The Importance of Marketing Automation
Marketing automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions. Many marketing departments have to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions. The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier.
Marketing Automation Tools
While most marketing automation software is rooted in the CRM and/or email marketing industry, and email marketing de facto is still the main channel used for automated marketing workflows, an increasing number of channels and touchpoints is being added constantly.
There are many types of marketing automation tools available and small business owners may spend money on them, believing that they are the solution to their problem. This misconception leaves companies with sophisticated tools to automate the middle of their funnel, but no solution to generating new leads to nurture in the first place.
The consequence is that marketers begin buying lists of email addresses to nurture instead of generating inbound leads. While it seems like a quick fix, it’s not a long-term solution, nor does it create the fertile ground for a healthier, longer relationship with your future customers. It may seem like a good, quick fix and the easier route, but it doesn’t set you up for future, long-term success.
To qualify for inclusion in the Marketing Automation category, a product must:
- Automate more than one of the following: email, social media, SMS, and digital ads
- Allow dynamic segmentation of marketing campaign targets
- Contact targets after specific actions or periods of time
The main differences between various marketing automation software offerings concern:
- The target industry (small and medium business, large organizations, business-to-business, business-to-consumer, specific niche markets, etc.).
- The features: from automated email marketing workflows to full-fledged integrated marketing solutions.
- The focus: while some marketing automation solutions are more about campaigns and automated workflows, other focus on internal processes, marketing resource management, etc.
- The degree of integration: marketing automation software doesn’t stand on its own. In order to close the loop between sales and marketing and/or customer service, for instance, integration with CRM is essential.
Marketing automation success – among others – depends on:
- Ease-of-use and internal resources and learning curve. Marketing automation software is often underused because it’s too hard, the internal resources are absent and/or the needed skills are too “heavy” or absent.
- The efficiency of internal processes and relevance of designed flows. They should follow the customer before the brand’s priorities and both should be aligned.
- Content and relevant offers. Without timely and result-oriented content and offers, depending on the customer lifecycle, marketing automation fails. The lack of relevant and timely content is a huge challenge for most marketers and marketing tactics, including content marketing and email marketing.
- Thinking and acting in a customer-centric way and not falling in the trap of automating for the sake of it. Marketing automation is not a holy grail. The business goals and the customer are what it’s all about. Without a customer-centric culture, supported by management, marketing automation often results in sheer automation with little added value.
There are sites that evaluate and recommend the best marketing automation tools are, like G2 Crowd. But before you decide on the tools, you’ll need to analyze and determine what your goals are and develop an overall strategy.
What is a Successful Marketing Automation Strategy?
To begin to develop your marketing automation strategy, you will need to establish goals. For example, what do you want to achieve from your marketing automation? Usually, a business owner will want an increase in leads, sales opportunities, productivity and revenue. At the same time, shortening the sales cycle, decreasing marketing overhead and reducing the number of lost sales opportunities are key goals.
Most companies already have all the ingredients to put together a successful marketing automation strategy: an email platform, a CRM full of client data, and an incoming source of leads gives you everything you need. Getting started can seem daunting, but by starting off with a few basic tips, you can build up a fully-fledged automated strategy in no time.
Most companies already maintain a wealth of information about their B2B clients in their email database or CRM. You can put this information to good use by delivering differentiated content reflecting the behavior and history of your customers in the form of dynamic email content. Sure, you could do this manually if you’re willing to spend hours over a spreadsheet, but most CRM and email systems can be manipulated and integrated to do the hard work for you.
A series of timely emails to your audience can be extremely effective, especially for introducing new clients to your business. Some case studies have shown a 98% conversion rate for these types of “drip” campaigns; targeted communications sent out to your client base at regular intervals to educate current customers, welcome new customers and warm up new leads.
Drip campaigns must also be managed effectively to be successful. If your email platform supports triggered automatic sending, timing and a consistent experience for all your contacts will be key. It’s also important to measure engagement with your campaign and to know when a contact is engaged enough to approach directly.
Lead allows your audience to branch out and choose their own journey through your pre-planned automated campaigns. In the same way dynamic content will change an email based on static fields in your database or CSV upload, a nurture campaign will segment your audience based on their interaction with your communications, automatically sending them in different directions based on their interests.
Nurture campaigns can help to generate more leads at a far lower cost than using non-targeted static campaigns. A large part of this saving can be attributed to the time saved; a well-planned nurture campaign can span weeks or even months, and after setup can simply be left to run.
Prospects are in charge of how you interact with them; social media and search is all about connecting with your audience when they’re looking for you, not the other way around. With marketing automation on the rise, more and more marketers are looking at an integrated solution.