One of the big movements in recent years has been the rise of marketing automation technologies such as Marketo, Eloqua, and Pardot (to name but a few). These systems are designed to help marketers move prospects through the sales funnel from initial interest to leads that are sufficiently qualified to pass to the sales team.
The rise in marketing automation technology went very much hand in hand with the advent of content marketing techniques. The idea being that by making useful content, such as white-papers and newsletters, available on their websites via sign-up, marketers could nurture and develop the relationship with the potential buyer and turn them into a sales-ready lead.
Managing large volumes of sign-ups, and working out which were genuine leads, was something that was difficult to manage without supporting technology. Marketing automation allowed marketers to set up drip marketing campaigns where a sequence of emails could be sent over time with the objective of both educating and building a relationship with the prospect.
Lead-scoring functionality allowed the marketer to score prospects and identify ‘hot leads’ by monitoring how they a reacted to content such as website visits and email opens.
Interestingly these sorts of techniques are being applied to the world of direct sales. This perhaps reflects a renewed regard for traditional outbound sales techniques in a world increasingly saturated with content.
Companies such as Toutapp and Outreach.io (and others I’m sure) provide salespeople with capabilities such as:
Email tracking – allowing salespeople to see who is opening, for example, prospecting emails, whether links are being followed, attachments opened, and monitoring subsequent web-site visits – thereby offering potentially critical intelligence about who their best prospects may be.
Template management – allowing companies to build a suite of reusable email templates , which can be reviewed and A/B tested over time to improve response rates.
Run drip campaigns – allowing the sales team to set up an automated sequence of email communications and phone calls, which, again, can be tested and optimised over time to increase effectiveness.
CRM integration – both these packages currently integrate with Salesforce.com, but I imagine we will see integrations with other CRM systems in due course.
These sorts of technologies are very interesting, and I suspect have the power to transform a sales team’s performance, particularly if they’re involved in cold outreach. Though I suspect there are a wealth of other potential use cases.
I think this is likely to be a big growth technology sector in the coming years, and, if you’re running a direct sales operation, well worth exploring, or at least keeping tabs on.