Marketing is crucial.
Without marketing, your potential customers will probably never know that you’re there, offering your great products or services.
But marketing can be a hassle sometimes, doesn’t it?
Marketing automation can help solve some of the time issues and improve certain processes. It’s all about you setting up automated processes to take place – so that you don’t have to do them manually!
In this guide article, I will give you knowledge on what marketing automation is (it might not be what you think it is!), how to get started and examples of tools as well as campaigns!
Here’s a list of topics we are going to cover in this marketing automation guide
(click to go to chapters)
What is marketing automation
Marketing automation – it sounds like such a broad term! Before explaining what it is, it would be better to outline what it is not.
It is not a golden solution that will create your marketing campaigns by itself from scratch. Marketing automation is not a magic button, which says “do marketing” and sorts out everything for you.
So, what is marketing automation?
It’s a great solution for businesses with a huge base and a steady inflow of valuable inbound leads. It can help you scale your marketing efforts, cut the time you spend on time-consuming tasks and drive sales.
Marketing automation requires you to be able to track the behavior of your leads along many channels – on your website, emails you send, content pieces and social media. This data is then used to segregate your leads and send more personalized messages based on the digital body language of your leads.
In the words of Matt Heinz, the founder of Heinz Marketing:
Marketing automation is all about increasing engagement, velocity and conversion of prospects through the buyer’s journey by leveraging precision processes, content and cross-channel communication.
The importance of data
Data is the most important factor that ensures the success or failure of your marketing automation. It drives all the processes within this strategy. That is why you need to have a 100% trust in your data management. Incorrect data can drive your strategy to the wrong tracks. You may find yourself targeting a different group than you should be, effectively losing your leads.
How can you collect data?
Social media monitoring – collect information on what your followers like, what types of content do they click, what are their needs,
Live chat/surveys – these allow for obtaining very detailed information on the behavior and preferences of your visitors,
A/B testing – in this way you can get an insight into what types of communication/content/engagement your leads may prefer,
Landing Pages – what sort of keywords do people type into Google when they find your Landing Page? LPs can be tailored to display different content depending on different keywords, ads or links, which led the visitors to it. You can also include forms where visitors can provide their information “in exchange” for content pieces like guides or webinars (automatically becoming your prospects!).
These are obviously not the only ways to collect data – you are more than encouraged to find yours! But, well, you need to start somewhere, don’t you?
Marketing automation means scheduled and automated lead nurturing – that means taking care of your relationship with your leads. It’s about engaging them in a way they want to be engaged, whether by sending them good content, discounts, and deals or by using different social media channels.
What is, however, more important, lead nurturing cannot focus on only one stage of the sales funnel. It needs to address all of them. Not all of your leads will be ready to make a purchase with your business. Some may be considering, some may have just found out about you! Some may be waiting for that final incentive. You need to push the process
According to Marketo, on average, about 50% of leads in any system are people not ready to buy. 80% of leads will never become customers! Does that mean you should forfeit all this effort? Not at all! It only means that you need to do your best to try and identify that 20 %, their needs and expectations and NURTURE THE HELL OUT OF THEM. However, to get these 20% to buy, you need to constantly remind them of your offer – in a way they would like to be reminded.
In layman’s terms – marketing automation is all about targeting of your marketing efforts in a better way. This is done using data gained from tracking your customers and potential customers – leads and prospects.
Most of all, however – marketing automation requires a foundation in form of a strong strategy and people!
Is marketing automation a good option for my business?
Marketing automation can be beneficial for businesses of any kind and size. It can make processes such as email marketing, data collection, lead nurturing or driving sales easier and swifter. It can save you time on setting up mailing lists and collecting data manually. It can also save you money, as you won’t need to hire a massive marketing or sales team to do the job.
But, as I’ve said before, marketing automation is not a magic solution. For it to be effective you need a strong foundation. Therefore, before you start your marketing automation campaign, answer these questions:
- Do I have a sufficient number and a steady inflow of valuable inbound leads?
