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Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation platforms are designed to carry out the more tedious and time-consuming of marketing tasks. Through custom workflows, they can help classify leads, trigger internal and external activities and nurture them with customized content. Channelled through the platform, marketing activities such as email marketing can be used to target leads and buyers. 

Your Assets

Marketing automation
Marketing automation takes time-consuming, repetitive tasks off your hands.
Custom workflows
Custom workflows qualify your leads, matching them to content they will enjoy.
Communication with leads
Your leads are continuously nurtured with customized communication.

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Marketing Automation

The marketing landscape has been on a transformative journey over the last few years, moving at the same pace as the evolution of the internet, right up to today’s environment of absolute disruption. As new technologies like Big data/analytics, Artificial Intelligence/machine learning, ChatBots, Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality, Internet of Things, and Blockchain hit the mainstream, various marketing functions are being redefined to the extent that automated marketing is now a necessity, regardless of industry. Talk to industry leaders, marketing professionals or analysts these days, you’ll hear the same thing: marketing automation is a must in today’s highly complex business environment. But the big question is: what does marketing automation mean in today’s context, and why is it so vital to any marketing strategy.

The ability to market products and services through digital means has become a key expectation of all enterprises. In the past, marketing was driven primarily by creativity and ideas, neither of which depended on automation or measurement. But the emergence of digital technologies has changed that. The level of complexity required to execute a successful marketing campaign, as well as the exponential growth and availability of personalized data, have changed the marketing playing field. Customers today are high-tech and interact with various digital technologies across web, mobile and social. This means that in today’s business world, consumers are the ones who get to determine how and when companies can engage with them. They now hold the power to dictate that engagement–at any time and in any place. For instance, numbers from a Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of more than 28,000 online consumers throughout 56 countries indicate that most consumers now own a smartphone. In fact, over 1 billion smartphone subscriptions are reported globally. This shows that today’s population is the most connected and digitally self-educated to date. And as customers get deeper into their digital lifestyle, they leave a trail of data breadcrumbs indicating who they are, what they value, and their attitudes towards brands, products and services. This volume of data is immense, and needs to be rightly harnessed so that companies can be in a position to tailor their marketing strategies in ways that lead to positive ROI.

Enter marketing automation. By automating your marketing activities, organizations will be in a position to visualize and understand various metrics and as a result, provide consistent, relevant and personalized messages across multiple channels. This is just one of the myriad benefits associated with marketing automation.

Let’s now have a detailed look at marketing automation.

What is Marketing Automation and what does it entail? 

To start off this discussion, let’s first look at what marketing is. Marketing is the art and science of choosing target markets and getting, keeping and growing numbers of customers through creating, delivering and communicating superior customer value. Consequently, marketing automation involves the use of digital technologies to achieve this mission.

According to HubSpot, marketing automation involves the use of a software platform that allows marketing teams and business organizations to more easily and effectively:

  • Execute marketing campaigns across online channels like email, social media and websites.
  • Personalize and automate the repetitive tasks associated with campaign follow-up.

In other words, marketing automation allows companies to buy and sell like Amazon – that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects into customers, and turn customers into delighted customers. As a result, it generates significant new revenue for brands, and provides an excellent return on the investment required.  

Advantages of Marketing Automation

Most marketing automation platforms provide solutions for:

  • Lead management
  • Lead nurturing
  • Lead scoring
  • Campaign management
  • Social media marketing
  • Landing pages
  • Native CRM integration
  • Messaging (email, SMS, social)
  • Multi-channel marketing
  • Predictive analytics
  • Account-based marketing (ABM)
  • Resource management

Here’s a detailed look at some of the advantages of marketing automation:

Increase Revenue

One of the benefits that business organizations stand to gain by leveraging marketing automation is the increase in revenue. As a matter of fact, 79% of CMOs at top-performing companies indicate that their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to increase revenue, while 78% of successful marketers claim that marketing automation systems are most responsible for improving revenue contribution. Marketing automation enables brands to work with leads and consequently, they achieve greater conversions of sales, which in turn results in increased revenue. Automating your marketing activities essentially helps to:

  1. Attract solid leads, whereby you will be able to drive more inbound website traffic, and convert web visitors to leads.

  2. Engage leads easily, as you will be able to send the right messages to the right contact and at the right time. In addition, you will be able to accelerate your sales cycle.

  3. Close/retain leads. Marketing automation increases the amount of quality leads, which in turn are converted to sales and more deals.

A good marketing automation stack can also help reduce cart abandonment rates, which is always bad news when it comes to revenue generation and ROI. Marketers can mitigate this by setting up email automation systems to send triggered emails to those who left unpurchased items in their cart. The system can help determine how long after logout to send reminder emails, and even help generate the most compelling subject lines to ensure the emails are opened.

