It’s been fascinating to see how the way we use marketing has evolved over the years; the rise of inbound, empowering the consumer, and big data analytics have played a huge role in shaping modern marketing best practices.
Arguably the most significant factor contributing to this change is the advancement and availability of marketing technology. Especially in the last decade or so, technology has caused huge disruptions to traditional marketing activities, forcing brands to change the way they operate or adopt new techniques to remain competitive.
If you’ve had much exposure to the marketing industry recently, you’ve probably come across the term “marketing automation” before. But even if you haven’t, don’t fret.
After reading this post, you should have a good understanding of what marketing automation encompasses and how it can be used to streamline and improve marketing funnels in virtually any business.
Marketing Automation Defined
It may sound overwhelming but in actuality, marketing automation is a fairly simple concept. It basically refers to any tool with the ability to automate a particular marketing process that would have otherwise had to be done manually.
There are countless ways to define marketing automation but here are some of the best explanations we could find from top industry sources:
Marketing automation is technology that manages marketing processes and multifunctional campaigns, across multiple channels, automatically. – Salesforce
Marketing automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions. Many marketing departments have to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions. The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier. – HubSpot
Marketing automation is a software platform that helps you automate your marketing and sales engagement to generate more leads, close more deals, and accurately measure marketing success. – Pardot
Marketing’s Ultimate Goal: Personalization at Scale
Back in the day, marketing was simply about trying to reach as many people as possible with a single, generic message (what we’ve come to know as mass-marketing). Over time, we’ve come to realize that this strategy just doesn’t deliver the best experience or the most value to customers. The industry started shifting to adopting a more customer-centric perspective. Hence, the need for more personalized and contextually relevant marketing strategies emerged.
Personalized marketing enables brands to deliver more relevant messages to their audience. The problem is, it’s hard to keep track of all the data required to enrich and personalize a prospect’s marketing experience. Think about it, that’s like asking an email outreacher to manually curate and customize every single email they send, which makes the process infinitely longer.
This is where marketing automation shows its worth. As a matter of fact, marketing automation tools drive a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overheads across the board among other compelling statistics. Now that’s hard to ignore!
By taking advantage of automation platforms, brands can seriously strengthen their ability to efficiently inject context into their marketing communications, regardless of how big their audience or contact list might be.
The scalability is achieved through the use of data analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), and email automation, all of which are the main functions of marketing automation.
Finally, an answer to the ultimate question of personalization at scale has arrived!
Marketing Automation in Action
To get a better idea of what each component of marketing automation is all about, let’s break it down and dive into a few key implementation examples:
Emails are the heart and soul of marketing automation. When brands and marketers talk about building lead nurturing workflows, email is generally the channel that they use for marketing communication (especially for B2B). This isn’t at all surprising when you know that email still delivers the best ROI of virtually any other marketing channel.
The concept of email automation basically refers to software that automates the sending of marketing emails based on workflows, user data, and online behavioral triggers. Thanks to the integration between email tools and customer data platforms, this software can significantly lower operational costs and greatly improve efficiency. As a bonus, everything is tracked, which makes gathering insights and reporting a breeze.
One of the most common uses of email automation is delivering a welcome series of emails to onboard new contacts when they subscribe. This email might include information on the brand, its products, and what steps to take next. The onboarding process is critically important to maximize engagement and automated emails allow for emails to be sent out in a far more timely manner.
Another really common automated email you’ve probably seen before is the abandoned cart reminder. This is essentially a follow-up message for anyone who leaves a website without purchasing the items in their shopping cart. It might sound pretty basic, but these abandoned cart emails have 3x the open rate of regular e-commerce emails and can convert over 10%.
Social Media Automation
Social media automation usually comes in the form of post scheduling, social listening, insight gathering, and reporting. These tools can be invaluable for marketers looking to optimize their social media strategies and increase user engagement.
For starters, post scheduling tools like Hootsuite can help make things a lot more convenient, save time, improve message consistency, and optimize posting times. You can create a whole month’s worth of content, sit back, and let your automated scheduling tool do the posting for you.
Then, there are social listening tools. These help track and monitor specific keywords, accounts, or hashtags to provide insights, which can be incredibly valuable for gauging campaign performance, competitive benchmarking, and keeping your finger on the pulse of audience sentiment.
Finally, you have your social automation tools for analytics and reporting, which collect and analyze data to provide you with insights about your performance and your audience. Social reporting tools help you identify which campaigns perform well and which fall short of expectations. You’ll also get insights about what resonates with your audience, so you can create more relevant and engaging content in the future.
Content Management Systems
A Content Management System (CMS) is a platform that helps users create, modify, and manage content on a website without the need for technical knowledge (i.e. programming skills). The rapid emergence and adoption of these platforms means that these days, virtually anyone can build a website in just a few clicks.
