A Guide to Marketing Automation

2014 is the year of marketing automation. Although there is a debate between automation and the personal approach, the former still is gaining its traction in the marketing world. By 2015, the marketing automation technology adoption will increase by 50%, it has been the fastest growth of all CRM related segment in the last five years.

Across the business world, marketing automation may lead to various statistics. Each company’s numbers may vary, but most of the time, it reflects more improved sales at lower cost. And since campaigns from organisations involve thousands of possible leads, 1:1 connection isn’t possible and can’t be managed via usual marketing tools like Outlook, Word and Excel. But what is marketing automation?

What is marketing automation?

Everybody’s heard about it and everybody is boasting of using it to turn leads into profit. Marketing Automation is the platform and technology that is usually designed for businesses (specifically for marketing departments) and organisations to market product and services through email, websites and social media.

According to Marketo, “Marketing automation is a category of software that streamlines, automates, and measures marketing tasks and workflows so that companies like yours can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.”

Marketing automation helps organisations by proposing and narrowing down criteria and task processes and outcomes to be interpreted by the automation software. This process helps companies reduce human error and increase efficiency.

Unlike its old goals, marketing automation has branched out to various brand automation and analytic tools in the field of marketing. This has become possible through the platforms used as a web based solution.

Simply, marketing automation can be a form of platform that simplifies sales and marketing business’ goals through alternative automated solutions instead the old high touch, repetitive and manual processes.

Marketing Automation though shouldn’t be mistaken as email marketing, they are different although the latter is under the former. One main goal of marketing automation is to nurture leads long term, encouraging goals beyond the direct sales.

Benefits of Marketing Automation

Within the MA (Marketing Automation, let’s use MA since the whole two words is a mouthful), each marketing campaign and strategy can be improved.

MA wouldn’t be a hit if it wasn’t delivering. Say mining isn’t done when there isn’t gold to dig, so to speak. Now, what are these general benefits that marketing automation may render marketers?

Landing pages can be created and personalized in the MA software. This enables agencies to track how their landing pages perform. MA helps organizations to compare past campaigns to their current one and know which worked better.

MA helps you create sites specific to a campaign fast. MA offers options and provides readily available templates that help you create site in hours. Fr example, if companies plan to do a autumn or spring campaign micro site, companies can do it right away minus the high costs and the long time wait.

MA can hold and store all the data within tool. Organisations often face the challenge of having separate storage for different campaigns. However, by using MA, all data used will be stored in one central database. One example is, if customer Rose responded to your first campaign that she likes product AA and in third campaign she likes product BB, all will be recorded in the central database. Later on, this data can be merged in all other choices of Rose to make a personalized campaign based on her prior choices.

MA helps capture lead attention and nurture them with the most suitable channel. Through the proper interaction, the agency or the organization can add a lead to an email campaign. Through various channel and tools, this lead can be converted into customers once they’re ready.

MA has integrated reporting functions. Since MA is an integrated and multi channel solutions made for marketers, it also has an integrated reporting functions obtained from the various channels like the email and the social media campaign, micro sites, etc. The overall report generated will tell organisations which campaigns work and which haven’t.

MA makes communication stronger. Unlike the thought of some, MA isn’t about automation alone or spamming people. Rather, MA even helps companies to send personalized and targeted messages based on the users behaviour and digital imprints. Custom tailored offers now become relevant yet powerful campaign tool.

How Marketing Automation Works

There are various ways for MA to work for you. Here are some common scenarios with MA organizations can work with.

  1. Catalogue customers based on behaviours, interests and demographic detail. This categorisation will help segment leads.
  2. Add content that fits individual customers based on their website patterns.
  3. Experiment in which personalisation techniques work best, i.e. which combination of email, social media or website campaign works best? Or which email heading, send times and call to action has generated the most response?

So how does it work? MA software usually has various menus that marketers can choose from and customize. It also includes analytics dashboard where the general number of sent emails are noted. The dashboard usually will also list the number of emails that has been opened and the click throughs to the website.

