B2B Marketing Automation: The Ultimate Guide for More Sales

Lena M.
34 min read
01.12.2023 16:59:00

Recurring emails, lead generation, nurturing prospects, and communicating with existing customers - anyone working in B2B marketing has many tasks to manage.

How can these tasks be completed faster and more efficiently? The keyword is marketing automation for B2B companies, which can mean a significant increase in productivity.

But which use cases work best in practice?

What is B2B Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation for B2B companies means prioritizing repetitive tasks and automating them at the same time - so that they no longer have to be completed manually.

Ideally, the theory is: that B2B marketing automation saves your marketing team a lot of work and time, which also reduces costs and makes work more efficient.

Whether it's sending emails, generating leads, sending newsletters, or customer relationship management (CRM) - automation offers many opportunities to relieve a team and make more sales. 

But is this true in practice?

Definition Marketing Automation

Prof. Dr. Uwe Hannig, Scientific Director of the Institute for Sales and Marketing Automation (IFSMA), defines marketing automation as "... the IT-supported execution of recurring marketing tasks with the aim of increasing the efficiency of marketing processes and the effectiveness of marketing decisions". In brief:

Marketing automation is the software-supported automation of processes in marketing and sales and facilitates regular personalized customer contact without manual work for employees in the company.

Marketing automation therefore does not focus on making recurring processes more efficient through automation, but primarily on increasing the effectiveness of the measures and thus boosting efficiency.

Another goal of marketing automation is to accelerate the digital transformation in the company and ensure competitiveness.

The experts also agree that the optimized use of resources can save time and money and that marketing automation will become the new standard in B2B marketing in the future (Gasser & Mäder, 2022).

Most of the participants in the Marketing Automation Report share this opinion, as the figure shows:

pic01Illustration: The future role of marketing automation 

Many companies use the data from newsletter registrations to send their leads personalized emails - without the need for an employee to take manual action each time.

As soon as a website visitor registers for a newsletter, downloads content, or views product pages, lead nurturing ideally follows.

The company then sends personalized emails welcoming the lead and providing them with important information. In this way, the contact already feels cared for and welcome - the first important step has been taken.

However, marketing automation is not yet at the end of its possibilities with emails alone. Playing out dynamic content and connecting to social media channels also play a role.

You can find out how B2B companies in the DACH region are doing in our Marketing Automation Report.

The Components of  Marketing Automation

An effective marketing automation strategy is based on two key components: Lead Management and Content Marketing.

Lead management includes lead generation, lead nurturing, and lead evaluation, while content marketing includes not only the creation and planning of content along the buyer journey but also its intensive distribution and analysis.

B2B marketing automation combines these aspects to deliver the right information to the right users at the right time.

Visualizations such as funnel diagrams or representations of the buyer journey are helpful here.

Account-based marketing (ABM) also plays a role in the B2B context, increasing the influence on the buyer journey and the extended funnel through the integration of accounts and users.


Figure: shows the theoretical framework and the relationship between marketing automation and the components of content marketing, lead management, and account-based marketing. In the following, the areas mentioned are examined in more detail and delineated.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Although account-based marketing has been increasingly searched for as a term in the Google search engine since 2015, there is still no uniform definition of account-based marketing in the literature.

This is also in line with the findings of chain relations, which add that many definitions have changed over time and therefore no universally valid definition exists to this day.

Another indication of this is the different spelling of the term account-based marketing.


Image: Google Trends "Account-based Marketing", Source: (Google Trends, 2022).

However, there are numerous misunderstandings in connection with ABM. The so-called "account" includes all possible contact persons and persons responsible for the target company.

In order for ABM to be used successfully, a large amount of data must be collected before each ABM campaign. This effort is usually worthwhile, as the high degree of individualization of ABM campaigns leads to more opportunities for interaction and therefore more sales.

Advantages of ABM for companies where large customers are particularly relevant:

  • All activities are aimed at potential target customers.
  • Resources are concentrated on target customers who are most likely to generate sales.
  • Marketing and sales activities are closely coordinated.
  • Companies that use ABM move faster and stall less frequently.
  • ABM is part of a larger whole that coordinates all customer-oriented resources.

Account-Based Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing

ABM aims to address precisely those customers who are best suited to a company and its products or services.

In contrast, inbound marketing focuses on potential customers discovering the company online. This involves attracting the attention of potential customers by offering valuable content along the entire buyer journey in order to increase awareness.

Inbound marketing also aims to attract and de-anonymize the target audience through relevant content such as blog articles, tutorials, or whitepapers that follow SEO rules and thus create a suction effect. This increases the conversion rate, lowers the bounce rate, and improves traffic quality.

Customized content not only attracts qualified prospects but also builds long-term relationships and positions the company as an expert.

After a potential customer has exchanged their data for valuable content, so-called lead magnets, the relationship is further nurtured and qualified in the lead management process until the lead is handed over to the sales department to conclude the purchase.

Inbound marketing is particularly suitable for deals with a lower closing volume and fewer decision-makers, while ABM is aimed at more comprehensive accounts.

While inbound marketing focuses on the individual prospect, ABM focuses on the entire account.