Laser-focused Marketing

Marketing automation helps in understanding customers, which enables an organization to better target them. Through understanding what customers want and what their main areas of focus and interest are, conversations with customers can be optimized to emphasize areas that are of most interest and as a result, offer them a personalized experience. This is particularly true when you consider data from Gartner, which indicate that by 2020, buyers will complete 85% of the sales cycle before they even speak with a sales representative. Essentially,  with marketing automation, brands will be able to gain in-depth insight into campaign effectiveness by providing a 360-degree view of all prospect touchpoints, allowing marketers to focus on the big picture: more successful campaigns.

Provide a Competitive Edge

According to Salesforce, 67% of marketing leaders rely on marketing automation, and 21% plan to implement a new marketing automation platform in the coming years. What’s more, high-performing sales teams use 3x more sales technology than underperforming teams. This means that marketing automation definitely gives companies that are using it a competitive edge.

The message here is loud and clear: if your competition is not already using marketing automation tools, this is a good time to get ahead of them. If they are already using these tools, your brand will need to play catch up.

Marketing automation through predictive analytics, for instance, can enable a business organization to develop accurate and relevant marketing campaigns targeting the right customer. This is because marketing automation platforms virtually provide a standard set of analytics that track quantifiable data, such as website visitor activity, pages viewed, time spent on site, emails opened, content downloaded, campaign responses, etc. With advanced technologies, more marketing automation software tools are also offering predictive analytics and models based on machine learning, which uses algorithms to process data and provide trends or insights that enable marketers to customize visitor experiences and marketing campaigns. Several vendors have even invested in artificial intelligence (AI), which enables their platforms to “mimic” human intelligence and recommend marketing actions or outcomes. These may include highly personalized website content  or product recommendations based on analysis of consumption trends, on-site behaviour, firmographics and CRM data.

Using analytics, brands can easily determine likely interests or behaviours of existing customers and market to them accordingly. Picture this...you are an SaaS/IT company and you have a customer who subscribes to your cloud-storage service, and every six months adds more capacity. With predictive analytics, you will be in a position to market to that customer, offering twice the capacity at a discount right when that six months rolls around. You can also stay in touch through engaging, personalized but automated emails. This will make past customers feel like they’re still valued, which turns them into your brand advocates. The result of all this is that you will be able to maintain a competitive edge over your competition at all times.

Enhance Smarketing

Marketing automation can help business organizations to improve the link between sales and marketing functions. According to research by MarketingProfs, companies with aligned sales and marketing functions can generate up to 208% more revenue from marketing, while disconnected sales and marketing technologies and processes cost B2B companies 10% of revenue or more per year. In fact, the research concludes that when sales and marketing teams work together, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates.

There is no arguing that across industries, tensions always exist between the marketing and sales team. You’ll sometimes hear the sales team arguing that marketing isn’t providing a sufficient number of high-quality leads, while marketers argue that the sales team is not doing enough to convert their hard-earned leads into sales.

But with marketing automation in place, the sales and marketing functions can easily be linked as it provides greater visibility with regard to the activities and performance of both sales and marketing teams. For example, from the marketing side lead qualification can be automated, and the assignment of leads can also be automated. Revenues can be better linked to specific campaigns, and targeted messages can be sent to customers. From the sales perspective, it is possible to understand prospect behaviour through behavioural tracking so as to get real-time alerts on prospect activity, to nurture customers, and to find all the data needed to close the sale in one place. As a result, companies will be able to know where things are working well, and where improvements are needed.

In addition, market automation tools improve the exchange of information between sales & marketing. This helps with better organization, communication, and collaboration between the two functions. With native or out-of-the-box integration with CRM systems (such as, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Oracle NetSuite, Sugar CRM, etc.) being a feature in most marketing automation tools out there, information sharing between sales and marketing teams has become easier. For instance, data that is added by a sales personnel to an account record in the CRM will be automatically added to the record in the marketing automation platform for marketing end-users to view and act upon, as well.     

Improve Lead Scoring and Lead Nurturing

By leveraging a holistic marketing automation strategy which integrates lead qualification and lead management tools, companies will be able to identify the best leads and advance them to sales while automatically nurturing leads who are still in the research phase. Statistics from DEMANDGEN indicate that 53% of marketers say that continued communication and nurturing of their existing customers results in moderate to significant revenue impact. Marketing automation tools enhances lead scoring and grading and as a result, you’ll be able to determine the stage a particular customer is currently in, with respect to the customer lifecycle.Based on activities like interacting with content or emails, and how closely they match the profile of your ideal buyer, these automation tools make both the marketing and the sales team more successful.

Marketing automation can also give you the efficiency you need to ensure that you won’t miss out on an opportunity of a lead that isn’t quite ready to close through lead nurturing features. Behavioural tracking tools, for example, can show business organizations the specific web pages that prospects visit, and the types of content that they are interested in. This helps brands to understand which marketing tactics and information to use when trying to convert prospects into customers. Furthermore, the sales team can use this information to have better, more informed conversations with potential customers. Therefore, in essence, lead nurturing through marketing automation aids business organizations in:

  1. Lowering the Cost-Per-Opportunity (CPO) – by using marketing automation to track leads from initial touchpoints through sale, this lowers CPO and increases ROI, as marketing teams will be able to optimize their lead generation strategies and consequently move leads more quickly through the funnel.