- Do I have wide-ranging, valuable content that can be used for effective lead nurturing?
- Do I know how to collect the data on the behavior of my leads?
Marketing automation is an approach based on two factors: data and leads. If you don’t have these, preferably in huge amount and of high quality, then marketing automation might not be for you. Obviously, a huge amount of leads can mean something else for different businesses. For a small one, focused on the local area or a very specific niche, that could be 1000. For a massive corporation that would be, however, a drop in the ocean.
Keep in mind that quality of leads should be your defining factor. That’s why buying leads in bulk is not effective in marketing automation. For it to work, you need engagement and for engagement to take place, you need leads that actually consent to you communicating them! Inbound leads are the way to go!
Pros and cons of marketing automation
Let’s start with the good sides of marketing automation.
Marketing automation can help you generate more leads
Although it requires great leads in the first place, marketing automation generates leads as well!
Think of Landing Pages or A/B testing – these strategies can be used as places to collect leads. For example, asking people to provide their contact information in exchange for exclusive deals, a newsletter or a particular piece of content (a guide or free templates).
Another thing marketing automation can do is to improve the quality of your leads. Carefully planned communication can push your prospects forward through the sales funnel and turn them into buyers.
Businesses trust this strategy
According to a report by SiriusDecisions, the number of businesses using marketing automation grew 11 times between 2011 and 2014 – the trend is still rising. Additionally, the 2016 report by Marketo and Ascend2 have shown that 91% of the most successful marketers agree that marketing automation was very important towards their success.
What does that mean? Businesses like marketing automation. They value it as a strategy that facilitates successes. They trust it and are willing to invest more in it. Why shouldn’t you?
Marketing automation saves time and effort
By automating certain processes, you save time. This is a bit of a no-brainer to be fair.
But the implications of that go a bit further. By saving time you can focus on other important aspects of marketing.
What is more, by automating repetitive and kind of boring tasks of setting up email lists and scheduling sending, you can keep your team motivated and focused on actual growth. If you’re doing your marketing by yourself, automation gives you time to take care of other things around your business.
Testing is easier, quicker and more effective
Testing is the best way to find out whether a certain strategy is a good one. Test like A/B can be conducted much more swiftly using marketing automation – most software programs contain tools to perform these.
Data can be used to improve your sales funnel
Apart from improving your customer profiles and marketing automation strategies, you can use the data gained from your tools to perfect your sales funnel and in return, increase your sales!
Now, I’ll talk about the disadvantages of marketing automation
It may be hard to grasp
Marketing automation software programs consist of lots of different email pathways. Setting these up might be overwhelming. It’s quite easy to make mistakes, which then need to be untangled and resolved. And it might be a tough task to stay on top of all the campaigns, especially if you don’t have a marketing team.
All marketing automation software programs offer their own analytic reports. Some of them are, however, really complex and require time to “decipher”. It’s all about the practice though, isn’t it?
It’s easier to communicate – but do customers want that?
Remember when I said that you should nurture the hell out of your most valuable leads? Don’t take this too literally! I didn’t mean that you should send several daily updates to your leads. Actually, refrain from doing so!
Marketing automation makes reaching out to a large group of prospects much easier, but that doesn’t mean that you should do that endlessly and restlessly. That will only make your leads click the “unsubscribe” button.
With all the data on leads’ searches, social media activity, etc. it’s much easier to segment your lead base and direct messages containing certain content or offer, to people who might really need them.
What tools can I use for marketing automation?
Customer.io is a great tool for sending out targeted emails. It allows for a high degree of personalization of messages as well as correct timing.
Another great thing about Customer.io is its option to segment your mailing lists along the user profiles or past activity so that your communication efforts can be more scaled and effective.
Customer.io also allows you to create sophisticated user profiles that can be segmented later on. Obviously, there’s also an analytics tool added.
