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.
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.
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:
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.
Most marketing automation platforms provide solutions for:
Here’s a detailed look at some of the advantages of marketing automation:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
Let’s now look more closely at how marketing automation fits into the typical buyer’s journey.
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.
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.
Other marketing automation tools that you can leverage include:
Here is a look at some of the best practice examples when it comes to marketing automation.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.