Part of the reason behind the slow uptake of Marketing Automation is that many companies still don’t really know what Marketing Automation is or how it can benefit their business, and as such, do not know how to implement it effectively.
Businesses who can master the platform now are positioning themselves for future success, that’s why we’ve put together a guide to Marketing Automation, which aims to explain the platform and its features to give you a basic understanding and ensure you stay ahead of the curve.
So, What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing Automation is often described as a sophisticated software solution that focuses on tools to nurture customer leads from the moment they enter the top of the marketing funnel.
However Marketing Automation is more than just software. Marketing Automation is a system of processes that is designed to communicate regularly based on their interactions with your business, their stage in the buying process and their understanding of your product / service.
When used correctly, Marketing Automation allows companies to build a relationship with their prospects through highly personalised, useful and relevant content. It helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted advocates; and as such has the ability to generate significant new revenue for companies.
But, What Exactly does Marketing Automation Do?
An effective Marketing Automation program can considerably increase your marketing output with little increase in your marketing efforts. It is designed to help prioritise and execute marketing tasks in a more streamlined and efficient way to make the most of your marketing initiatives and help you reach your goals faster.
In order to generate more revenue for your company, you need to consider the entire sales funnel and how you can move prospects through. From acquiring prospects or interested people, convert them into sales leads and close those leads into customers. Marketing Automation can assist this entire process.
Consider this Example…
Today, many marketers rely on email marketing to generate results by sending blast email after blast email to the abyss of their prospect and customer lists. They hope that the message they have chosen will resonate with some of the audience and drive them toward a desired action; measuring the effectiveness of the campaign based on quantifiable metrics such as open rates, sales or leads.
While this is not necessarily a bad tactic, there are some flaws in this tried and tested method that Marketing Automation can help to overcome.
Using a Marketing Automation system allows you to market smarter. It allows you to nurture your leads through the entire buying process and deliver highly-targeted, personalized messages that address their specific barriers to purchase:
Step 1: You send an email invitation to download your latest whitepaper to a targeted list of contacts
Step 2: You send a thank you note to all the people that downloaded the offer. You send a different email or message to those that didn’t download the paper.
Step 3: A week later, you send a follow up email to the list of people who downloaded the whitepaper, offering them a case study relating to that topic
Step 4: Finally, when someone downloads that case study, your sales team will get a notification so they can follow up with them (this person is now much more qualified and is likely farther down the buying process)
Step 5: Those who did not download the eBook become another segment and receive a reminder about it, or an alternative offer such as an invitation to a free seminar.
The above example demonstrates a personalised approach to Marketing that is much more effective. The customer is more likely to respond to your offerings as they are receiving information that is relevant and tailored to their interactions with your business.
By making the marketing conversation more personalised, Marketing Automation makes the customer more likely to trust your company, and ultimately, more likely to buy.
The Rise of Marketing Automation
In today’s business environment, buying power has shifted to the hands of the consumer and the one-to-many approach no longer works. This is particularly prevalent in the B2B industry, where consumers are increasingly well-informed, with the ability to choose from a multitude of different companies. It has become essential to market to the individual consumer. Despite the common misconception that B2B buyers only care about logical, financial benefits, it’s important to remember that buyers are inherently emotional beings and base their decisions on characteristics such as warmth, humour, trust, and likeability.
The future of B2B marketing is consequently moving toward a “Relationship Era”, where the entire customer experience must be carefully considered. Fostering a long-term relationship with the customer rather than just focusing on the end goal (sales) is key in this modern marketing environment. From a B2B viewpoint, this means extending conversations with your customers past the first or second impression to strengthen their relationship with your brand.
That’s where Marketing Automation comes in. As Marketing Automation considers the stages of the buying cycle, it lets you align your marketing to the buyer’s journey. With the ability to plan your interactions to what is most important to the buyer in each stage, marketing automation technology knows when to give customers space and then pro-actively contact them at just the right time.
Put simply, with marketing automation you have the ability to better segment customers for greater relevancy, send customers content they are actually interested in, interact with buyers who are engaged in sales, and deepen relationships with existing customers. In order to do this, Inbound Marketing techniques are often employed.
Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation
The customer acquisition tactic that is built on one-on-one human relationships, ‘Inbound Marketing’ goes hand in hand with Marketing Automation.
Inbound Marketing is central to the digital age. It focuses on providing the information your prospects need when they are researching or considering your product or service. The idea is that if they are looking for the information you have, they’re ready to read it and consider it. Inbound Marketing is the practice of attracting users through quality content that pulls people toward your company and product naturally.
By closely aligning your content and marketing materials with your customers’ interest, your brand is best positioned to attract, delight, and engage customers over time.
Marketing Automation can facilitate the timely distribution of a company’s inbound marketing efforts.
The Elements of Inbound Marketing
The following are the main elements of Inbound Marketing and how they tie in to Marketing Automation:
Content Marketing: The B2B brand-customer relationship is no longer based on one-way communication, but rather focuses on two-way brand engagement. That’s why smart B2B businesses are effectively using content marketing to create a valuable conversation with their customers. By sharing content that is relevant, timely, and addresses their prospects’ needs, B2B marketers can nurture their customer relationships and ultimately increase the likelihood of the prospect buying their products or services. Marketing Automation can assist in the distribution of this content as well as tracking your prospect’s engagement with it.
