Marketing Automation Terminology Explained

We’re now more than a decade into implementing marketing automation processes that were originally defined by pioneers including Hubspot, Marketo, and Pardot, and Eloqua. Together these four vendors account for nearly 60% of the total market.  And collectively they have all helped companies implement the current state of B2B demand generation

Today’s B2B Demand Generation Process

Every implementation of a marketing automation process is somewhat unique.  However, every implementation shares the same goals.  Finding more prospects, capturing names of interested prospects, and performing a set of activities that attempts to qualify those prospects into our sales funnel.  When a marketing automation process (ie, Marketo) is used in conjunction with a salesforce automation process (ie, Salesforce), it often resembles the following:

B2B Marketing Automation - Marketing and Sales Funnel

Marketing Campaigns

Marketing campaigns refer to the various online and offline initiatives a demand generation organization uses to target its message to people who might be interested in your products and services.  Today B2B demand gen marketers overwhelmingly use online techniques that may include, display advertising, search marketing, social media advertising, email marketing, paid placements, app stores, and more.  However, many organizations also rely on traditional techniques including TV, radio, and print.  The goal of each campaign is to generate responses, which simply means that someone who views the advertisement takes the desired action.  For online ads that desired action is almost always a “click” to learn more.  Offline ads usually have a call-to-action (CTA) which is commonly a website address.  Think of that last ad you heard on the radio that ended with “Shop today and get 10% off at bonobos.com.”  Importantly, the goal of both online and offline ads are to drive net new people to your website.

Website Visitors

Your website is where the magic happens.  It’s your most important marketing asset because it explains to people who you are, what you sell, why you’re different, and it is accessible around the clock, from anywhere in the world.  Most marketing websites are rich with media, product information, pricing, marketing collateral, and content.  Net new people who come to your website are commonly called “visitors” because you don’t yet know exactly who they are.  But you do know the following information about every website visitor:

First, you know the IP address of the website visitor, so you know where in the world they are visiting from.  You can also use online services like clearbit.com that helps you turn an IP address into a company name

Second, you know the marketing campaign they responded to.  So you know the website they were on before they came to your site (ie, google, facebook, appexchange, etc) and as a result you know the specific ad that got them to click.  For example, in a search marketing campaign you not only know they came from google but you know which ad they saw in google and which keywords triggered that ad.

Third, you know which page on your website they first landed on, commonly called the “landing page.”  A landing page can be your homepage, a specific product or pricing page, or even a page specifically created for a campaign

Finally, you know what that visitor is doing while they are on your site.  Similar to when you walk into a physical store and the store owner can see you, website visitors leave a trail of clicks, content downloads, and mouse moves that help clue you into what that visitor was interested in while they were on your site.  Products like qualified.com will even visualize this for you in real-time so you can see it.

Website Offers

As a demand generation marketer, website visitors are not the end goal.  And while you do know a good deal of information about your website visitors, there is a critical piece of information that is still missing.  The person’s name, and some mechanism to connect with them in the future.  This usually means a name and an email address, or a name and a phone number.  But your website just can’t just have a big form that says “please give me your name and your email address.”  Rather, you need to offer a website visitor something in exchange for their name and contact information.  Common website offers include:

  • Talk to a sales rep
  • Chat with a product expert
  • Download a piece of paper
  • Request custom pricing
  • Watch a video or product demo
  • Start a free trial

Traditionally, the the offer looked like a form.   After filling out the form then the website visitor was allowed to proceed to the value being offered.  As a result of the form being in front of the offer, these forms are also commonly called “gates” because the website visitor is blocked from accessing the valuable offer unless they gave you their contact info.

Today, you can also capture the visitors contact information by having an automated conversation with them using a chat bot.  A chat bot gathers the same information as you would gather in a form, but the way the chat bot gathers the information is conversational in nature.  As a result, chat bots are able to gather contact information from web visitors 26% more effectively than using lead capture forms,

Lead Capture Form and Lead Capture Chat Bot

Leads

When a website visitor gives you their contact information through a form or through a chat bot, that information is called a Lead.  The definition of a Lead varies from company to company, but it is generally a basic set of information about a person who might be interested in buying the products or services you sell.  Most B2B leads contain the following information:

What you know about this person from web analytics or tracking codes:

  • Location of the person (city, state, country)
  • The marketing campaign they responded to
  • The advertisement they saw or clicked on
  • The website they were on before the came to you
  • The landing page where they entered on your site
  • What they browsed on your website

What you about this person based on your lead capture forms or chat bots:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • Company Name
  • Company Size
  • Product/Service Interest

OK great, so you’ve got marketing campaigns set up, driving website visitor traffic, and you have offers on your website that capture Leads.  By this point you probably have these Leads saved into some database like Salesforce or another Marketing Automation system.  The next question is, which of these Leads are qualified?  Meaning, which of these Leads are really interested prospects that are truly interested in buying and which of these Leads are just kicking the tires?

