There’s an old saying, “Half my advertising dollars are responsible for all my profits. But I have no idea which half.”

In other words, organizations have long flown blind when it comes to their marketing efforts. Questions about which audiences to target with which messages in which channels were largely a matter of the gut feel on the part of marketing executives, managers, and the sales force.

But today analytics combined with marketing automation can answer these questions, allowing you to market more effectively and at less cost.

Choosing Your Audience

Who doesn’t want the highest yield on their marketing dollars? One way to start is by finding your highest value customers and focusing your marketing efforts on expanding your base of highly profitable clientele.

Start by looking at current customers to determine who’s the most profitable. Beware, they may not be who you think. For example, one company’s business was providing service for heating units. They thought that customers coming to them for smaller orders every few months or every quarter were more profitable than ones that came in only once a year. But by analyzing profitability, the company found that it was losing money on these more frequent shoppers because they had higher fixed costs for order entry, billing, collection, and so on. With this better understanding of profitability, the company was able to target its most profitable customers.

Determine the right messages

How can marketing automation and analytics help you determine what messages will resonate most with customers?

Start by talking to the people in house who deal with customers day in and day out, such as marketing and sales. Based on these conversations, come up with a theory about the types of challenges your target customers face, what their buying cycle looks like, and what information they need at each phase of the buying cycle.

Next, develop a lead-nurture campaign based on your hypothesis about what content will appeal to the buyer at each stage in the buying cycle. Using marketing automation, you can collect data, such as click-through rates and engagement rates, for each piece of content. This data will tell you whether that content really is interesting to your audience or whether it needs to be tweaked.

Because marketing automation solutions progressively profile prospects interactions, you can then track how your audience responds to various pieces of content over time. Use that information to establish a ranking system to identify hotter prospects based on a wide range of behaviors. Continually fine tuning this ranking system allows you to more effectively nurture prospects through the pipeline.

Find the right channels

You can also use the marketing automation platform to analyze the performance of various channels to determine the best ones for your audience. The system can track leads from acquisition through nurture to close. You can see which channels have the most leads, which leads are the highest quality, which have the highest level of engagement, which segment of the target audience clicks on the content, and so on.

For each channel you can see you’ve spent X amount, generated Y leads, X percentage converted, which channels they converted from. This gives you enough data to calculate ROI for each channel. Based on your calculations, you can determine whether you should use more social media, direct mail, telephone, and so on.

Better yet, when you combine analytics with marketing automation, not only can you easily test multiple theories to find out which works best, a marketing automation platform allows you to scale your marketing efforts very quickly once you find the best program—unlike the limited scalability of using sales reps and doing cold calls.

Note: This post was written in collaboration with StratMG, a marketing services firm that specializes in go-to-market strategy and demand generation.

For more information, download our white paper, “Making the Most of MAP.”