If you’re familiar with website building, you’ve probably heard of or used WordPress before. It’s still the most widely used platform available today, with a 65% CMS market share and an estimated 35% of all websites built on it. It’s relatively easy to use, but the real value of WordPress lies in all the third-party plugins that people build for it. It’s an open-source software, so there’s a plugin for pretty much everything, making the platform incredibly flexible.
There are several popular CMS platforms focused specifically on e-commerce websites. One of the most popular being Shopify, with a 31% share of e-commerce websites in the USA. E-commerce optimized CMS platforms, as their name suggests, provide webmasters with specialty e-commerce features like shopping carts, product catalogs, and payment gateways.
Other CMS platforms come in all shapes and sizes. Some are freeware, some are proprietary, and some are SaaS-hosted. There’s optimized software for social networking websites like Squarespare, or if you’re running a personal blog, WIX and Blogger are the go-tos. It all comes down to choosing the right platform that suits your needs based on what your website is and how you want to run it.
Customer Relationship Management
As the name suggests, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is about managing a customer or potential customer’s relationship with a business. In a nutshell, it comes down to tracking every touchpoint and storing relevant implicit/explicit data about your leads and customers. This data can then be accessed to provide insights about customers which can then be used to improve collaboration and increase productivity.
If you know a thing or two about CRM platforms, you’ve probably heard of Salesforce at some point. It’s one of the leading CRM brands on the market and helps over 150,000 businesses manage their customer data. In the world of B2B and account-based marketing, enterprise CRM platforms like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics allow sales and marketing teams to find, manage, and close leads more efficiently.
If you don’t like too much complexity or the idea of needing a dedicated CRM administrator, there are intuitive, more user-friendly options like Zoho CRM. It has simple setup wizards to enable quick and easy deployment, while the interface is fairly intuitive, even for new users. Platforms like Zoho and Freshworks make it easy for even smaller businesses to tap into the power of optimized customer relationship management.
One of the most important aspects of marketing automation is that it’s data-driven. For obvious reasons, the best decisions are based on clear, hard evidence. You need to know what’s working and what’s not in order to gauge performance and resulting returns. That means having the right tools to collect and make sense of your data.
Marketing analytics tools serve the purpose of collecting pertinent data and packaging it in a way that helps businesses understand how their marketing campaigns are performing. Contrary to the popular saying, what you don’t know can definitely hurt you.
When it comes to analyzing website data, one of the most popular tools out there is good ol’ Google Analytics. Having been around since 2005, the platform has grown exponentially to become the go-to for free website analytics because it provides insights that only Google can give you. With advanced features for tracking user behavior, audience sources, ads, and events, this tool covers analytics for a whole bunch of channels.
Other, more user friendly tools like SimilarWeb exist, but they usually don’t deliver the scope of data that Google can provide.
Ahrefs is another one of the biggest names in the industry when it comes to marketing analytics. Boasting one of the largest backlink indexes of any other platform out there, this analytics platform provides valuable insights for SEO and content marketing campaigns.
Alternatives in this category include SEMRush and Buzzsumo, also offering similar features and functionality. Combined with powerful options for content and competitor analysis, these tools are a great way to keep tabs on your digital marketing performance.
Multi-function Marketing Automation Suites
Multi-function marketing automation suites are platforms that essentially do “all of the above.”
Generally speaking, if you’re a business that uses multiple channels to drive conversions and sales, these tools help keep everything packaged in a unified platform.
Although each tool in this category has its own unique features, most tend focus on:
- Managing your website content
- Nurturing leads with emails and PPC
- Campaign reporting and analytics
Here at Spiralytics, we’ve chosen HubSpot as our main platform for managing our automated marketing campaigns. Since the beginning, we’ve been using HubSpot to build assets for lead engagement, lead capture, lead nurturing, and sales enablement.
Today, this tool empowers both our sales and marketing teams with advanced automation features integrated with channels like email and PPC to truly optimize our sales and marketing funnels.
As a HubSpot Platinum Agency Partner, we’ve also helped other brands benefit from its suite of user-friendly tools and scalable features, and we can do the same for you!
Of course, there are other options in the realm of multi-function automation suites like ActiveCampaign and GetResponse, but we’ve chosen to stick with HubSpot as it has scaled and evolved to meet our unique needs as an agency.
Time to Automate!
Now that you have a solid understanding of what marketing automation is, you can start to think about the various processes within your marketing campaigns that you can automate.
It’s a good idea to list all marketing automation projects down and prioritize them according to which would have the highest impact (in terms of time/cost-savings).
- What is your team typically spending time on?
- Can the process be automated?
- How much in terms of time and resources could you potentially save?
Think about marketing automation as a tool to help create context at scale, which saves time and genuinely adds value to the customer experience.
Need top-notch marketing automation services for your business? Get it touch with the experts at Spiralytics today!