The cooperation between marketing and sales also differs: with ABM, both departments work on the customer at the same time, whereas with inbound marketing there is a clear handover to sales. Despite the differences, a combination of both strategies is often recommended.

Account-based Marketing and Marketing Automation

Targeting marketing measures to a specific account can be complex. On the one hand, the tailored content must be provided and personalized for the respective account, on the other hand, the respective content must be provided at the right time along the buyer journey for the respective account.

This is therefore a process for which B2B marketing automation offers an excellent solution.

The combination of marketing automation with account-based marketing offers the opportunity to link inbound and outbound marketing and also to improve efficiency and effectiveness in marketing and sales with the help of software solutions.

The consistent implementation of ABM results in a significantly higher ROI. This is also underlined by research conducted by Marketo (2018, 2019), with 97% of respondents believing that ABM delivers a better ROI than other strategies.

Marketing automation plays an important role in achieving such results, as MA enables companies to optimize customer approaches based on interests and actions.

In contrast to conventional lead generation, the combination of ABM and marketing automation also provides SMEs with a proactive opportunity for lead generation. Marketing automation gives ABM strategies a boost through the use of technology.

ABM is characterized by the highest ROI among B2B marketing strategies and offers benefits such as efficient use of resources, easy coordination between marketing and sales, and clear measurability.

Marketing Automation enhances the personalization of ABM campaigns by mapping data to the appropriate accounts, completing profiles, and automating behavioral predictions and drip campaigns.

In addition, Marketing Automation enables the continuous adaptation and optimization of active ABM campaigns through continuously collected data. Through targeted content and customized interactions, Marketing Automation engages leads earlier, effectively driving them to purchase.

Buyer Journey Management

For a long time, the classic marketing funnel was considered the basis for lead management. However, there is little evidence that it reflects the actual behavior of the buyer persona (acquis, 2022). The classic marketing funnel has two major weaknesses:

  • Lack of customer focus: The classic marketing funnel is geared towards commercializing customers and increasing sales. The funnel model is therefore unable to build a relationship with the customer beyond the purchase and promote trust and loyalty. In addition, the classic marketing funnel does not change perspectives and the customer journey is only viewed from the seller's perspective.
  • Traditional marketing funnels are too linear: Technological progress makes it possible to come into contact with customers at different levels, with different touchpoints of the company. Some of these can be controlled, while others arise by chance and are difficult to predict. The classic marketing funnel is too rigid and ignores the individual phases of the customer journey. Individual needs and the level of knowledge of the individual customer are disregarded.

In this context, the customer journey is defined as " ... the "journey" of a potential customer through various points of contact (so-called touchpoints) with a product or service, a brand or a company, from inspiration and arousal of need through information gathering and search to the final target action".

While the classic marketing funnel therefore aims to convert website visitors into leads and leads into customers, the customer journey in the context of marketing automation therefore represents the entire path of a customer from interest and attention to purchase consideration and conversion.

The lead can therefore enter anywhere in the customer journey, go back, or even re-enter after the purchase.

The various phases of the customer journey are presented below using Hubspot's four-phase model. The phases are supplemented with insights from other customer journey models.

Hubspot divides the customer journey into three different phases:

  1. Phase: ATTRACT In the first phase, the potential customer deals with their problem for the first time and becomes aware of it (Gasser & Mäder, 2022). This phase is often characterized by the potential customer's research activities and targeted company advertising. In the "attraction" phase, the potential customer finds information about their problem and possible solutions with the help of blogs, social media, or offline channels, for example. If this content meets the needs to be satisfied, the potential customer's search for a suitable solution intensifies.
  2. Phase: ENGAGE In the interaction phase, the potential customer's interest in the product grows and information is obtained (Gasser & Mäder, 2022). In this phase, it is important to pick up the customer with the right content at the right time. Marketing and sales should work closely together so as not to overwhelm the customer. The potential customer can gain confidence in the product through personalized content, price comparisons, and testimonials from other customers. Once the customer has made the purchase decision, they want to complete the purchase as quickly as possible. Long waiting times and complicated payment processes should therefore be avoided in this phase. Nevertheless, the customer journey does not end with the purchase of the product. The aim is to transfer the customer to the Delight phase with dynamic content and exclusive offers. 
  3. Phase: DELIGHT Today, customers expect comprehensive service after purchasing the product. Customers must therefore be carefully nurtured and actively involved. This phase ensures that customers are satisfied and continue to be served after their purchase. This turns enthusiastic customers into testimonials that also bring in new customers.

Depending on which phase of the customer journey a lead is in, different marketing measures on the various communication channels come into play.

These touchpoints can be specifically influenced to nudge potential customers in the desired direction. Figure 4 shows the graphical representation of the customer journey.


Figure: Flywheel, source: own illustration, based on (HubSpot, 2022)

By using B2B marketing automation, phase-specific communication, and information needs can be addressed in a tailored manner, which reduces wastage and allows resources to be used sparingly.

As it is many times more expensive and time-consuming to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones, efficient customer relationship management is essential for a company.