Pricing: Customer.io plans start from $250 per month for the most basic one. The higher plans you’ll purchase, the more free messages and profiles you’ll get. The prices are a bit lower if you choose to be billed annually.
HubSpot goes beyond emailing. It’s a tool for content creation, marketing analytics, email marketing and social media – all in one! It’s, therefore, more of an inbound marketing platform that automates processes, which aim to get you more valuable leads and turn your outbound leads into inbound ones.
It’s a sophisticated tool that lets you merge all your marketing efforts into a single team-driven platform. Converting leads to sales and customers is its ultimate goal.
Pricing: There are three HubPost plans – CRM, which is free, marketing (from $0 per month to $2200 per month) and sales (from $0 per month to $369 per month.
Marketo offers solutions in various fields: lead management, lead nurturing, email marketing, consumer marketing and mobile marketing. The main aim of the tool is to drive customer engagement.
Customers praise it for a clear user interface and effective in increasing their CTR, open rates and conversions, as well as for a general increase in marketing’s contribution towards the revenue of these companies.
Pricing: Marketo has a different approach to pricing than your typical marketing automation tool. They set the price individually for each user based on how many contacts are on their list. That makes it a perfect solution for smaller businesses that do not have huge budgets to pay for marketing automation solutions.
Bizible works with PPC advertising. It allows for in-depth AdWords metrics, down to the level of a keyword as well as for content ads or lead history. In short – Bizible aims to drive up your ROI from AdWords.
Pricing: Prices start from $500 per month per one AdWords account. It costs $1000 per month for five AdWords accounts and $2000 per month for an unlimited number of accounts.
Merging easy UI editing, Internet-of-Things kind of data sourcing, mobile app, teamwork approach and unifying your brand image, Salesforce Platform is a very versatile tool for marketing automation.
The tool can be used to improve areas such as: marketing, sales, commerce, CRM and customer engagement.
Pricing: Salesforce Platform prices start from $25 per month. Their most popular plan costs $100 per month and two more advanced ones are $4000 per month and the second one has a price that’s fitted individually to your needs.
Examples of marketing automation campaigns
Because of its plans for an expansion to new markets, Panasonic needed a marketing automation tool that would help smooth out the process and make it swifter. In April 2013, they have chosen Marketo as their go-to platform.
Adopting a marketing automation tool allowed a marketing team of 25 people to carry out 100 separate marketing campaigns per month (five times more than before). Sales coming from marketing activities rose from 10% to 26%. The number of leads increased from 55,000 to 110,000 thanks to data collection.
McAfee had a different problem to solve than Panasonic. Despite having a lot of leads, they doubted their quality. Marketing automation allowed them to implement a lead scoring system, thanks to which, they managed to cut out 35% of their leads, leaving only the most promising ones. This allowed them to focus their efforts and managed to increase the conversion of leads to opportunities (leads that were in need of a service McAfee offers) four times.
I covered two case studies of quite large companies. Now it’s time for a small business example!
Paper Style, a wedding invitation company wanted to fit in perfectly with bride’s buying habits. With the help of marketing automation software, they created a detailed sales journey, which highlighted the order, in which wedding necessities were purchased by the couples. Then, they would send emails to their leads to determine, which stage they were on with their buying journey and what emails should they be targeted with. This strategy led to a 244% increase in open ratio, 161% increase in email clicks and a 330% increase in revenue per mail.
The most important conclusion you should draw from this marketing automation guide is that it will not do your job for you! What it can do is improving the quality of your leads and making email marketing swifter and more effective.
Data is key for successful marketing automation. It allows for improving your leads through lead scoring and lead nurturing as well as for driving conversions.
Although marketing automation can be sometimes seen as a strategy for big players – corporations and huge businesses – the case studies, I cited show that small companies can benefit from it as well.
Summing up, marketing automation is an amazing strategy. It might take some time to master all the mechanics, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it!