  2. Increasing Opportunity Size – Studies have shown that an effective lead nurturing strategy increases opportunity values. In fact, according to DemandGen report, 67% of B2B marketers say that lead nurturing increases sales opportunities throughout the funnel by at least 10%, with 15% seeing opportunities increase by 30% or more. This is because leads that have been nurtured have reviewed a steady stream of buyer-focused content, which reinforces the need for marketing automation tools.

  3. Enhance Mobile Marketing and Social Media Marketing

Marketing automation platforms can go a long way in creating an engaging experience for your mobile prospects and customers, since they feature responsive templates for email, landing pages and web forms. Most of these software platforms integrate with email testing tools such as Litmus. This enables brands to preview email marketing messages across email clients and devices. Other mobile marketing features include SMS/texting, in-app marketing, and remote platform management from mobile devices. In-app marketing features can include “push” notifications of ads based on geography or during events. Some vendors have also expanded platform access to mobile users, moving beyond automated alerts and remote data collection to full platform management.

On the part of social media marketing, most marketing automation tools provide some level of social media publishing, sharing, and tracking within the platform for social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Some platforms provide more advanced social media tools to monitor social posts and add social behaviour to lead profiles, often using social engagement as a scoring factor. Other features provided by marketing automation vendors include the use of social media sign-on to capture social profile data and build lead profiles.  

What does Marketing Automation look like and how is it implemented?

As discussed earlier, digital channels and customer touch points have really multiplied. This means that marketing today is firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of consumers, and therefore managing the mix of digital and traditional channels has become highly complex. The implication here is that traditional marketing strategies are no longer enough and only through marketing automation will organizations be able to better understand their customers and achieve their bottom lines. But let’s face it–marketing automation is not exactly a straightforward strategy as most companies find it difficult to implement, while others simply don’t know how to go about getting started.

In fact, statistics to this end are sobering, according to data from a survey by Liana Technologies that was conducted on 421 different company representatives comprised of both marketing and communications professionals. The answers came from Finland, Sweden, France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and China. The data from the survey showed that:

  1. 79.7% of the survey respondents were familiar with the concept of marketing automation, while 20.3% of the respondents were not yet familiar with marketing automation.

  2. Almost 40% of the respondents who were not yet leveraging marketing automation were planning to invest in it in the next 12 months. About half of the respondents couldn’t say whether marketing automation would be part of their investments in the following year or not.

  3. The lack of expertise and know-how (55.6%), as well as the lack of human resources (48.1%) were notably the most common reasons why companies were not using marketing automation. Lack of financial resources and lack of strategy were also mentioned as the most significant reasons by a third of the respondents.

Other studies indicate that European-based business organizations are playing catch-up with their North American counterparts when it comes to adoption of marketing automation tools. For instance, North American respondents are 14% more likely than their European counterparts to say they are currently using marketing automation. This is attributable to the strong heritage of this sector in the U.S., largely due to the larger representation of MarTech companies headquartered in North America, as well as the scale of the market. Most organizations based in North America are more likely than their European counterparts to use marketing automation tools and features such as CRM integration, social, web forms and account-based marketing, by a significant margin. Additionally, when it comes to measurement techniques, prevalence is higher in North America than Europe. There are especially large gaps in focus on tracking of leads, whereby measurement of marketing qualified leads (65% versus 48% in Europe) and sales accepted leads (56% versus 39%) is much more common in North America.

But no matter where you and your clients are based, with patience and diligence, marketing automation can prove to be a success and benefit your business in a number of different areas. And as long as you’re producing effective inbound marketing content and generating a steady flow of new, organic leads, marketing automation will make sense for your business. Here’s a look at how you can seamlessly integrate it in your marketing hustle.

Strategize and have a plan

Studies indicate that a disjointed strategy across departments is a challenge for many businesses trying to on-board a marketing automation platform. This is mostly seen when stakeholders are not communicating adequately. Companies should understand, however, that even though a marketing automation tool has the potential to make lead generation and nurturing easier, it is not a strategy. The success of any lead generation tactic depends upon the effectiveness of the strategy behind it.  

This means business organizations need to ensure that they have as much clarity as possible around their sales and marketing goals, and have the processes in place, along with the technology to help them achieve this. This normally requires executive support, as it will enable proper investment in marketing automation and ensure that everyone within the organization is pulling in the same direction and therefore committed to its success.