Marketing and sales must work closely together to ensure that lead management and customer relationship management (CRM) are efficiently linked. In this way, the leads generated can be qualified and passed on to the right person at the right time.

The five areas of efficiency for optimal interaction between marketing and sales include lead generation, lead scoring and nurturing, sales and CRM, service and customer care as well as cross-selling and up-selling.

It is clear that a purchase is usually the result of a long process. Buyer journey management therefore helps to structure this process and provide potential customers with optimal support during the various phases, ultimately encouraging them to make a purchase.

Buyer Persona

While the customer journey shows the step-by-step accompaniment of potential customers through the purchase decision process, the buyer persona determines which content is to be communicated (Körner, 2021, p. 67).

Buyer personas are fictional characters that represent a target group. The aim is to gain as accurate an insight as possible into the everyday life of the target group to be able to assess the reactions to various marketing and sales measures.

Buyer personas are much more comprehensive than classic customer profiles and contain typical expectations, wishes, obstacles, decision criteria, and characteristics of real target customers.

The buyer persona also plays an important role in account-based marketing. The buyer persona allows companies to perceive customers as individuals and provide them with relevant information at the right time. Furthermore, these profiles can reveal the everyday challenges of the desired customers and also form an important segmentation criterion for leads.

A company can therefore create several buyer personas for the different needs of its customers. The different perspectives support companies in creating relevant content and campaigns and thus form the basis for successful content or inbound marketing. Put simply, the buyer persona is a model that provides typical and relevant information about customers for the content strategy.

The creation of personas is primarily worthwhile for products and services that have a medium to high decision-making process. Buyer personas are therefore directly linked to business success.

The more touchpoints are enriched with relevant content, the more likely it is that the lead will convert. This means that the more detailed the target customer data is and the more is known about the buyer persona, the greater the chances of success.

The developed buyer personas and the customer journey, together with the inbound SEO analyses, form the core of every B2B marketing automation strategy.

Only their interaction enables customized communication in which the right content is played out to the right person at the right time via the right channel. However, as marketing automation is an iterative process, the constant validation and further development of the created profiles, content, and customer journey should not be neglected (Körner, 2017, p. 128).

If possible, all people in the company who are in direct contact with customers and have in-depth customer knowledge should be involved.

Lead Management

Lead management has " ... the task of guiding an interested party through the purchasing process with the aim of turning them into a customer". Lead management therefore encompasses all measures that convert potential customers into actual buyers and is primarily used for services and products that require explanation.

Lead management not only supports marketing and sales with a transparent process but also enables the scoring and rating of leads through the use of metrics.

In addition to the individual and needs-oriented supply of information, which should lead to the closing of a sale, holistic lead management brings further advantages:

  1. Better data quality & coordination between marketing & sales: the data quality of leads can be increased through external data sources, such as forms. By evaluating what content a lead reads and what information they disclose, it is possible to determine how deeply they have already engaged with the topic.
  2. Behavior recognition of potential customers: It becomes clear from the analysis which products and content work well. This allows basic patterns to be derived when a lead interacts with topics (Philipp, 2021, p. 212). Based on this, relevant content can be determined for interested parties and the lead's problem can be identified.
  3. Automate processes: Work steps can be automated through workflows (Krieger, 2021, p. 158). For example, a white paper is sent to a potential customer after they enter their email address on the website. As soon as there is a response to this email, further content can be shared that is further along in the customer journey. In this way, the lead can be continuously guided toward a purchase with customized content (Heinzelbecker, 2021b, p. 146). The degree of interaction with the content provided can be measured using lead scoring (Körner, 2017, p. 130).

Successful lead management consists of three essential building blocks, which are explained in more detail in the following sections:

  • Lead generation
  • Lead nurturing
  • Lead scoring

Lead Generation

Lead generation refers to the acquisition of contacts with potential customers. Interested parties can be converted into leads using forms or by downloading whitepapers and instructions.

This process is also known as "de-anonymization". Lead generation is mainly measured by the number of leads (contacts) collected in a certain period of time.

In this context, a distinction is made between cold acquisition and warm acquisition.

In cold acquisition, no customer relationship exists at the time of the first contact. In contrast, with warm acquisition, a customer relationship already exists, and the customer's needs and wishes are known, but the customer is not yet interested in making a purchase.

Lead generation has various milestones, including

  • Sales generation
  • Production of informative and relevant content
  • Receiving helpful customer feedback through constant exchange

In order to facilitate cooperation between marketing and sales through lead management, the following measures are used in cold calling:

  • Define relevant content for potential customers
  • Offer potential customers added value
  • Determine the online behavior of interested parties
  • Generate contacts (leads)
  • Qualify contacts
  • Optimize response rates

In contrast to cold calling, warm calling offers you a higher chance of success, as leads who have already registered are more likely to be interested in deeper customer loyalty and are therefore more willing to respond to your offer. 

Possible instruments for customer acquisition by means of warm acquisition are:

  • Your own website
  • Social media marketing
  • Referral marketing (affiliate programs)
  • Content marketing (white papers, tutorials, e-books, etc.)

Especially in this day and age of social media, platforms such as Instagram, Twitter or YouTube, where influencers from all over the world present products, offer a great opportunity to build a deeper relationship with your customers. 

