Buyers

Leverage ALL Channels to Surround Your Buyers

  • Inbound and outbound tactics
  • Rising tide lifts all boats

Work Your Data Continuously

  • Don’t bulk buy data
  • Cleanse at the point of outreach
  • Fill in whitespace across your warm data
  • Expanding your data expands your reach through all channels

Nate: As it pertains to channels, the old adage of seven touches in order to connect with a customer has been around for decades and it still applies. I believe in leveraging all channels to surround your buyers. What’s great for marketers, especially in the last 15 years, is that it has become a lot easier to surround buyers. We use the fancy term, ABM now, but we used to just call it segments and marketing. I pick a list of people that have these titles from these industries, and then I surround them. If you’re running paid search, you know it’s going to do okay. But if you have a really strong organic presence, as in you’ve got email campaigns, display, content syndication and ABM, your paid search is going to work better. If you are looking to expand your channels, it is going to have a massive impact on the channels you already are running.

Work Your Data Like a Circus Pony

Nate: Make it a priority to continuously work your data. Don’t buy bulk data! When marketers buy a list, sit on it for six months, use it multiple times, and go back and source more data, that is a recipe for disaster. For optimum results you want to cleanse your data at the point of outreach, especially when it comes to cold email. For example, if you source a list that’s a month old, statistics show that within that month, 10 to 15 percent of that data has changed. People leave jobs and move on, and those emails are not going to be deliverable. This in turn impacts your campaign performance. The moment you put that contact into motion is when you want to cleanse your data and check for deliverability.

Fill in the Blanks on Warm Data

When you fill in the white spaces across your warm data, you’re continuously expanding your data sets. Whether you add net new contacts or a mobile number update, the more you do it the more you increase the reach for your campaigns. For example, let’s say you want to enable SMS on your warm database. You’ve been doing email, so you go through and do a batch update with a source or two to fill in mobile numbers. You’re going to get a hit rate of about 40 percent if it’s a really strong data set. Now imagine if over the next two to three months, you continuously add a dozen, or two-three-or-four-dozen more SMS mobile numbers. Now every time you do a campaign, you’re getting more reach and starting to fill out your TAM.

Customer Use Case – B2B

Stack: Marketo, Salesforce.com, Salesloft, Drift

Marketo — Warm Contacts (Inbound)

  • Email marketing, SMS, Email Retargeting, Display, Smart Chat, etc.

Salesloft — Cold Contacts (outbound)

  • TAM data sourcing continuously; white space within Marketo/SFDC
  • Orchestrated data cleansing, appending, deliverability at point of entry
  • Automated cold outreach on behalf of MDRs
  • Positive responses get pushed to Salesforce.com and become warm
  • Email retargeting (Display) surrounding cold data, voicemail drops

Customer Challenge: Inbound Focused

We had a client that was only focused on inbound. They had a strong organic presence, had implemented paid search and retargeting, and had been working their warm contacts. They were using Salesloft to work their warm data, and this gave their sales reps the ability to put people into cadences, but that wasn’t a beneficial activity since the contacts were already warm. Marketing could easily take some of the heavy lifting with automated campaigns. They were using Marketo for traditional channels like email marketing, SMS, email retargeting, display, and smart chat; and they were engaged in personalization, which always leads to better results.

The Opportunity: Cold Outreach

We helped them make the transition of turning Salesloft into their cold database, so that there was a clear separation of warm and cold data. Next, we identified their TAM. They sell in specific states to a certain type and size of businesses, so we did some data work and went after the white spaces. They had 10,000 company contacts between Marketo and Salesforce, and Marketo and Salesforce didn’t have the same number of companies, so we did some work to make sure that there was parity happening there. We also had to rip out some of the cold data that they had previously pumped into Salesforce and make sure that it wasn’t continuing to go into Marketo again. You don’t want cold data going directly into Marketo, because that’s where it’s going to run into major issues. Next, we orchestrated a data cleansing, appending and deliverability process for their cold data. We determined the number of contacts that flow into Salesloft by the minute—which is not something Salesloft handles straight out of the box.

Making the Leap from Cold to Warm With Ease

This was all driven by marketing. We automated cold outreach for a dozen sales reps, and then implemented a well-defined process for when people respond positively. If somebody says, “Yes I’m interested in chatting,” or, “Yes, please schedule a call for me,” or, “Yes, please follow up with me in two months,” that one change of status in Salesloft causes the contact to get pushed over to Salesforce, where it becomes a warm contact. They’ve given you permission to communicate with them, and now sales can follow up and work that opportunity, and marketing can send them thought-leadership content to nurture that lead. Best of all, it’s done via a warm database without any issues.

Enabling Channels for Cold Data

As marketers, we’ve been relatively limited over the years with adding channels for cold data because it was a very manual process. Now, it’s relatively easy to do things like email retargeting, where you can take cold data, and leverage your investment by surrounding 30- to 40 percent of those folks with targeted display ads across the web. You can even enable things like voicemail drops as an add-in. You could also do direct mail, but specifically for this client, we did voice.

The Results

We had really great results with our strategy that included more than 20 new opportunities that generated over a half a million dollars in revenue, using cold email. It was a game-changing process for our client, and this is something that they’re scaling up for multiple states

Key Takeaways

Nate: In short, make sure you work your data continuously, orchestrate its journey throughout your systems, and then leverage as many channels as you can in a smart way.

David: There are three things that kind of jump out at me when I start thinking about channel activation:

  1. If you don’t account for the technical impacts of a channel, even if you have a strong strategy, you’re going to struggle because there are a lot of layers to activating different channels.
  2. Running a pilot of a non-integrated channel is fine, but trying to scale channels in a silo will become untenable.
  3. Failing to integrate your customer journey when you have multiple channels forces you to spend your time keeping the wheels on the car, when you should be trying to get more value or a higher response rate or higher conversion rates out of your campaigns.

About David York, Founder & CEO of Sureshot

David is trusted by technology and business leaders alike, for his unique ability to bridge the two disciplines and empower teams in both camps to work well together. An early adopter of marketing automation, David previously worked as a Senior Marketing Solutions Consultant for Eloqua, a role that gave him a front-row seat to the evolution and exponential growth of the martech industry. Gifted in resolving complex technical issues, and developing apps that allow novices to use tech like a pro, David served as a highly sought-after consultant for several years before forming Sure Shot Media in 2010, a martech consulting company. David joined forces with fellow martech experts, Connexio Labs in 2015 to form Sureshot Labs. To date, the company has already made waves in the martech sphere by developing a connector framework that restores simplicity and efficiency to integrations.

About Sureshot

At Sureshot, we help marketers orchestrate their revenue engine through a combination of software, integrations and services. Leading companies trust our solutions to help them navigate the increasing complexities of their marketing technology stacks. We enhance the revenue orchestration capabilities of B2B marketers by providing data, messaging and customer journey solutions that restore simplicity and functionality to complex processes.