Additionally, business organizations need to have a roadmap and gain a complete understanding of the manual tasks that need to be automated, as well as the workflows that will be disrupted in the process. Keep in mind that marketing automation is not only about removing or reducing human effort; it’s also about elevating human effort to high-skill areas by automating standardized tasks. This way, companies can reach higher levels of marketing output and maintain a competitive advantage.

Ensure you have the resources and skilled experience in place

Marketing automation is an extremely effective concept, but it’s only as powerful as the people behind it. It makes marketing processes more effective and efficient, but ultimately, it’s still people-powered. Companies should, therefore, ensure that they have proper resources in terms of the related costs and skilled experience to drive campaigns and program campaigns before adopting any solution.

In modern marketing, a marketing team with a valuable mix of data analytics and human-driven skills is required in order to drive forward automation-led campaigns, but accessing this particular type of workforce can be a challenge. Also contributing to resource constraints are the significant technology challenges that tend to arise around marketing automation platform implementation and operation. Data, for instance, remains the lifeblood of all marketing automation initiatives, and exploring it is a major challenge–even more so now due to the issue of GDPR. As a result, data management is often cited as a significant challenge, especially by B2B marketers, whereby they have too much data at their disposal, but too little insight. Data hygiene is also a key issue that carries major resource implications.

Once you understand all these challenges and fully address them, however, you will be able to implement marketing automation successfully and deliver strong results. Additionally, before going big with marketing automation, business organizations should make sure that they define their success metrics early enough. Key performance indicators (KPIs) like open rates, conversions and sales will help them successfully adopt and track the success of their marketing automation.

Choose the right platform

Lack of platform knowledge is a common hurdle for organizations when it comes to implementing a marketing solution. With so many options available on the market from different vendors, it’s easy for any business to become overwhelmed by the vast amount of choices out there.

While various marketing automation platforms offer a similar core range of capabilities relating to areas such as lead management, account-based marketing, and 3rd party integration capabilities, there can be significant variation in the emphasis that software providers place in different areas. This is particularly true in the context of B2B. You should understand before selecting the best tools for your company that marketing automation vendors may focus on specialized areas of functionality that may or may not be of core importance for your business.

Here is a look at some of the factors to consider when choosing the right platform:

  1. User interface – make sure that the marketing automation software solution you choose is ideal for you and your marketing team in terms of usability. If you adopt a solution that has you and your team navigating complicated interfaces, the reality is that your business may very well never find any value in using it.

  2. Price – business organizations need to keep strict budgets, and any new investment needs to have a positive ROI. Think about what your sales and marketing activities cost with your current setup, and what the upside will be in both reduced costs and revenue uplift (based on factors such as ‘increase conversion rates by x%’) when your marketing automation platform is up and running.  While you may be attracted by a very affordable upfront price, you need to consider whether what you are getting for that price is worth the savings. Often times, vendors offer marketing automation tools at more affordable prices because they have fewer features and capabilities. They also have more limited integrations with other solutions, which means more multi-system complexities, more time spent in training, setup, management, and tracking and exporting data, not to mention more errors. Try to ask yourself what are the non-negotiable features for you, given the price.

  3. Integration capabilities – try to find out if the particular software tool you are planning to adopt has an open application programming interface (API). Is it designed to leverage the technology (think CRM system) you already have in place? Will it seamlessly integrate with the applications you will need in the future as your brand grows? Answering these questions is essential, as you can’t afford to waste time trying to connect systems that don’t talk to one another, enter the same information multiple times, or look into countless sources of data for simple information.

  4. Research on the vendor – this means that before choosing a particular marketing automation vendor, you should consider the vendor’s commitment to customer service, and closely read the testimonials of other customers. The bottom line here is that you should adopt a rigorous vendor selection process to ensure the right partner, with a carefully thought-out request for proposal (RFP) template, and a scorecard to rate your shortlisted vendors based on a checklist that matches your brand needs.

You can choose to work with a third-party agency

Sometimes your business organization might lack people with the right kind of knowledge and skills needed to run successful marketing automation software implementation. In this case, it only makes sense that you appoint or rather partner with a third-party agency that understands marketing automation (such as an Inbound Marketing Agency) to ensure that your solution is properly set up and optimized.

A reputable and qualified agency will guide your business through strategic direction and data usage, as well as helping with other areas, such as content and campaign management. They can also walk you through the pros and cons of different marketing automation tools which can save you a significant amount of time and cost.

Try to maintain humanity in your marketing automation

Enterprises should be careful with marketing automation and should therefore not automate absolutely everything. If a customer expects a response from a human and instead is met with an automated message, it could lead to a negative experience and the loss of a valuable potential lead.  

Marketing Automation and how it fits into the Buyer’s Journey

To reach the modern buyer, marketing teams need marketing automation tools which are designed to adapt to the unique needs of every prospective buyer, depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey is defined as the active research process a prospect goes through when purchasing a product or service. The journey normally involves three stages:

  • The awareness stage – this is whereby a prospective buyer has a problem and decides to do research, so as to more clearly understand, frame, and give a name to their problem. A prospect in this stage will visit your blog, interact with your social content, etc. in search of answers, resources, education, research data, opinions, and insights.

