Let’s begin at the beginning – what is marketing automation?
In simple terms, marketing automation refers to the process of using software to automate marketing practices. Be they email marketing, social media marketing, or those more complex multi-channel campaigns, marketing automation solutions streamline processes, and allow marketing teams to do more with less manual effort.
But let’s stop to think about the whole inbound marketing process for a moment, so we know exactly what marketing automation strives to streamline and optimise.
The number one goal of marketing is to generate revenue. In the online environment, this is achieved by driving traffic to the company’s website, converting that traffic into leads, those leads into prospects and those prospects into paying customers.
(Image source: hubspot.com)
Marketing automation helps marketers do their job more efficiently across each stage of the process.
An Example – Email Marketing Automation
Some things are best illustrated with an example.
Imagine you have 1,000 people on your email list. Now, what do you think the advantages are of sending each one of these recipients – no matter at what stage they are on the buyer’s journey – the exact same email marketing messages every time you run a blast?
True, if you play the law of averages like this, then a message may sometimes resonate with one or two prospects – but this could hardly be described as being an optimised process. For one thing, for those one or two that you reach, you’re almost bound to annoy a hundred others with messages that hold no relevance to them – and that’s a big waste of time, effort and money.
But with a marketing automation system in place, it’s possible to send personalised, highly targeted messages that address specific prospects with specific content and make the process of nurturing leads through the sales funnel much more efficient.
A Better Strategy
Instead of hitting all 1,000 of those leads with the same message, a far better strategy would be to email only a highly-targeted segment of them with an invitation to download an eBook that delves deeper into the topics they’ve been researching on your site. Then, to everyone who downloads the content, a thank you email is sent out. A few days later, your email marketing automation system then sends out a follow-up email, this time offering them a relevant case study to download. Now, when someone downloads that case study, the sales department is notified by your email marketing automation system that a sales qualified lead (SQL) has been identified and is ready for a follow-up call.
(Image source: pardot.com)
A better system by far – much more personalised, more focused and moreover, stands a much better chance of achieving the number one goal of marketing (generating revenue) than un-tailored email blasts ever could. Indeed, according to research by marketing automation platform Pardot, 75% of all email revenue is generated by such targeted email marketing campaigns, compared to “one-size-fits-all” approaches.
And this is the ultimate purpose of marketing automation – to provide marketers with tools that can better target prospects with tailored content based on their behaviour. It provides a means to deliver select pieces of information only to those prospects that need it as they make a purchase decision. Indeed, it eases this decision, leads to improved conversion rates which typically equates to increased revenues.
The B2B Benefits of Marketing Automation
Aside from avoiding the prospect of flooding your subscribers’ inboxes with spam, the B2B benefits of marketing automation are many. Let’s consider what they are.
Imagine if you wanted to segment your email list of 1,000 leads manually. It would take an awfully long time, for sure – reviewing the profiles of each lead, figuring out what content they’ve engaged with, what they’ve downloaded, what social media platforms they frequent, if they’ve spent money with you before…
Now scale that up to 2,000 leads. Now up to 10,000.
No, delivering personalisation on this level just isn’t possible without an enormous (and expensive) team behind you.
With marketing automation, so much of the heavy lifting involved with many marketing activities – analysing data, segmentation, lead nurturing, lead scoring, campaign scaling – is done for you, leaving the marketing department free to focus on the more creative and critical aspects of their job, such as producing superior content.
Understanding of Leads and Customers Better
Marketing automation allows companies to gain much greater insights into their leads and customers. The various software available enables the marketing team to keep track of which website pages specific visitors have viewed, what emails they have opened, what social media posts they’ve engaged with, what forms they’ve filled out, what content they’ve downloaded, and what products/services they’ve already purchased.
With these insights, it becomes clear what each individual is looking for and what type of content speaks to them – personally. Armed with this information, it’s now possible to create detailed lists of leads, prospects and customers, and from there you can nurture them with content that matches their specific wants and needs.
Creating and Identifying High-quality Leads
Lead scoring is a hugely beneficial part of the marketing automation process – not least when it comes to fostering a more productive relationship between your marketing and sales teams.
(Image source: pardot.com)
Indeed, identifying exactly the right moment that a lead should be passed from marketing to sales is one of the hardest parts of managing the whole sales process. Or at least it is without any marketing automation software in your arsenal.