Almost one in three Germans has already bought a product on the recommendation of an influencer. If a customer who already knows your company sees new products from you on their favorite social media platform, the potential for them to be interested is high. 

As already mentioned, inbound, outbound, and content marketing play an essential role in attracting qualified prospects. Different marketing measures draw the attention of interested parties to products. 

Which marketing measures are taken depends primarily on the type of leads (contacts). Is it about a mass of leads (e.g. traffic)? Should only certain leads be generated (e.g. sales qualified leads)?

These questions should be clarified before launching lead generation campaigns. Depending on the type of lead in question, the following marketing measures can be taken: 

  • Outdoor: Trade fairs, promotional stands, raffles, or cooperations at events
  • Telephone: Inbound and outbound call center
  • Online: Websites, emails, newsletters, webinars, landing pages, etc.
  • Print: Newspaper advertisements, discount coupons, direct mail with reply letters

However, legal aspects must be taken into account for some types of lead generation. 

Electronic types of lead generation have the advantage that the leads are already available in the form of data records. If leads fill out web forms or register for newsletters, these already contain a certain format of the leads and can be easily saved. 

Lead Nurturing

The leads generated should not be handed over directly to the sales staff, as handing them over too early can often lead to frustration on both sides.

Although the potential customer has already consumed some content, this cannot yet be equated with an intention to buy. This is because the lead is not yet ready for product information at this stage, but is interested in relevant topics relating to problem solving. In the next step, "lead nurturing", the generated leads are therefore further qualified.

In this phase, the lead is provided with relevant content that is considered useful for the respective purchase phase. With the help of lead nurturing, the leads are actively developed in the direction of a consultation.

The content provided should be strongly oriented towards the customer journey of the respective lead. Even if all leads can belong to the same buyer persona, the process is individual for each lead, as the initial situation does not necessarily have to be the same.

Within lead management, the lead nurturing process deals with how leads (potential customers) can be monitored and continuously developed. 

Phase 1: From inquiry to marketing qualified lead (MQL)

  • Lead: The potential customer is initially interested in general information for solving the problem. Through the various marketing measures, the prospective customer has reached a certain scoring value, and the lead is considered mature.
  • Company: In this phase, the lead is managed by the marketing department. The potential customer is informed according to their needs. The aim is to get the lead interested in the topic and the products and services.

Phase 2: From MQL to Sales Accepted Lead (SAL)

  • Lead: Now the potential customer wants to find out how their problem can be solved.
  • Company: Personal contact between the prospective customer and the sales department is important in this phase. According to lead scoring, the relationship has reached a state that qualifies it for transfer to the sales department.

Phase 3: From SAL to Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

  • Lead: Here the potential customer wants details about the products and services that will solve their problem and they are now ready for a concrete offer from a sales representative.
    Company: In phase 3, the potential customer needs to be shown the added value of the company's products and services by sharing these details.

It is important to note that lead nurturing campaigns are usually multi-stage. Although they have a fixed starting point, they have no or only a provisional end point. For example, the entry on a landing page can be seen as the start, and the purchase or handover to sales as the endpoint. However, interested parties can also change the nurturing campaign between the start and end point.

Each step of the lead nurturing process must be clearly defined in advance so that the right content reaches the lead at the right time. In each individual step, you collect information to qualify the prospect. In this context, it is crucial that marketing and sales work together in a goal-oriented manner to continuously develop the lead.

Lead nurturing promotes getting to know each other by providing potential customers with relevant content and, in return, disclosing personal data that the company can use to improve the individual lead profile and the underlying buyer persona.

Nevertheless, the transfer of leads poses particular challenges for B2B companies. There is often a lack of pre- and post-qualification and measuring the follow-up of leads is also problematic.

Although lead nurturing has been proven to have a major influence on the willingness to buy, 65% of respondents in a study by MarketingSherpa (n = 1750) stated that they do not nurture leads. The reasons for this are varied and complex. A lack of resources and inadequate or no internal processes lead to dissatisfaction within the company.

With the help of marketing automation, suitable content can be sent to leads at the right time via the right channel, making the lead nurturing process more efficient. It also increases the chances of the lead being closed, as marketing automation constantly stays in touch with the customer and thus complements the efforts of the sales employee.

In addition to multiple follow-ups, B2B marketing automation supports the lead nurturing process by correctly classifying the lead's signals and evaluating them using lead scoring.

A few essential points must be taken into account in order to meet leads appropriately from the outset and slowly lead them towards a deeper bond. Below we give you 9 tips that you can use to successfully implement lead nurturing.

1. A Well-Thought-Out Lead Nurturing Campaign is the Be-All and End-All

The nurturing campaign should be at the very beginning of lead nurturing because a well-thought-out campaign minimizes the potential effort you will face once you have generated thousands of leads. After a certain point, your company will need considerable human and financial resources to continue generating sufficient leads.

Your lead nurturing campaign can automatically provide all new leads with relevant information and is therefore a great time and effort saver.