  • The consideration stage – here a prospect clearly understands their problem, and is committed to researching and understanding all of the available approaches, products or methods needed to solve it. A prospect in this stage may visit your product pages, benefits or features pages,  “About Us” page, or area of expertise content. You could do well by segmenting pages into interest fields and personas in order to help you craft a personalized response (think educational content based on what prospects you are re-engaging with on the site).

  • The decision stage – In this final stage, the prospect has chosen their preferred product or service, and is now ready to make a final purchase decision. A prospect in this stage will visit pricing pages, case studies, and “Contact us” pages. Here, marketing and sales teams should really find out how sales ready the prospects/leads are, and determine if they need to be nurtured further. You can segment and report on the different types of website traffic–this will enable you create a funnel-type dashboard and see your entire pipeline segmented by buyer’s journey stage.

Research has shown that a marketing automation platform can serve as a hub of marketing intelligence, tracking each individual buyer’s journey from their first touchpoint to their final sale, as well as providing an in-depth record of the 70% of the buying process that traditionally occurs in the dark, beyond the firewall of traditional marketing and sales programs. Marketing automation overcomes this firewall and enables marketing and sales teams to streamline, automate, illuminate, and measure the modern buyer’s journey throughout the purchase process.

But before you get started with marketing automation, make sure that you:

  • Know your Audience… by developing personas early in the process of adopting marketing automation.

  • Map the process flow… that is, before you begin setting up your marketing automation campaign, it’s important that you map out how the campaign will run. In essence, you should know the steps which you will use, as well as the ultimate goal of your campaign.

  • Understand each buyer’s journey… In today’s commerce, buyers prefer relevance over anything else. They actively seek out products and services that relate to their own individual interests and as a result, expect personalized content. This means retailers have to be mindful of the messages they use, the pace of the campaign, and the content delivered. They should understand how prospects are interacting with their brand and the kind of information they seek; this will allow retailers to create more effective, personalized content.

  • Create relevant content… this is a necessity when it comes to marketing automation. As you build your marketing campaigns, ensure that you understand the stages of your prospects in their buyer’s journeys, and what content types you want conveyed to them at each stage. The content message at each stage should be unique and deliver value that previous messages did not.

  • Analyse your performance and remain flexible... just because you are automating your marketing processes, does not mean that you don’t need to analyse them. Ensure that you analyse metrics such as open rates, clicks, and goals. And if things are not running as earlier intended, you can alter the content in some mailings so as to garner better results.  

Let’s now look more closely at how marketing automation fits into the typical buyer’s journey.

  • Understand the analytics – With a proper marketing automation system, companies can now track and analyse customer data. As a result, they can more easily tell where buyers are on their purchasing journey and what type of content they want to consume. This means that marketers can track visitors’ website activity, and keep track of the number of interactions they have and areas they have shown interest in. This will help them understand what their buyers’ interest area is and the amount of interactions needed to understand how engaged they are. Marketing automation helps marketers to personalize content and as a result, enable buyers make the right purchase decisions, since they will be delivered just the right information to come to a conclusion on their own.

  • Use the right tools to understand and get in front of buyers at each stage – Understand the three buying stages mentioned above, and how prospects behave in each stage. Thereafter, try to map out tactics, content, and initiatives necessary to interact with buyers at each stage, as well as the marketing automation tools needed to achieve this. Picture this: a prospect has a small business, and she is looking for a cloud solution that will simplify processes for her and help in data management. Of course, because she is in the awareness stage, she researches online about SaaS solutions and finds a blog post about how to choose the best cloud solution. After reading the post, she shares it on Facebook and asks for opinions from her social network regarding the solution. This is a trigger event, as she is clearly engaged with the content, even though she hasn’t necessarily expressed any sort of commitment or clear interest in investing in a cloud solution. So while she is most likely not ready to make a decision now, it would be productive to connect, thank her for the share, and provide her with additional content to help with her research. The actual content you provide in your outreach should be different based on the specific pages or posts that your prospect visits and shares. In this case, a proper automation tool like HubSpot Sales will help you to learn who is visiting your company’s website or interacts with your social media pages, as it makes tracking this activity possible.

And don’t forget to make sure that the software platform you choose is the right one for you. This means that when evaluating marketing automation platforms, consider the other digital tools needed to make this automation program a success, including landing pages, dynamic website forms, social media integration, competitive intelligence, and more. Ensure that your marketing automation platform seamlessly integrates with your CRM.

Additionally, for this to be successful, marketing and sales team must work together through the software platform so that they can prioritize prospects that are most likely to make a purchase now. Prospects that are earlier in the decision-making process can even be held back and warmed up in an automated lead nurturing program.  

