Salesforce update lets you map your B2B lead campaign (literally)

In some ways, B2B marketing has always been far ahead of B2C. Business customers have long been willing to yield more data to the marketers pursuing them, and that’s given B2B marketers a much better idea of how leads are responding to campaigns, and what will actually win them over.

So when it comes to planning campaigns, B2B may well provide a glimpse of what B2C marketing will look like in five to ten years.

The latest B2B planning tool from Salesforce shows just how advanced that planning process has gotten. Pardot, one of the core B2B tools in Salesforce’s product suite, has introduced a tool for mapping out the dozens of complex and nonlinear paths-to-purchase that leads might follow, and tying them into a single, coordinated, “adaptive” campaign.

In an update planned for this fall, Pardot will release a new tool called Engagement Studio, where marketers can design adaptive lead nurturing campaigns, and watch how they’re progressing in real time. The visual planning interface borrows a lot from thought-mapping tools like Mindjet or XMind, with branching trees and chains to mark different decision paths the customer may take.

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An email campaign in Engagement Studio

Each node in the graph marks a decision point, which can be any one of 100 customer behaviours or interactions that Salesforce tracks. In the fairly straightforward email campaign above, the campaign starts with the customer receiving a product email. If they click any of the product links, Engagement Studio activates one of the action chains on the right side of the map, which then executes the next set of actions — tagging the lead with that product in the CRM database, notifying a sales rep, and moving the lead on to the next stage in the campaign.

If the prospect opens the email, but doesn’t click it, they’ll either receive a second follow-up email or ignored as a dead lead.

In addition to building their own maps, marketers have access to a number of standard campaign templates they can tweak for their particular product, or they can save their own templates for future campaigns.

Layering in live reporting

Other B2B marketing automation tools offer similar visual planning interfaces, but Salesforce SVP Adam Blitzer, who founded Pardot in 2007 before it was bought by the marketing automation giant, says there are a few things that make Engagement Studio stand out. The Pardot team had the insight that B2B marketers want to see campaign performance reports broken down at each step of the planned customer journey, in order to quickly see where they’ve succeeded and where they’re going wrong.

Engagement Studio’s reporting tab shows how many leads are triggering each branch of the campaign plan, and how far they’re progressing before being closed or losing interest. It intelligently identifies “hotspots” that could become problems, and suggests potential improvements based on historical campaign data.

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Engagement Studio detects a potential problem

In the example Blitzer showed above, Pardot noticed that a large number of leads which weren’t clicking the followup email, and suggested different content, focused on thought leadership rather than products.

“In this release, we’re working on surfacing up intelligence,” Blitzer said. “For software in general, the direction it should be taking us is not just collecting data, but using that data to make suggestions on how to improve. The system should make me a better marketer, or a better sales rep. That’s where we want to go.”

Getting lead intelligence to the right people

Blitzer said at the current stage in the industry’s transition to automated B2B marketing, most B2B marketers see the value of automation — it helps them be more effective in identifying, nurturing and eventually closing leads, and it allows them to do more with less resources — but there are still a few key barriers to seeing a full return on that investment.

Marketers know how to collect data about leads as they interact with marketing materials, but either the data they collect is too siloed to piece together into a full understanding of the prospect’s journey, or they can’t react quickly enough to those signals to influence the prospect’s decisions.

Engagement Studio is meant to resolve the first problem, by combining all the various actions the customer might take into a single map of their journey. Pardot’s also working on the second one, with another new mobile app, Sales Cloud Engage, that it’s releasing this week.

The Engage app's newsfeed

Engage’s newsfeed

Engage lets a sales rep or marketer track each lead’s interactions in real time, and will send notifications when any lead the rep is following reaches a key influence point. It also provides them with the assets they need to pursue whatever the next step is in the campaign plan. That way the rep can follow along with their lead’s journey and react with the next step in the campaign (whether it’s a call or followup email) whenever it will have the most impact.

“If Engagement Studio is all about driving engagement from the marketer’s seat, this is all about giving sales reps the ability to act on that information,” Blitzer said. “Sales Cloud is for the first time giving the power of marketing to each individual rep.

Blitzer said one of the reasons B2B marketing automation has continued to gain steam is that it drives clear, measurable improvements in productivity, engagement rates and bottom-line sales revenue. According to an internal client survey he cited, companies that have adopted Salesforce’s B2B tools saw 37% increase in campaign effectiveness, 38% in product engagement and 34% increase in sales revenue.

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