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?  A Marketing Qualified Lead (also known as an MQL) is a Lead that meets your criteria for being qualified.  That means, based on what you know about this person, they look like someone who is ready to buy your products or services.  Here is a simple example to illustrate what might be a qualified lead and an unqualified lead.  

MQL - Marketing Qualified Lead Explained

As you can clearly see, based on the information we know about these 2 leads, Bob Bigbudget seems to be more qualified than Tom Tirekicker.  As a demand gen marketer, we might want to pass Bob’s contact information over to our sales team so they can contact him immediately.  And we probably don’t want to give Tom’s information over to our sales team yet because it would be a giant waste of time.

One goal of demand generation marketers is to find and create more MQLs.  If the marketing team if creating these, they are seen as doing their job successfully because the sales team is flush with inbound demand that is of sufficient quality.

Sales Accepted Leads (SALs)

Here’s where the three-letter-acronyms start to confuse almost everyone, so we’ll go a bit slow here.  In some demand gen organizations, the Marketing Qualified Lead gets passed right over to the sales organization.  In other cases there is a more junior sales team (commonly called “sales development reps" or SDRs) that further qualified the Leads to make sure they are ready buyers.  The goal being that you only want your expert sales reps spending time on business that is likely to close and result in revenue for the company.  When a Marketing Qualified Lead is deemed worthy of consideration for sales, the data is saved into a CRM application like Salesforce and a sales Opportunity is created.  That’s the sign that a sales rep needs to get to work.  

If your company uses Salesforce, when an Opportunity is created by the marketing team it usually is created as a Stage 0 Opportunity, meaning the very very early stages of the sales process.  In fact, it’s so early it doesn’t even get to be called Stage 1.  Stage 0 Opportunities are effectively leads that have been passed from marketing to sales.  The sales team has “accepted” the lead, but has not started working on it yet

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)

Usually there is some healthy tension between marketing teams and sales teams.  And right here is where all the teansion lies.  Because even though the marketing team has run the campaign, collected a response, got a visitor to the website, collected their contact information, and used some qualification rules to vet this person as a sales-ready buyer...not every one of these people is truly a good selling opportunity because no one has really had a meeting with them yet.

Typically this is where a sales representative starts their job, by connecting with the Lead over the phone, email, or an online meeting and asking them some more detailed qualification questions.  And as we all know, you can gather much more information about a potential buyer via an online meeting than you can capture in a form on your website.

When a sales rep completes this added qualification step and they determine that the sales opportunity is real, they will move the Opportunity to Stage 1, and typically at this time take a quick guess at the amount of money that the sale could be worth, and the expected close date.  At this point it is considered Pipeline, and Sales Qualified Leads are often synonymous with Pipeline Created.

Closed Won Opportunities

The B2B selling process can be long and arduous.  Even though it’s possible for many B2B companies to close deals in a few weeks, it’s not uncommon for more significant sales to take many months and involve many meetings, competitive evaluations, detailed product discussions, contract negotiations, and levels of pricing approvals.  Assuming your company uses a CRM app like Salesforce, the selling process is tracked in Stages.  Stage 1 might be the beginning of the process, and Stage 7 might be a deal that has been won and closed (often referred to in Salesforce-speak as a Closed-Won Opportunity).  

A Closed-Won Opportunity means revenue for your company, which is enough to high-five each other and ring the bell.  But what’s even more exciting for B2B demand gen professionals is that the revenue can be tied all the way back through the funnel and you now know which marketing campaign drove this revenue, which ad drove the revenue, what landing page drove the revenue, what page on your website drove the revenue, what conversations with your inside sales team drove the revenue.  

This is the holy grail of modern day B2B marketing, to know exactly which campaigns, which ads, which landing pages, which forms are responsible for creating the money.

Where Conversational Marketing Helps

Conversational Marketing aims to streamline this process by identifying qualified visitors the moment they’re on your site and having a conversation with them instantly.  It effectively turns your website into a meeting place with qualified prospects so you can turn a website visitor into a Sales Opportunity as fast as humanly possible.

Posted on
January 29, 2019
by
Kraig Swensrud

Request a Live Demo

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.