Marketing Automation Tools

With marketing automation, brands will be able to integrate all the marketing processes, customer details and enabling business systems into one offering that operates in simultaneous harmony. This harmony demands automation platforms that are designed to accommodate multiple touchpoints. In fact, a proper software tool should provide data/analytics, third-party integration capabilities, mobile & social interfaces, top-notch UI/UX, etc., and be based not just on who your customers are, but where they are, what they’ve done, and what their likely next steps are.

Let’s look at some of the marketing automation tools that you can use to improve your marketing activities.

  • HubSpot – HubSpot is a dominant player in the SMB marketing automation space. With an easy-to-use interface, HubSpot provides a full software stack for marketing, sales and customer success, with a free CRM at its core. The platform components include HubSpot Marketing Hub, HubSpot Sales Hub, HubSpot CRM, and HubSpot Website Platform. The HubSpot platform also enables for social media integration through Social inbox, reporting & analytics and third-party software integration (think Salesforce, Sugar CRM, Infusionsoft, Oracle, NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics 365). Pricing starts quite low at $200 per month for 100 contacts, $800 per month for 1,000 contacts, and $2,400 per month for 10,000 contacts.

  • Act-On – This platform has a highly regarded, easy-to-use user interface, and suits a customer base that primarily consists of companies with fewer than 50 employees. It lets you connect inbound and outbound leads to manage your nurturing programs. Other helpful features include fully responsive emails and landing page design, Native CRM integrations capability (think Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Sugar CRM, Infusionsoft, Oracle NetSuite, etc.), social media integration, and reporting & analytics. The pricing begins at $600 per month for companies with 1,000 contacts, and increases with the number of contacts in your database – for 1 million contacts, the price is  $8,000 per month.

  • Pardot – Pardot, a Salesforce company, offers a suite of data-driven automation solutions. The platform can help brands increase their engagement with CRM integration, email marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and ROI reporting. Marketers can build, visualize, test, and improve campaign effectiveness by leveraging this platform. Other features include Einstein ABM (an account-based marketing solution), social media integration capabilities, reporting & analytics, etc. Pricing begins at $1,000 per month for their Standard offering.

  • Oracle Eloqua – This system was launched in 1999 and developed for large organizations with millions of contacts, elaborate workflows, and lead scoring rules. This software platform provides users with all of the lead-management tools they need so they can segment their audience in specific ways to get them to buy. Additionally, users can track reports and insights into a buyer’s journey with just a few clicks. Pricing starts at around $2,000 per month for their basic product, $4,000 for the standard plan and is custom priced for Enterprise.

  • Marketo – Marketo is a cloud-based software platform that features five solutions which are suitable for both small and large enterprises. These features include: Email Marketing, Lead Management, Consumer Marketing, Customer Base Marketing and Mobile Marketing. The platform’s workflow creation features are considered user-friendly and utilize drag-and-drop controls. With this tool, users can track individual customer interactions across touchpoints, automate conversations across channels, create emails and landing pages, and build or modify campaigns. Other additional features include the Marketo ABM add-on solution, a Content add-on tool that uses machine learning to recommend content that is personalized to each visitor, social media integration capabilities, and reporting & analytics. There are no setup fees, and the tool comes with a free trial version, so you don’t have to commit until you’re sure it’s right for you.

  • MailChimp – This platform helps SMB e-commerce companies create integrated digital campaigns. Some of its features include: marketing automation, connected sites whereby users can connect supported e-commerce apps or stores to their MailChimp account, A/B Testing capabilities, advanced analytics, and Segmentation whereby users can segment lists by sign-up date, location, purchase activity, etc. The platform is free for up to 2,000 contacts, and upwards of $425 or more per month after that, depending on your total number of subscribers.

Other marketing automation tools that you can leverage include:

  • Adobe Campaign – this marketing automation solution is ideal for B2C, B2B and B2B2C marketers in the retail, travel/hospitality, media and entertainment, financial services and government verticals. The system offers six features and this include: integrated customer profiles, targeted segmentation, cross-channel orchestration, contextual email, real-time interaction management and operational reporting.

  • SAP Hybris Marketing Cloud – this marketing solution uses first-party data to build and maintain profiles and automate multichannel marketing. Large enterprises stand to benefit from this marketing stack as it enables cross-channel campaign management, event-triggered marketing and targeted advertising.

  • SAS Customer Intelligence 360 – this software solution is normally favoured by companies across the financial services, telecommunications and retail industries. Its features include data management and advanced analytics-focused marketing hub that emphasises on personalization and performance optimization.

  • Salesfusion – this software platform can really come in handy especially for B2B organizations as it allows for easier linking of sales and marketing (smarketing).

  • SharpSpring – this is a straightforward solution that suits the less technical marketing and business user.

  • ONTRAPORT – with this system, brands will be able to gain a clear understanding of how their marketing efforts are coming along; they will get to see how customers respond to messages and as a result adjust their campaigns accordingly.