2. Support from a Professional Lead Management Software

Leads need to be nurtured at all times - this is possible with the technological support of professional lead management software. Nurturing processes can be automated and content structured. Especially in today's world, where digitalization is constantly evolving, automation is indispensable. The world is becoming faster-paced and benefits from short waiting times and one-click functions.

3. The Individual Nurture Stages Should Build on Each Other

It is important that your nurturing campaign follows a logical thread and does not consist of randomly strung-together stages.

The individual nurture stages should accompany the prospective customer on their customer journey:

  • Which content does the lead receive at which step?
  • Which content interests a lead most at which stage?
  • How many nurture stages are necessary for lead qualification and how is the transfer to sales support carried out?

You should accompany the lead on their journey carefully, but not intrusively. You want to inform them about new content at regular intervals so that they feel a certain level of interest on your part, but without forcing them to take certain actions. 

The intervals between the individual nurture stages should therefore be well thought out. If they are too short, a lead will quickly become annoyed and may feel harassed. However, if the intervals between the individual notifications are too long, a lead can quickly lose sight of your company and no longer feel addressed. 

Reminder emails are a good way to stay on the ball here. They gently point out to leads that they have inadvertently not downloaded the requested content without offending them. 

4. Personalized Information for a Positive Response

Personalization is the key to strengthening the customer relationship with your leads! Prospects want to be addressed personally in reminder emails, alerts, and notifications and receive content that is generally tailored to them.

In this way, they get the impression that your company deals with each customer individually and chooses the most suitable products and services for an individual customer. 

A personal approach and the time at which the reminder reaches the lead are essential aspects of personalization. However, you should not overdo it with personalization and stick to these two key points to be on the safe side.

Too much personalization can lead to skepticism and cuts through the professional distance between the company and the customer, which is always maintained despite close relationships. 

5. Consider Data Protection

Lead nurturing gives your company the opportunity to obtain valuable information and data about leads. This is usually done through a query with data forms or via behavioral scoring.

Personal data is helpful and important for creating content that appeals to your prospects. However, it should also be treated with caution. 

Legal regulations on data protection must be complied with, and leads should be informed about data protection and have the option of consenting to or rejecting it. This is done with the help of explicit consent (double opt-in) and full information about data collection and the possibility of revocation. 

6. Relevant, Updated Content

To keep your lead interested in your company, it is important to regularly provide them with new, changing information. Just as your products change and evolve, so should your content and therefore your nurture campaign. 

The content should provide your lead with useful information as part of the customer journey and support them in their decision - adapted to their interest and click behavior. 

7. Optimize Your Campaign Regularly

You should keep an eye on all elements of your nurturing campaign at all times and optimize them regularly to keep them up to date. This applies to sending stages as well as the subject line, the salutation, and specific offers. 

To find out which aspects of your campaign are particularly positive and effective, you should carry out various A/B tests, analyses, and project documentation. The data obtained can be used to continuously optimize lead qualification.

8. Always Keep an Eye on All Your Leads

It is completely normal that not every lead will be closed during the lead nurturing process; some leads will drop out of the process during the course of the campaign.

However, you should not lose sight of these leads but continue to contact them with new content, possibly at greater intervals, in order to maintain or rekindle their interest. 

Such a warm-up campaign often leads to leads returning to your company after a long period of inactivity and being approached by new topics. 

9. Lead Scoring

In lead scoring, all the information collected during the campaign and the lead's behavior with regard to the sales or campaign objective are evaluated and added to their profile. This results in a scoring value that represents the sales maturity of the lead. This makes it possible to determine the right moment for the sales team to approach the lead. 

What exactly lead scoring is all about and what constitutes this component of lead management is explained in more detail below. 

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is an evaluation process that shows when the potential customer reaches the point of purchase in the customer journey.

The customer's actions and interactions are awarded points. Higher scores indicate that a lead is more ready for an offer and the chances of a successful conclusion increase.

In marketing and sales, where resources are limited, lead scoring helps to prioritize leads, leading to higher conversion rates and increased sales. Despite the obvious benefits, many companies do not carry out lead scoring, according to the Marketing Automation Report. 

The basis for lead scoring is data. Each company determines which actions and activities result in which score and how these are incorporated into the scoring model. The company-specific goals and the specific calculation of the scores are then defined.

The lead score is essentially made up of three types of data: demographic data, company information, and data on the behavior and interests of the leads.

This key data, which can be collected at individual touchpoints, provides new information about the customer journey of the respective lead. After reaching a certain score, a lead can be considered "mature" enough to be handed over to sales.

Lead scoring therefore automatically evaluates and qualifies a lead via the marketing automation platform. Lead scoring also makes it easier to recognize "good" leads, which is why particular attention must be paid to the criteria according to which the leads are to be evaluated.

Depending on the number of selected target customers, the effectiveness and efficiency of the lead scoring process can be increased with the support of marketing automation. However, if the rules for lead scoring are set too rigidly, some valuable leads will be filtered out by the system. To avoid this, the optimal balance for lead scoring must be found.

This is achieved by continuously reviewing the leads that pass through lead scoring.

However, a single scoring system alone cannot be applied to all your leads. You can tell how qualified and interested a lead is by their behavior, which requires individual scoring systems.

