Alan, the Marketing Director of a 30 year old profitable company, is introducing the company’s first SaaS product. He is spending $3,000 per month on pay per click advertising, and is driving leads to the product page for the website. There is noticeable inquiry volume on the general contact us form, and the phone is ringing. The company has a PR firm that is just starting to socialize the product on LinkedIn and Twitter, using infographics and articles about 80-100% gains in a key metric that are possible with this solution. The new SaaS product is compelling, backed up by real-world case studies that resonate with the pain points of potential customers. Testimonials are great. So far, so good.

But not really.

The contact form people fill out on the landing page is in a silo, requiring Alice in the admin office to forward the leads that get emailed to her. The company’s CRM isn’t connected to the incoming leads, so sales has to pay attention to these leads (many of which are weak), and follow up manually. After a few sales emails or a phone call, if a prospect is interested or wants a demo, they need to be keystroked into the CRM and an opportunity created. There is no automated follow up or reminders in place.

What’s wrong?

Starting with the lowly form capture, every marketing best practice in this enterprise is crippled, because there is no integrated system to automate what is a highly manual (follow up emails and keystroking?), fraught with failure (people forget!), and unscalable process.

And while some automation and lead nurturing will surely help prospects get timely and helpful thought leadership to keep this SaaS product top of their mind during a typically lengthy B2B sales process of 120 days, there is a bigger problem. The critical ability to report on campaign ROI is nonexistent in this organization.

Question: How do you know what source resulted in a closed sale?

You don’t, if the true, original source of a web visitor is not connected to the browser session that ultimately shared contact information so you could follow up personally.

You don’t, if your form capture is a standalone (as in Gravity Form in WordPress), and the inquiring visitor’s IP address is not connected to past and future visits to your site.

You don’t, if the link you posted in that great LinkedIn article doesn’t contain a UTM parameter that is being tracked by your website as part of a campaign (a “trackable” link).

You don’t, if the follow up emails you send to a prospect don’t contain trackable links.

You don’t, if you don’t have a way of recording the cost of a promotion (such as PPC budget for an AdGroup), along with the revenue when there is a sales.

Reporting Hell

If your marketing systems (by that we mean: forms/emails/landing page/lead nurturing/campaign tracking/visitor ID) aren’t integrated, then you know the pain involved in generating reports for management that justify your marketing spend. Those reports rely on aggregate analytic data and manual interpretation. This makes for ambiguous conclusions about media that isn’t measured, email blasts where all you know is open rate and CTR, and website visitor data that is of little value. For instance, what are you going to do with a metric like “3.2 pages per average visit”? Wouldn’t you rather have a metric like “LinkedIn Article X resulted in 220 views of the Saas product landing page, 14 form fills, 4 product demos, and 1 sale for $22,000”?

What’s the fix?

Fortunately, wiring up the critical parts of this company’s marketing process is easy with a modern marketing automation platform (MAP). It can be implemented and configured in a few weeks to provide an organized, scalable platform to begin tracking, measuring and nurturing on any scale.

Here is what your new marketing automation platform requires in a nutshell:

  1. No change to your current website, just embed some javascript (like Google Analytics)
  2. Replace all existing forms with new forms from the MAP form tool. Forms get embedded like a Youtube video; just drop an embed code on the same page that has your current form.
  3. Cancel your email service provider (ESP) and use the one built into the MA platform. The email templates, drag and drop design tools, list management, and tracking will be similar to Mailchimp.
  4. Import your email and contact lists into the MAP as a start
  5. Connect the MAP to your existing CRM (Salesforce, etc.), or use the excellent CRM that is free and tightly integrated in the MAP platform
  6. Build some simple email drip campaigns using workflows in the MAP. This is the beginning of lead nurturing.
  7. Build a landing page for your promotion in the MAP, with a unique form to capture inquiries.
  8. Build your first campaign in the MAP, and generate your first link with a trackable UTM parameter such as  “?utm=linkedin” in the URL.

This is the holy grail of tracking: now you can run a report on that LinkedIn article and report what happened.

Implementing a solution like this costs a few hundred dollars a month in software fees. It requires some strategic and tactical knowledge to implement it, so often an agency or marketing consultant is required to get it started. Sometimes, outside resources are critical to ongoing success, and to connect the MAP to an effective content marketing strategy. Content Marketing is the topic of another blog post.

If you implement a solution like this, at a minimum, you’ll get back (free with no strings attached) 2 days of your life, per quarter, that were spent creating manual reports. And more than likely, you’ll also get a lot more sleep.

Adam Pemberton is head of Digital Marketing at Echo Brand Group.