  • Autopilot – this system can integrate with other systems and as a result, brands can easily fuel personalization and segment their customers. By leveraging this platform, companies will be able to set the right marketing campaigns as it monitors the performance of each journey and delivers insights into how messages are converting.

  • Infusionsoft – this solution centralizes customer information in a suite of tools including: CRM, sales automation, marketing automation, e-commerce, payments, analytics and mobile solutions.

  • ActiveCampaign – this SaaS platform is tailored to help marketers send fewer emails with better and improved results. The platform offers marketing automation that listens and learns so it can customize messages to visitors to convert them into customers and then advocates. Its campaign builder helps entrepreneurs design marketing collateral, and the platform consolidates customer data so these insights can impact the email, SMS, and CRM options ActiveCampaign offers.

  • Bizible – this system can really enhance Smarketing and besides, brands can easily maximize AdWords ROI and use multichannel tracking to get a full picture of both sales and marketing metrics. Its features include- keyword-level metrics, UTM parameters, detailed lead history, custom reports, and integrations.

  • LeadSquared – this tool can help small and medium companies to align their marketing and sales efforts. Companies can use this tool to capture leads from inbound email, online campaigns, phone calls, website chat and more.

  • IBM Watson Marketing – This solution is ideal for B2B and B2C Fortune 1000 enterprises as well as mid-sized companies. Some of the capabilities that Watson Campaign Automation offers include- Dynamic flowcharting for multichannel campaigns (think email, SMS, mobile push, social), Journey Designer which streamlines team collaboration to design customer journeys, Email Insights & Campaigns which can preview 30 different email clients, Sophisticated lead capture, nurturing and scoring models, Mobile app message campaigns to capture mobile insights in real-time and drive personalized mobile experiences to each contact, Budgeting, planning & analytics that connect to marketing, CRM and finance systems, among other features.

  • iContact Pro – this is a cloud-based system that comes with campaign management capabilities, automated workflows, landing pages & email marketing services, social media integration and analytics among other solutions.

  • BuzzBuilder Pro – this tool can help your brand when it comes to finding prospects, generating leads, and nurturing those leads in an easier way.

  • Net-Results – you will be able to save time as this platform helps to automate almost every kind of marketing task there is. You will be able to easily build emails, forms, landing pages, campaigns and A/B-tests. The list is endless when it comes to this tool.

  • DataForSEO – with this system, you will have access to solid data which you can leverage to improve your marketing campaigns. It provides “comprehensive SEO data via API at a predictable price.”        

Best practice examples

Here is a look at some of the best practice examples when it comes to marketing automation.

Web Tracking

Web tracking refers to the use of an insight and action tool to help you better understand and interact with site visitor activity on your website. It’s a component of marketing automation that offers full integration among your email platform, website, and database.

Business organizations can benefit from web tracking as it allows them to customize and delight their audience by noticing and meeting their unspoken needs. So, how does web tracking work? Well, web tracking is a cookie-based tool that you can use to track page views and duration, page interactions, and online purchases that occur on your website.

There are four features of we tracking that provide data for automated campaigns and these include:

  1. Page Tagging – Page tags allow you to categorize pages or groups of pages on your website so as to get even more data on how visitors are interacting with your website. And when you combine it with lead and engagement scoring models it can prove to be a powerful tactic as you will be able to see what engaged web visitors are interested in and how you can prioritize your follow-up.

  2. Page Views – This metric can be a great source of information when it comes to marketing automation. It not only shows the total number of pages viewed by a visitor on your website (including repeated views) but also gives you an overview of how effective content on the website is and the quality of which it is presented.

  3. Page Interactions – this metric enables you to gauge the level of prospects’ engagement and interest in your brand. That is, a visitor who takes their time and interacts with your site by watching a video or downloading information such as a whitepaper or e-book is likely more engaged and more interested in your products or services.

  4. Online purchases – Savvy marketers know that prospects will at some time abandon their carts but what makes them savvy is that they understand the game and know what their next step of actions will be. Prospects abandon their carts due to various reasons and these may include- maybe they experienced technical difficulties, they got distracted, had second thoughts, etc. Savvy marketers will follow up, add value, and nurture these leads further with web tracking’s precision targeting ability. The idea here is that by leveraging data at your disposal with web tracking functionality, you will understand how your prospects/customers are interacting and engaging with content on your website and will therefore, reach them more effectively.

Software company- Opsview decided to offer two variants of its IT product – a free community version and a subscription-based enterprise version. They then decided to implement marketing automation software to handle leads coming into their website and identify those who would use the free version versus those who might be interested in the enterprise product. They then sent customised messages to these leads depending on where they were in the purchase funnel. The result was remarkable- they were able to increase their revenue by 178%.   

McAfee also decided to implement a lead scoring system and create a segmented nurturing programme that gave prospects the right information at the right time in the buying process. As a result, they were able to increase lead to opportunity conversion rate 4x.