It is therefore important to develop your own scoring system for leads that suits different buyer personas and incorporates the individuality of all of them. 

But how do you create a lead scoring model? In four steps, we explain the points you need to consider!

1. Lead Classification

When classifying leads, a distinction is made between explicit and implicit data. Explicit data are "hard facts" that can be collected using forms, for example, such as profile data, demographic information, and company data. 

Implicit data, on the other hand, is information about your customers' activity. This involves checking which links they access, which social media posts they interact with, which emails they respond to and which content they download and share. 

Each activity is assigned a score that describes how relevant it is to the sales target - the higher the score, the more relevant. The total number of leads then reveals how mature they are in the sales process. 

Lead classification depends on what leads have to do on your website or enter in a form so that they can be clearly assigned to a specific buyer persona. 

2. Lead Qualification

Lead qualification focuses on the question of which characteristics a company or individual must have in order to match your product or service. It is important to formulate specific characteristics and to keep the number of these to a minimum in order to obtain only those leads that have the most similarities with your company and are therefore the best fit. 

3. Prioritization

Once you have identified some leads that are a good fit for your company, you now need to find out how willing they are to buy and how interested they are in your products or services. 

Which lead visits your website regularly? Which one most frequently? Which lead downloads content from your website or responds to demo requests? Analyze the behavior of the leads in response to your contact requests and conclude which lead has the greatest willingness to buy and therefore guarantees you the most profit.

4. Scoring

Last but not least, assign a certain number of points to the factors from the previous steps. The more important an action or piece of information is for your sales opportunities, the higher the score. Finally, all leads are reprioritized. 

Content Marketing

Content marketing includes all of a company's digital content. This includes not only websites, emails, or social media content, but also videos, images, and other content design elements.

The focus is therefore shifting from traditional outbound marketing (paid media marketing) to inbound marketing (search engine optimization, content marketing).

The combination of inbound and content marketing is responsible for ensuring that the triad of "being found", "interest" and "conversion" is possible and works in the long term. Whereas advertising used to be more product-oriented, content marketing is geared towards the wishes and needs of customers along the buyer journey and provides them with relevant information.

As already discussed, it is not enough to know the buyer personas precisely. It also requires consistent messaging and relevant content at the right point in the customer journey. The resulting content is reusable building blocks that can be stored in a structured way in a library, the content hub. A content hub is a central collection point for all content formats and elements that support the buyer persona during the customer journey.

As the B2B environment increasingly involves products that require explanation, it is typical for B2B customers to ask for more in-depth information early on in the customer journey. A content hub also has a positive and desirable side effect from an SEO perspective.

The structure according to which a content hub can be set up is explained below. Another decisive advantage of the content hub and therefore of content marketing is that the company is always aware of what the customer is interested in and what information is needed to progress further along the customer journey.

While the demand for high-quality content is growing, customer research is also intensifying. Successful content marketing reduces the likelihood of customers switching to the competition prematurely and can also have a significant influence on the purchasing decision process.

In addition, content marketing helps companies gain more awareness in the long term through high-quality content. This not only convinces interested parties but also search engines.

According to Zhu, small companies can increase lead growth by 126% with the help of a simple blog. Finally, content marketing can strengthen customer relationships. Around 81% of companies are increasingly recognizing the trend towards customer centricity and, according to a study by the Content Marketing Institute & Marketing Profs (2020), have set building trust as a campaign goal.

Content marketing is therefore a long-term measure to support a company's digital strategy and one of the most effective methods of generating new leads.

B2B companies that succeed in continuously developing content and transmitting it to the relevant recipients will benefit from this concept in the long term.

And this is exactly where marketing automation comes into play. The distribution of content can be designed and controlled more easily, efficiently, and in a target group-specific manner using marketing automation.

Marketing automation can be used to ensure that the timing and sequence between successive pieces of content reach the prospective customer at the right intervals, both chronologically and in terms of time.

One method for this is the so-called "lead nurturing sequences", which ensure that prospects are nurtured and developed further.  

Planning content along the customer journey and a clearly defined handover time for leads to the sales team promotes collaboration. To achieve this, the work processes in and between the various departments need to be revised, realigned, networked, and automated.

In order to prioritize lead generation as a goal, marketing and sales must work closely together. Although this works well in theory, in practice there is usually a lack of common understanding and commitment to lead management.

However, this can be counteracted by combining content marketing and marketing automation. If a company pursues a clearly formulated content strategy with high-quality content that demonstrates its own expertise, this can make a decisive difference in the customer's decision-making process.

Advantages of Marketing Automation

According to the Marketing Automation Report, marketing automation (MA) brings various benefits to companies, which can be seen in Figure 6.

The respondents see the greatest benefit of MA primarily in the more efficient design of processes. This is also confirmed by Hannig in his evaluations. The use of MA means that all existing processes in the company have to be analyzed, structured, and in some cases redesigned.

HubSpot (2020) also sees the increase in efficiency of all departments as the greatest opportunity for MA and goes on to explain that this can lead to savings in personnel and time costs.

