What is marketing automation?
Despite the name, marketing automation is not a system put into place to send out generic messages to people en masse hoping that, by bombarding users with emails, some desired result will be achieved. The term marketing automation actually refers to the strategy, software and tactics used to attract, engage, segment and nurture prospects, leads and even customers. By utilizing software to connect social media, email and CRMs, and enabling multiple touch points, automation allows businesses to create a more efficient way to communicate with various audiences. This is especially important when communicating with a large number of potential customers – and using Outlook and Excel spreadsheets to manage your program becomes unwieldy.
More than just an email system, marketing automation employs “triggers” – or online actions – to enroll users in workflows, which are designed to move users through the purchase process with strategically-timed messaging. Though follow-up emails are automated, in that they are programmed to be sent at specific intervals based on previous actions, they are carefully written, personalized using dynamic content, and sent to segmented lists based on personas and conversion paths. The messages are designed to attract and engage visitors, promoting communication across channels. By tracking actions and interactions, marketing automation helps collect and organize data from a number of marketing channels in order to improve lead scoring and lead qualification. Automation solutions also allow businesses to provide comprehensive and cohesive cross-channel experiences for users via templates and campaign tools.
Marketing automation is closely tied to inbound marketing, content marketing and the process of lead acquisition. Where inbound marketing uses blogging, social media and keywords to attract users and entice them to trade personal information (such as a name and email address) for valuable content (case studies, whitepapers, checklists, webinars, demos, etc), marketing automation nurtures those leads through their decision-making process by providing the right messaging at the right time.
What are the goals of a marketing automation strategy?
Goals are important to a successful marketing automation strategy. Not only do goals help measure success and align marketing and sales teams, goals help businesses determine the most appropriate marketing automation solutions needed to achieve those goals.
Common goals include:
- Increase leads. Marketing automation in combination with content marketing allows you to increase leads by informing landing page optimization, form and conversion path creation using real time data and A/B testing.
- Manage leads more effectively. Marketing automation allows you to create segmented lists based on specific user information and conversion data such as email opens and clicks to send targeted information, as well as understand where in the sales funnel your contacts are.
- Build stronger relationships. Automation allows businesses to stay top-of-mind with contacts especially throughout a long sales cycle. It also allows businesses to re-engage cold leads using content specifically created for these inactive prospects
- Qualify leads using lead scoring. Marketing automation allows you to implement lead scoring, adding or subtracting points based on user actions in order to qualify leads before being passed to a member of the sales team. According to the Annuitas Group, “Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experiences a 451% increase in qualified leads.”
- Increase conversions to customer. Using A/B testing and targeted messaging to specific contacts at the right time intervals, marketing automation allows business to increase conversions from lead to customer more quickly and at a reduced cost of acquisition. Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate “50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost.” (Forrester Research)
Marketing automation, though no longer a new concept, still carries some misconceptions. It’s not just email and it’s certainly not spam. It’s not about sending the same email to everyone on your contacts list every month, and you can’t just set it and forget it.
Marketing automation is a complex system that requires testing, analysis and optimization based on data and user feedback.However, if done correctly, automation can lead to faster sales cycles, increased customer satisfaction, lower cost of acquisition and greater efficiencies in managing your sales funnel. With so many touch points and opportunities to target niche audiences through various channels, marketing automation makes it easier to track leads where they are and communicate in a consistent brand voice while also creating a personalized user experience.