Conversion Funnel Targeting: Marketers must pay attention to the different stages prospects go through as they interact with the company; from becoming aware of the business and its products / services, to becoming more interested in the business and what it has to offer, and finally committing to purchase from that business. An aggressive call to action too early in the relationship can put a prospect off. That’s why each stage of the buyer’s journey requires different marketing and communication needs, which can be addressed by tracking their interactions through Marketing Automation.
Personalisation: Personalisation and relevance are essential in marketing communications with prospects and leads. As you build out your Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation strategy, you learn more about your leads. This learning process will empower your company to re-invest that data into refining your marketing strategy. Marketing Automation software can help you streamline this process and build one to one connections with hundreds of thousands—and even millions—of users.
Cross Channel Integration: With Inbound Marketing, multi-channel marketing strategies connect all touch points in the customer journey. Nowadays it is extremely common for users to engage with your business across channels such as email, social, advertising, direct marketing and content before deciding to engage in a sale. Analytics are crucial to this framework, which Marketing Automation can facilitate by ensuring marketing and analytics software can communicate effectively with each other. This integration helps to ensure that your brand is delivering the right marketing messages to the right audiences at the right time in their buying journey.
Benefits of Using Marketing Automation
When used correctly, Marketing Automation is a fantastic tool for businesses small and large. For small businesses with limited staff, Marketing Automation can assist in running complex campaigns and free up employees’ time so that they can work more efficiently. Marketing Automation is also useful for bigger companies as it allows them to connect with each of their customers in a highly personalised way that is difficult to do manually on such a large scale and align with sales teams and objectives.
Some of the main benefits of Marketing Automation are:
It Saves Time
With the ability to create multiple campaigns and posts ahead of time and schedule them, you can create an entire lifecycle of posts in one day and set them to post throughout the month without having to keep checking back, freeing up your time to concentrate on other tasks.
It Allows for Precise Segmentation
Marketing automation allows you to reach each one of your customers with targeted content that is relevant to them. Rather than having to manually segment customers based on their needs and preferences, effective marketing automation solutions allow you to create restrictions that automatically categorise customers.
It Increases Resourcefulness
With an automated solution, a single staff member can execute complex and ongoing campaigns and can connect with many more customers than would be possible manually.
It Aids Reporting
With Marketing Automation you can easily create detailed reports. Marketing Automation solutions can keep track of each email sent, every Social Media post, and every piece of content you release, providing detailed graphs, statistics and other report data that you can easily analyse to inform future campaigns.
It Increases Brand Presence
Because it saves time and resources, Marketing Automation makes it possible for businesses to create a consistent brand presence on multiple channels. By automating your marketing, you are able to expand your campaigns across multiple channels.
It Simplifies Lead Nurturing
Marketing Automation makes lead nurturing easier as you do not have to connect with each lead manually. With an automated marketing solution, you can reach out to a potential lead right from the beginning of their interaction and track each interaction with your brand over the entire relationship.
Where Marketing Automation Falls Short
Marketing Automation is an extremely sophisticated processes and software solution. But like all software, its only as good as the people behind it. In order to get the most out of the platform, your business should set out clear objectives and benchmark your ROI.
If your business does decide to embark on Marketing Automation there are a few things to bear in mind.
A Marketing Process is Essential
In order to use Marketing Automation, you have to have a marketing process to automate in the first place. The process has to be well thought through, and consistent, otherwise your investment in a Marketing Automation won’t generate significant return on investment.
Leads are Vital
Marketing Automation is useless unless you have enough leads. While Marketing automation can help qualify leads, and nurture leads, most of it’s tools and benefits do not acquire these leads for you.
Content is Key
In order to be successful with Marketing Automation, it is necessary to have relevant content to distribute. This content has to be in the correct form, for example it shouldn’t simply be a collection of web pages, but rather a series of articles, e-Books, whitepapers and other things that people are interested enough in to hand over their contact details for. Marketing Automation devours content – if you don’t feed it, it dies.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
In order for Marketing Automation to work effectively, it is necessary to have a shared understanding of the buying process between marketing and sales. Both teams should know what messages they are in charge of communicating. When you have a streamlined process, it is clearer for both departments to qualify leads and pass them through to for sales to action and close.
Once Marketing Automation is set up, it will save your business time and resources, however the reward does not come straight away. In order to effectively use Marketing Automation, you will have to dedicate a significant amount of time into training staff on how to use it properly and get the most out of the software. For example, if sales don’t contact a lead until they are fully qualified. If you are not willing to do this, you may as well invest in other initiatives.
Is Marketing Automation Right for Your Business?
There’s no simple way to determine whether Marketing Automation software is a good investment for your business. However the following considerations may help you decide whether it might be right for you.
Marketing Tools Used: The more marketing tools you use, the more difficult it is to effectively track your customer’s journey to sale. A business with a lot of different tools is more likely to see benefit in combining them to one platform. If you don’t use many tools and consistently deliver great results from your marketing – you’re not likely to need Marketing Automation.
The Customer Journey: If your customer takes a short and simple path from awareness to action, Marketing Automation may be an unnecessary expense. The longer and more complex the path, the more likely it is that marketing automation would be useful. Furthermore, Marketing Automation is useful for repeat customers.
Willingness to Adapt: Marketing Automation will only work for you if your business is willing to dedicate energy, time, money and resources into ensuring it will be successful.
When customers are thoroughly nurtured throughout the whole buying process, they are more likely to develop a relationship with your brand and keep coming back. As with any relationship, you get out what you put in, so if you go down the route of Marketing Automation make sure you’re willing to give it the time and effort it deserves. Not only will you reap the rewards of a highly satisfied client base, but you’ll earn kudos as one of the B2B brands staying ahead of the curve.