In second place is personalized communication, followed by the increased number of conversions and the higher quality of leads. This includes the automated sending of emails and messages as well as the individual and needs-oriented approach to product suggestions, campaigns, and content.

The main advantages of MA are the time saved on repetitive tasks and the reduced consumption of scarce resources. As repetitive tasks are taken over by machines, employees can concentrate on more complex tasks.

pic02Figure 6: Benefits of marketing automation, source: (Zumstein et al., 2022, p. 22)

Other opportunities offered by MA include faster responsiveness to customer inquiries and the display of relevant content along the customer journey. Through data analysis and evaluation, campaigns can be continuously optimized and adapted in a timely manner.

For larger companies, the expertise gained in the area of lead management is one of the main benefits, followed by time and cost savings. For smaller companies, on the other hand, the main focus is on cost savings.

These findings in turn coincide with the most important goals of marketing automation, which according to Hannig are improved lead management and the ability to carry out personalized campaigns.

Another main reason for using MA is the resulting increased return on investment (ROI).

Automated Lead Management

Lead management is a complex process that requires comprehensive support, patience, and time.

In the B2B sector in particular, lead management is usually much more time-consuming than directly with the end customer, as purchase intentions are not simply made, but are first discussed internally.

This is why it is a great help for many marketing employees if certain repetitive processes can be automated. This starts with the generation of leads.

If new contacts are added to the database via newsletters or other means, this means a lot of manual work for marketing employees - unless an automation system takes the work off their hands directly.

For example, contact forms or landing pages can be created using templates that the lead only has to fill in with their personal data.

An example: A visitor to your website looks at one of your blog posts and finds it interesting. He clicks on a call-to-action link and is then taken to a landing page where he can enter his contact information and send it. This automatically gives them access to further information.

The information entered is saved by you, which means that the once anonymous contact is now a lead and can be contacted in the future via newsletters or in other ways.

As the entrepreneur, you gain access to their name and other valuable information that you can use for analysis and targeted contact - which of course increases the likelihood that a simple lead will actually become a customer or business partner.

Automatic workflows for lead scoring are also helpful for correctly categorizing leads within your CMS. Depending on which phase of the sales cycle the lead is currently in, it is assigned a specific score - i.e. whether it is classified as a potential buyer or not.

Each individual action that a lead performs is assigned a certain score, which in turn is determined in advance by the company's marketing team.

If they click on a link in a newsletter or open your website, this will give them a higher score than someone who does not respond at all. This makes it easy for you to immediately recognize whether a lead is qualified for you or is no longer worth contacting.

Shorten the Sales Cycle

A purchasing decision process in the business customer environment (B2B) is usually accompanied by more complex dynamics, and the sales cycle is also much more comprehensive than in the B2C market.

Until a few years ago, trade fairs were the most important way to establish contacts with other companies in many industries.

Nowadays, targeted marketing automation can take on this task in order to shorten the sales cycle for B2B companies.

Digital lead nurturing plays a particularly important role here when it comes to further developing the quality of leads - be it to acquire new customers, to maintain existing B2B customers, or win back inactive or lost customers.

Regular lead scoring makes it possible to maintain an overview at all times and immediately recognize how many leads are qualified and which can be discarded. This allows you to keep an eye on the sales pipeline and benefit from truly efficient marketing campaigns and shorter sales cycles that lead to conversions more quickly.

Increase Return on Investments

In order for marketing automation to achieve a higher ROI (return on investment), it is not enough to decide on a system implementation.

It is very important to adapt the platform precisely to the requirements of your company and to ensure that your employees can also use it efficiently.

How quickly marketing automation ensures a higher ROI depends not only on the chosen software system and its implementation but also on the commitment of the company itself.

Employees in your marketing team who are already familiar with pipeline marketing can usually ensure that the ROI skyrockets relatively quickly.

It is also effective if the leads generated by the marketing team are qualified. However, close and regular cooperation with the sales department is important for optimizing the leads.

In order for your marketing employees to determine whether the automatically executed marketing campaigns are actually worthwhile, it is important to measure the ROI again and again and compare it with previous values.

In general, the return on investment is calculated by dividing the profit achieved by the capital invested.

When to Use Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is a process. In reality, however, the term "marketing automation" is often equated with the terms "technology" or "software".

While technology is important for implementing automation projects, it is not sufficient for marketing automation, and while software solutions cover many areas of marketing automation, they are no guarantee of automated marketing processes.

If the holistic approach is lacking or the imported data is incorrect, even the most expensive marketing automation software will not bring the desired success.

It is not just about optimizing existing processes, but that marketing automation technologies can form the basis for new digital business models.

This is why technologies are seen much more as an "enabler" in this context, enabling marketers to address customers with the right content at the right time.

Automation is not only used in marketing but also in sales and services. Figure 7 shows various possible applications (also known as use cases), which can vary greatly depending on the company, business area, and product, as well as marketing and sales objectives.

The Marketing Automation Report shows that opt-in and registration processes are automated the most, followed by the personalization of content and offers and automated email routes.