Email Workflows

Here you can use software such as Mailchimp or HubSpot’s Workflows App to automatically have certain emails sent upon triggering events, like opting in to a sign up form.  Once a contact gets added to a list, submits a form on your website, clicks a link in an email, views a page on your blog, clicks on one of your AdWords ads, or becomes a marketing qualified lead then email workflows can really work a trick for your brand

The other good thing with email marketing automation is that it can go beyond lead nurturing campaigns as you can use it to get more out of your contacts database such as your existing customer base. You can delight them and encourage activities like greater product adoption, upsells, evangelism, and additional purchases.  

Here are examples of email marketing automation workflows you can try out:

  1. Topic Workflows – whereby once a prospect views a page or downloads your ebook or whitepaper, this workflow would be triggered, sending that contact other helpful content, like blog posts.

  2. Blog Subscriber Welcome Workflow – whereby you can use this email to thank contacts for subscribing to your blog.

  3. New Customer Welcome/Training Workflow- and this involves setting up a series of welcome emails when a contact’s lifecycle stage gets updated to “customer."

  4. Engaged Contact/Evangelist Workflow – whereby you create an email workflow to leverage the number of contacts who are really engaged with your brand and thus encourage them to evangelize your top content on social media platforms.

  5. Lead Nurturing Workflow – this workflow is ideal for those contacts who have downloaded several of your top-of-the-funnel marketing offers like e-books and webinars as it will help advance them further down the funnel. This workflow could include content like customer success stories/case studies, free trial offers, or product demos.

  6. Re-Engagement Workflow – this is ideal for inactive contacts whereby you could send them exclusive offer or coupon to get them excited about your brand again.

  7. Abandoned Shopping Cart Workflow – and this can work wonders especially for e-commerce brands. When a prospect adds an item to their online shopping cart but leaves your site leaves your site without completing the purchase, you can trigger an email workflow that reminds them of their forgotten purchase. You can even go ahead and motivate them to complete the transaction by offering a special discount code or some other incentive to buy.

  8. Upsell Workflow – this workflow is ideal when trying to recommend other products/services or encouraging upsells or add-ons to your existing customers. E-Commerce giant Amazon has been wildly successful with this tactic with almost 35% of their revenue being generated from cross-selling/Upsell workflow.

  9. Other workflows to consider include Internal Sales Rep Notification Workflow, Event Workflow, Customer Happiness Workflow, Customer Success Workflow, Upcoming Purchase Reminder Workflow, etc.

Social Media Automation

This is probably the most automated part of marketing as many marketers use third-party tools to post their content to social media channels. As a brand you want to notify consumers about what’s new with your business and since studies indicate that the average internet user has 5 social media accounts; social media automation makes sense.

Just imagine sending out the same blog post you’ve recently added on your website or status update on 5 different channels manually. It’s really time-consuming! But with marketing automation tools like buffer, Edgar, Crowdfire, HubSpot Social Media tool, etc. posting on social media can really be easy and prove to be a success for your brand.

Multichannel Programs

Most consumers elicit multi-screen behaviour with phases of sequential usage. They might start off their online search on a laptop, proceed to check out some in-depth content on a tablet, and ultimately choose to make a transaction from their mobile phone. Brands can create multichannel marketing programs that combine email, text messages, and social ads and send out to prospects. But remember not to blast the same message at the same time across all your channels as it will appear intrusive. Plan and time your different campaigns together to maximize your reach without spamming your customers.

A/B Testing

With a proper marketing automation in place, you can A/B test your marketing campaigns and this can help you understand what works well and what doesn’t. You can test multiple iterations of your campaign communication on real customers and create effective campaigns.

Microsoft, for instance, ran a marketing campaign for their Surface Pro computers in Europe. Using A/B testing, they ran a couple of ads and then compared their results together. They discovered that the 1st version with the purple CTA and changed colour scheme increased CTR by 325% compared to the other red background copy.

Marketing Automation – Making Your Business Smarter

It’s clear that the modern day customer has really evolved and as a result, this has created a highly complex and competitive business landscape. Today’s buyers expect to get what they want faster, cheaper and in more personalized ways than ever before. So what’s next for businesses?

It comes back to a simple framework: visualize, prioritize, and then leverage marketing technologies in the best way possible. Companies need to look at the elements of marketing automation tools not individually, but rather holistically, and do so in a way that creates a completely customer-centric view. Digital commerce in its ideal form and thanks largely to inbound marketing strategies, is an ongoing process, one in which the buyer discovers your brand and conducts the transaction, after which you fulfil the delivery and provide service and support. As the process continues, the customer discovers more of your brand’s products and services, and the cycle begins again. Therefore, marketing automation requires tight integration of technology and business process across all sections of the enterprise; and a business organization that deploys marketing technologies in the best way possible will indeed become a smarter business.