Will Marketing Automation Replace Sales and Marketing Jobs Post-COVID-19?

Posted by Robin Voter on July 22, 2020

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The lesson many sales and marketing organizations are learning is that what’s traditionally worked for them is no longer effective in the time of COVID-19. Businesses are sending 23 percent more emails than they did in the early part of 2020, but getting significantly fewer responses than they got before COVID-19 hit. More than 80 percent of B2B buyers fear a recession. A third of sales and marketing employees are likely to be looking for new jobs when the COVID-19 crisis is over, citing burnout and stress.

Marketing automation represents a potential solution to these issues. In theory, it’s a way to market more efficiently, prove ROI, and retain employees. But how does marketing automation impact the functionality of sales and marketing teams?

The New Normal in Sales

Sales is an industry that’s traditionally relied upon one-on-one communication: an in-person meeting, a trade show, or a dinner between a salesperson and a prospective customer.

All of these options are now potentially off the table. Conferences and industry events will no longer provide a steady stream of leads. B2B buyers are already showing a preference toward digital purchases, with the ability to order digitally twice as important as it was before COVID-19 hit.

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Additionally, sales teams may have difficulty qualifying any leads that do emerge. Sales reps can’t call on potential clients at their places of business as easily. They can’t run into leads at events or even in the local community. The entire sales operation, one that was based largely on in-person conversations, is becoming a digital-first endeavor.

How Marketing Teams Are Changing

Sales isn’t the only unit undergoing changes. The entire marketing operation is looking very different than it did just months ago as marketers must figure out how to keep things going with slashed budgets and resources, and justify their every action through the money they bring in. 

According to the Forrester report, The 2020 COVID-19 Crisis Will Stun US Marketing, the economy isn’t likely to recover until the middle of 2021, and four out of five large advertisers are already delaying or canceling ad campaigns. Even if the economy defies expectations and recovers by the end of 2020, an estimated $222 billion will still be lost from marketing budgets in the US.

Marketing teams, particularly those that focus on the top of the funnel, must not only find a way to report on ROI, but they must also demonstrate profitability. For these marketers, it’s time for a new approach — one that yields high-quality leads and proves ROI in a data-driven manner.

The Answer: Marketing Automation

An increasingly integral part of successful sales and marketing operations, marketing automation helps these teams by eliminating menial tasks and improving efficiency. Here’s how we see marketing automation playing a role in the post-COVID-19 climate:

A Streamlined Approach: Marketing Automation Basics

Contrary to what many think about it, marketing automation is the direct opposite of the impersonal, uncaring communication that some associate with the concept. Instead, marketing automation combines real insights with technological innovation, allowing salespeople and marketers to operate at a higher level.

  • Bridging the gap. It’s no secret that sales and marketing can have an adversarial relationship. Marketing automation helps improve relations by giving both sides better information more quickly. 
  • More qualified leads. Businesses that use marketing automation to handle a lot of lead generation at the top of the funnel give their sales teams better qualified leads that are more likely to convert to sales.
  • Closed-loop reporting. The insights of the marketing team will be validated by the sales team as they close deals. The results of those interactions will go straight back to the marketing team so that they can refine their approach.

A Voice for Each Customer: How Marketing Automation Works

Marketing automation isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. It’s a tool that relies on constant refinement and a steady flow of information. The quality of the data you collect about your customers will make or break how marketing automation impacts your organization.

  • Incorporation of data. Automation is governed directly by the interactions your company has with each of your consumers. The results of those interactions determine the approach you’ll take.
  • Personalization. Email blasts are a thing of the past. You’ll be able to send a unique message to each customer based on their recent activity and where they’re at on the buyer’s journey.
  • Increased chance of closing. This data-driven approach moves qualified leads down the funnel, providing the right messaging at the right time to warm them up for the sale.

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Technology and Training: Sales Implications of Marketing Automation

Any sales team can benefit from the improved quality of leads. But what does the implementation of marketing automation mean for sales employees within your organization?

  • Invest in technology. The numbers show that sales figures are already starting to improve post-COVID-19. Take this time to build new processes and develop a new way of doing things — the things you couldn’t do before because you didn’t have time.
  • Focus on closed-loop reporting. Sales and marketing can only work together successfully if they’re on the same page. Ensure that both sales and marketing maintain two-way communication through closed-loop reporting.
  • Train, train, train. If your sales staff isn’t tech-savvy, now is the time to get them up to speed. Encourage your sales team to embrace technology and how it can eliminate barriers to closing deals.

Personalization and Education: Marketing Implications of Marketing Automation

Transitioning to a more data-driven mentality may be a tough sell for a marketing department set in its ways. Showing the team how the data feeds into action is essential to increase buy-in.

  • Go inbound. An inbound marketing approach will naturally encourage interested consumers to consider your business, without aggressive tactics and wasteful spending. Inbound marketing creates an educated consumer who knows what they’re buying and what their purchases mean to them.
  • Consider the individual.Even the most robust buyer personas will have room for variances among customers. Let data be your guide as you create personalized strategies that appeal directly to individual customers.
  • Invest in content. You’ll never know how many people see a billboard or hear a radio spot. But you can easily find out how many people viewed your online content, what led them to that content, and what they did immediately afterward. Tying content to consumer behavior is the key to marketing automation.

So, Will Marketing Automation Replace Jobs?

In spite of slashed marketing budgets, spend on marketing automation is actually expected to increase as the pandemic wages on. Does the incorporation of marketing automation in the aftermath of COVID-19 mean the end of sales and marketing jobs as we know them? Not exactly. Even in automation, there’s a need for human intervention.

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However, sales and marketing teams should know that their workflow is likely to change, and the skill sets for their positions might also change. It’s a good time for everyone in the industry to look inward and consider their willingness and capacity to learn new skills, particularly as they relate to technology.

Sales and marketing organizations should look at the digital landscape that exists currently and consider the new normal, basing their decisions on how to succeed in the world as it is now. And the best way to succeed is through a data-driven approach that relies heavily on marketing automation to provide qualified leads and the data necessary for seamless personalization.

Download our white paper on how consumer changes during COVID-19 will dictate marketing and sales planning.

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Topics: marketing automation, marketing and sales, adapt & adjust

Robin Voter

Written by Robin Voter

Robin Voter strategically develops martech campaigns into revenue-growing assets for B2B and considered purchase clients. Her background includes marketing automation, content strategy, project management, SEO, PPC, and PR. Robin combines her tactical know-how with strategic vision and leadership as Icon's Director of Strategy & Analytics.