Sales development with Slack and Marketo (and a little help from a minimum viable bot, MVB)

I had the privilege of speaking at Marketo’s Marketing Nation in London on October 19th. My presentation covered integration between Slack and Marketo as well as creation of a bot that connects with these two. Although the outline of the presentation was quite tech-driven, fundamentally it was about changing ways of working. The key question is: how can you improve in sales development with collaborative tools and AI?

Let’s start with a brief history. At Avaus, we’ve used Marketo for years for our own marketing and lead management. At some point last year, our tech team adopted Slack to streamline communication. For other teams, the adoption took a bit more time. Why to change when you already have at least 3 communication channels with colleagues?

Then someone came up with a killer app: integration with Giphy. Suddenly, a channel named #giphybattle started to fill with random gifs – some funny, some not (you can’t control what comes up from Giphy). Personally, I didn’t join the gif wars that often, but it opened my eyes – Slack’s difference lies in its APIs.


A lot of doge in the giphy battles…


Then, few months ago, I saw a blog post about the possibility of integrating Marketo with Slack. It seemed quite straightforward integration using Marketo’s webhooks. So, using Slack, I informed my then-colleague Erik Heldebro (Marketo Champion btw) that this seems like an interesting idea. Five minutes later, we had version 1.0 of the integration working and a new channel #marketo-insights was set up in Slack.


The webhook for new lead notification


Someone might say that the result is just a feed for web leads, but I’d argue it’s much more. Suddenly, a vast amount of hidden data becomes visible and can be accessed by anyone in our organization. I would say it’s even better than your typical lead dashboard. By following the channel, one can constantly keep on the pulse of our marketing efforts. Which materials are people downloading? How many participants are registering for our next event?


The most important news feed I’m following now


Moreover, it’s a joint channel. What this means is that instead of static feed of data, our KAMs and sales people have started tagging their colleagues when they see something relevant happening. For an account manager, it may be a new contact from one of her accounts. For a sales person, it may be a new lead from a target account in her country.


True collaboration instead of static data feed


Already at this point, I think the integration has changed the way we look at our marketing and data. Suddenly we are collaborating around digital signals that have never been as visible before. But we still lacked something – the process for handling hot leads, or in industry terms, MQLs (marketing qualified leads).


How to ensure not missing hot lead such as this?


Sure, we have had a process in place for MQLs in our CRM. But we haven’t found way to build lasting discipline around lead qualification. And let’s face it, most hot leads are not as hot as you’d like, meaning that they need to be recycled back to marketing. We could have created a separate channel for MQLs, but it would not serve the purpose. People would still get the same information at the same time by email, urging them to go to CRM and qualify or reject the lead.

This was another moment of serendipity. Just shortly before, another colleague of mine, Kimmo Ihanus, had started playing around with bots. One of them, ABtestbot, had been verified by Slack and listed in their app directory. Another bot he built, called *drumroll* Avaus bot, was already helping us in many mundane tasks. It can help for instance by giving instructions on how to make travel imbursements.

So, we set to test Avaus bot whether it could become our cybernetic sales development representative. At first iteration, the bot was only reading our Marketo channel in Slack and sending direct messages to pre-defined lead owners. Already at this level, we could start feeding text to the bot and teaching it to find the right hot leads. We call it minimum viable bot, MVB.


Was I being too rude?


But as this approach does not allow for automatic lead recycling, the only viable long term option is to integrate the bot with Marketo and use Slack as the means to communicate with it.

And this is where we are currently. The bot will become part of our sales and marketing process and it will learn more all the time. It will likely win the prize for best sales person in a year (judging on AlphaGo’s progress).


Bringing artificial intelligence to our sales process


The bot is just part of the picture though. Having the collaborative channel in Slack for important events originating from Marketo has truly changed the way we approach our sales development. I will keep posting more updates on our minimum viable bot as we move forward with its development.


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