B2B Marketing Automation: from contacts to customers

Interview with Giulio Colnaghi, founder @Marketing Automation Italy

Giulio Colnaghi
Founder @Marketing Automation Italia

Marketing Automation makes the processes between marketing and sales more efficient, by identifying the prospects most likely to become customers and sending them personalized messages on a large scale.

In Italy, this is a relatively new approach for B2B, but the market is expected to grow: from 5.10 billion in 2018, 14.15 billion are estimated for 2024, with a CAGR rate of 19.2%. But how do we exploit automation to maintain a relationship with prospects? We asked Giulio Colnaghi, founder of Marketing Automation Italia and author of the book "Strategie e tecniche di Marketing Automation" (Flaccovio Editore).


Q: Hi Giulio! What do you mean by: “in the current state of evolution of the buyer's journey there is even more need for marketing”?

A: The companies that today want to develop their business online need to develop more marketing activities and in a more in-depth way. To simplify, we could say that marketing needs more quantity and more quality. Both are closely linked to the new paradigm of the Internet, that has completely changed the logic and relationships in business.

While in previous years the entire conversion process, or the buyer's journey, used to be made of about 30% of marketing and 70% of sales, today the situation has turned upside down: 80% is marketing and 20% is sales.


The reason for this transformation is the Internet phenomenon, that has inevitably changed the logic of consumption. Relationships are formed online and they have to go through a conversion process; its phases require a greater engagement of the prospects before they decide to talk with a salesperson and evaluate an offer or a commercial proposal.

When I talk about quality, I am referring to two fundamental aspects which are responsible for conversions: communication (and content) and positioning, even if the latter doesn’t fall under Marketing Automation but rather under Digital Marketing:

  • Communication has the primary task of generating conversions (micro and macro ones) so it is important to know the techniques that leverage mental triggers to persuade prospects to take certain actions.
  • Positioning has a lot to do with the business itself. This is not new in marketing, as it was theorized at the end of the 1960s. It has always been a concern for large companies especially, but today it is fundamental for any company (small and medium-sized businesses as well) that means to develop its online business.

The reason is simple. Online competition is very strong, 10, 100, 1000 times more than in the real, offline world, so differentiating and distinguishing yourself is a vital necessity. Not many people talk about competition. Everyone focuses on opportunities, because when you're online, virtually the global market is available to you. But beware, the competition too is global and your first competitor is just 1 click away.

So, watch out when developing your online business strategy: it's not just about moving a business from offline to online, but you should have precise prerogatives to enter the digital market.


Q: You mentioned the engagement of prospects. How can Marketing Automation support follow-up activities?

A: I could say, with a hint of presumption, that in digital there is no follow up without automation. The basic concept of MA is: the right piece of content, to the right person, at the right time. Therefore, thanks to the tracking of the actions of each lead and to automation, MA platforms can perform an extremely effective follow up.

In addition, the statistics show a situation that is in some ways worrying, but which also opens a great opportunity for follow up:

WasteAt this point, what better solution than to plan beforehand follow up activities through automation?

Q: What types of data and prospect information do you consider important to create a marketing automation strategy?

A: The answer may seem trivial, but the data and information necessary to design an effective MA strategy come from the analysis of buyer personas. Where to get all this information? The possibilities are somewhat limitless, because every channel can give you information about your prospects. What’s important is using it to identify your typical customer: their problems, needs, buying motivations, behaviors, habits, demographic data, etc.

All this information, e.g. coming from CRMs, interviews, questionnaires, research, social media and analytics, needs to be aggregated. The purpose is to represent the archetype of your potential customer, and from it, to build your communication and MA strategy.


Q: In a nurturing and follow up program, you suggested to use lead magnet and squeeze page. What are they?

A: They are two fundamental elements of the lead generation phase.

The lead magnet is what attracts your prospects. It presents your solution, your product or service that responds to a specific problem. It is often a free piece of content, which is given in exchange for the contact information of your potential customer.

The golden rule for an effective lead magnet is to create a strongly attractive file, derived from the analysis of the buyer personas.

One of its most important functions is to bring value and start the qualification phase of a prospect. Therefore, you have the responsibility of creating a valuable lead magnet, and not just something to help you snatch the personal information of a user at all costs. Be careful with this, because if you do not respect the user it could turn against you.

The squeeze page, also known as the "name squeezer" page, is designed to generate leads efficiently. It is the landing page where the lead magnet can be found, and it and leverages Robert Cialdini’s principle of reciprocity to significantly increase its effectiveness.

Generally, it has a very simple structure, but also a very rigid one: its goal is to attract the attention of a prospect, generate their curiosity and lead them to fill in a form, that is, to convert. The squeeze page is the gateway to the nurturing phase, the entire automation process starts here.

Q: What do you think is the "conditio sine qua non" for a successful MA strategy?

A: Some aspects of digital marketing are often overlooked, which can reduce the opportunities and effectiveness of conversion-based activities.

Today, in the Italian landscape especially, we still ignore the strength of content marketing and inbound marketing. In other words, the ability to attract prospects or potential customers through content.

The second aspect, closely linked to content, is the use of persuasion techniques, one of the elements most responsible for conversions.

Finally, know micro-conversions and macro-conversions. We tend to focus only on the final objective of a campaign, namely macro-conversion, which is undoubtedly the most important. But it is necessary to point out that it is only generated thanks to a series of small intermediate steps, the micro-conversions, which push a prospect deeper into the conversion funnel.

Micro-conversions include the opening of an e-mail, the click of a link, the download of a resource, the reading of a page, the view of a video. Why are they important? Because if something doesn't work and a prospect stops midway in the buyer's journey, you must recognize them and intervene on them.


Q: Can you briefly explain the steps for a Marketing Automation operational plan?

A: Once the strategy is defined, it must be implement on a platform to move on to the execution phase. There is a tendency to be a bit dispersive in this phase, because you either do not have content ready, or you do not have a clear idea yet.

The consequence is a great waste of time, and sometimes even of motivation, because you end up repeating unnecessarily the same operations all over again. In order to solve this and be efficient, you should follow an organized plan that brings order to all the activities to be implemented.

Here is the plan:

1st STEP - Configuration and connection (onboarding)

- Platform configuration
- Connection with the website and blog
- Connection with social channels
- Integration with CRM
- Integration with third-party applications

2nd STEP - Importing

- Importing graphic templates from e-mails and landing pages
- Importing assets

3rd STEP - Building

- Creation of lists (segments)
- Creation of a form
- Creation of a landing page
- Creation of the email
- Managing content for Marketing Automation
- Setting the Scoring
- Configuring the phases
- Building a campaign: the workflow
- Reporting