Automation is mainly used when employees do not need to be involved operationally and routine tasks can be reduced. Although there are repetitive tasks, only sub-processes have been automated in most companies to date.pic03
Image: Use Cases für Marketing Automation, Source: (Zumstein et al., 2022, S. 23)

Marketing Automation Use Cases

I see the following use cases in marketing automation.

Automated standard e-mails in response to requests Automatic responses to inquiries in contact forms, based on individual templates. Reduced delays increase the probability of closing a deal.
Automation of the
sales process
Modeling the existing sales process in MA software to analyze which phase of the customer journey a (potential) lead is currently in.
callback service
If a call is missed, an automated e-mail is sent informing the caller of the callback attempts or announcing the next callback attempt.
Reminder to complete the form It is not always possible for an interested party to complete a form in full. If the e-mail address has already been entered, they will be automatically reminded to complete the form.
Free content (lead magnets) with registration Free documents, e-books, white papers, studies, help, explanatory videos, configurations or other content are sent out after e-mail registration.
Development of a
lead scoring system
A lead scoring system makes it easier to identify leads that are ready to buy. Leads are prioritized through the lead nurturing process (in #7).
Implementation of
lead nurturing
Interested parties receive automated and regular information and contact options. The sales team can focus its energy on customers who are ready to buy.
Sending internal
As soon as a prospective customer gets in touch by phone or e-mail, the sales team receives their contact information with individual comments so that they can follow up immediately.
Assignment of
out-of-office e-mails
A notification of absence usually contains an e-mail address of the deputy employee, which can be included in lead nurturing.
Sending and sequence of
Welcome e-mails
Automated welcome e-mails make a good impression and allow you to ask whether the customer was satisfied with the registration or the purchase.
Personalized dispatch of newsletters With MA, profile information flows into the newsletter and these become dynamic, individualized info mailings based on the interests of the recipient.
Sending of
birthday greetings
If the birthday is known after automated follow-up, an e-mail with congratulations and possibly a voucher/discount code will be sent on this day.
Dispatch of discount codes
or vouchers
Discount codes/vouchers are sent out for special occasions (e.g. anniversaries), campaigns (e.g. customer acquisition/retention), and promotions (e.g. sales, Black Friday).
Dispatch of seasonal offers Seasonal greetings and special discounts, e.g. at Christmas, New Year, Easter, or public holidays, can be used to attract new customers and reactivate existing ones.
Reactivation of canceled shopping carts If an online store user is logged in and leaves the filled shopping cart, an automated e-mail reminds them of this after a certain period of time.
Retargeting von Interessenten und Leads Once an online store visitor has viewed a product, they can use remarketing
z. For example, they can be approached again via search engines, social media, or media.
Suggestions for
follow-up purchases
Automated reminder e-mails to existing customers are particularly suitable for consumable products that need to be repurchased or for recurring events.
Suggestions for
Customers can be encouraged (e.g. 2 weeks after purchase/delivery) or rewarded with discount codes to recommend the products/services to friends.
Suggestions for
product reviews
Customers are automatically invited or rewarded with a discount code to rate products or write reviews in an online store.
Measurement of
customer satisfaction
If automated web forms are used for customer satisfaction surveys, companies directly receive valuable suggestions for improvement and ideas.
Management of
business cards
If you enter the business cards of contacts and customers into the CRM or MA system, you don't lose any valuable data and take the opportunity to expand your network.
Bereinigung von
Recipients who no longer open emails can be automatically reactivated and given the option to continue receiving emails or unsubscribe.
Recovery of forgotten passwords If passwords are forgotten or lost, an MA system saves time if a customer can reset their password themselves using an automated web form.
Gaining followers
on social media
Customers are automatically directed to the company's social media profiles (LinkedIn, XING, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) in order to attract them as followers.
Promotion of events
and events
Contacts can be automatically made aware of Facebook, XING, or LinkedIn events (such as webinars) or reminded of them in a targeted manner via email.
Management of
event registrations
Registration forms support the registration and execution of events, with automatic confirmation, reminder, and thank you emails afterward.
Automation of the
payment management
Outstanding invoices can be managed via an automated process. An automatic reminder can be sent for all payments.
Management of
In marketing automation systems, appointments can be managed and confirmed automatically and appointment reminders can be sent out immediately before the appointment.
Organization of
Application processes are simplified when job advertisements on the website are linked to an automated form and emails.
Automation of
routine tasks
For new/changing employees, workflows in marketing automation tools can be used to organize professional onboarding and facilitate induction.



In the B2B sector, many companies can benefit from marketing automation - throughout the entire lead management process.

Right from the start, marketing automation helps to distinguish unqualified contacts from potential customers and later, during lead nurturing, to only nurture those that are really worthwhile.

As part of lead scoring, B2B marketing automation supports your team in evaluating contacts - if they turn out to be unqualified and therefore irrelevant due to continuous inactivity, they are immediately removed from the grid.

B2B marketing automation also frees up resources for marketing staff, who can use the free time they gain to concentrate on the leads that are actually relevant and develop targeted marketing campaigns.

However, as already mentioned, it is at least as important to make sure that you choose the right software for your company. Not every platform is suitable for every B2B business. Employees also need to be familiar with sales pipelines in order to achieve maximum efficiency for their sales.