Often, the dashboard can also be viewed by day stat, by week, by month or by year. It also can run email options that can connect to target audience based on refinements. This can be accessed by authorised people of the company.

Possibilities are endless.

The templates, email signature and the message formats though are one of the main options that make MA useful. This option helps marketers tailor emails and establish connections with lesser time used.

The MA software and tool though will not be useful if strategies don’t accompany the tool.

There are various MA tools and softwares in the market. The top vendors are included below:

  1. Marketo. Dubbed by many as one of the more mature tools, Marketo is the most well known MA tool in the market. It does work as MA and even provides tools for sales teams. Marketo provide large resource for users and it’s good for organisations that need to go further than the basic MA.
  2. Eloqua. Although a bit pricey than Marketo, Eloqua has plenty of integrations with other third party services. The Eloqua team is also differentiated by the time and effort they put up to orient new customers. Eloqua is an enterprise level MA tool.
  3. Customer.io. This MA is triggered by email based on events instead of page views. Customer.io is lightweight and gets a good customer support.
  4. HubSpot. This MA does everything. An inbound marketing software, it is great for small business owners and can provide beyond email marketing. Plus it’s cheaper on a per month basis.
  5. Pardot. Pardot offers more than featuring lead scoring, nurturing and email marketing’s. It allows tracking of marketing channels and analyses which campaigns are successful.

Tips to Make Marketing Automation Work

MA implementation may need several things to work. Aside from expert, you may need a well laid out plan. Marketing variables like leads, conversion rate, average purchase, repeated sales and margin then will come into the picture. Here are some simple tips to make MA work smoothly.

  1. Hire an expert. Somebody who understands how it works and its inner wirings will make your purchase worth it later. Other options though include outsourcing some tasks to your MA vender or other partners.
  2. Match software to what you need. As said above, there are various types of MA software provided by varied vendors. Each has its own unique feature. There is MA that will only work with small businesses and some which is very suited to big enterprise.
  3. Evaluate as multi-functional team. MA isn’t just for marketers. Usually, your IT, sales and CRM team may also need to understand what is happening with the newly purchased tool. Work together with other agencies before choosing the tool form a vendor. It’s still good to test and compare.
  4. Look beyond email. There are various channels aside from email. Choose MA tool that can shift to other media and display.
  5. Get behind the vendor’s salespeople. When choosing a vendor, it’s usually helpful to talk also with products manager, data architects and designer. They can offer more insights about the inner workings of the product.
  6. Reporting matters. Test out the reporting capability of the MA before purchasing. Some may have discrepancy in reporting which should have been the next process to the end goal of your organizations. Test out MA if it yields the correct reporting.
  7. Test matters. Always, always, test the product first for inconsistencies.
  8. Don’t forget why you bought it in the first place. Of course you bought it for one reason, don’t try to fit everything in it. It will make one messy marketing problem once you forget why you bought it in the first place.

How to Personalize Marketing Automation

Automation usually gets a frown from some marketing conservatives for its lack of personal touch. But the belief is wrong. There are ways to make MA personal.

One of the general techniques is to add recipients name in the subject line. This is one true technique that can increase clickthrough rate by 100%. Most people are tired of generic newsletters. But after everyone began using it, metrics went back to normal levels. Now, what do other things can be done?

A dynamic landing page that is well built minus the errors and the gimmicky part is one way to increase conversion rates. Other ways includes:

  1. Link customer’s feedback to social context.
  2. Pay attention to customer’s actions and bank on it.
  3. Take note of preferred medium.
  4. Have tools that have open APIs.

With all of this, inbound marketing still can be one big force behind it. Knowing full well its intricacies can help your MA work. As defined by HubSpot, behind inbound marketing, several forces may need to be focused on. It includes the content generation, the conversion funnel targeting, personalization, cross channel and integration.

In the end, Marketing Automation, as defined by QuickSprout, should be driven by value first and foremost. The key to a successful business that made use of the MA even at small scale is to build foundations and let it grow, nurture it and focus beyond short term goals and beyond direct sales.

featured image: sam_churchill


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