With it, however, not only is it possible to create higher-quality leads through crafting better customer journeys with content, but the marketing team will have a firmer understanding of exactly what it is that constitutes a sales qualified lead. This is done through lead scoring – i.e. benchmarking how likely it is that each lead is ready to buy based on their online behaviour and the information they have surrendered (such as their job titles, industry sector, etc.).
The higher the lead score, the more qualified they become for sales. The lower the score, the more these leads are in need of further education (i.e. more marketing content) to qualify them. And all of this is completely automated, saving the company time, and producing far greater results.
A/B Testing for Higher Conversion Rates
Be it a landing page, a call to action (CTA), an email subject line, or a promotional social media post, split or A/B testing is essential for getting the most out of a campaign. For each content asset at your disposal, testing subtle differences in design or copy between two versions of it provides marketers with the knowledge as to which version (i.e. either A or B) to run with.
Marketing automation software provides the tools required to do just that and enables marketers to refine each and every campaign they run on a micro-level.
What Are the Best Marketing Automation Platforms Currently Available?
There are dozens if not hundreds of marketing automation platforms out there. Some place their focus on just one area of automation – such as website visitor tracking, email marketing, or social media scheduling. Others are much more powerful, and enable companies to access and enjoy all of the above benefits (plus many more) from one single platform.
Here’s a short list of three of the most popular, highly-rated and powerful ones.
HubSpot is one of the most widely-recognised inbound marketing automation platforms offering a large variety of features that span content optimisation, SEO, email marketing, lead nurturing, and much more besides.
- Lead monitoring and scoring
- Landing page optimisation
- Building automated workflows
- Email optimisation
- Conversion tracking
- Real-time analytics
Marketo is another all-in-one marketing automation platform that can be used as the central hub for all of your marketing campaigns.
- Customer engagement
- Real-time personalisation
- Lead generation and nurturing
- Landing page optimisation
- Website visitor tracking
- Email marketing
A Salesforce product, Pardot is a great marketing automation solution for driving conversions through lead generation, email marketing, social media, sales analytics, and much more.
- Landing page design
- Email marketing, including templates
- Lead scoring and nurturing tools
- ROI (return on investment) reporting
- Social media management
- Real-time sales alerts
Other Marketing Automation Platforms of Note
There are many more marketing automation platforms, of course. If none of the above take your fancy, then check out these:
(G2 Crowd also produce an extremely useful page on the marketing automation options in existence today. Below is a screenshot of the quadrant that they produce, but to see the full comparison between 128 marketing automation solutions, click here.)
(Image source: g2crowd.com)
What to Look for When Choosing the Right Marketing Automation Solution for Your Company
If you want your marketing automation goals to be achieved, then the platform you choose quite obviously, needs to have all the tools that are relevant to your business. Cost, in this sense, shouldn’t necessarily be the primary driving factor in your decision-making, but rather the return on investment (ROI) that will be generated.
For a high ROI, the marketing automation solution must enable the collection and analysis of data and give your marketers the ability to execute and update campaigns based on the insights that the data reveal right from inside the platform.
Other essentials include:
- Complete automation throughout the entire customer journey – which begins with driving website traffic, and then moves on to lead generation, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and marketing and sales alignment.
- Testing and optimisation capabilities – A/B and multivariate testing across campaigns, enabling refinement strategies for everything from emails to landing pages.
- Personalised, real-time messaging – such features need to be configurable so that they are triggered when leads or customers interact, perform a specific action, or behave in a particular kind of way.
Now You Just Need the Buy-in
Convinced by the powers of marketing automation? You should be, for they are real. But getting the buy-in from the executive suite for any new piece of technology – marketing automation software or otherwise – is not always a guarantee.
And so, you need to prepare a pitch.
Building Your Business Case
What’s the business case for implementing marketing automation? To answer this question, you need to think about what the overall business objectives of your company are and how a marketing automation solution will help achieve them.
For instance, if growing your customer base is high on the agenda, then marketing automation will help generate better-qualified leads, improve the hand-off process between marketing and sales, and so generate more revenue. If it’s improving customer lifetime value, then marketing automation can be used to deliver better-targeted content to existing customers in order to convince them that sticking with your service is the smartest decision to make.
Whatever your goals are, it’s important that you are able to demonstrate that marketing automation will enable you to achieve them.
Support Your Case with Research and Data
A business case, of course, is only ever as good as the evidence that supports it.
There’s plenty of research and data out there that highlight the benefits that marketing automation will unleash. Your job will be to find the right research that backs up your business case.
Here are some key stats to get you started:
- Aberdeen Group reports that companies who use marketing automation convert 53% more leads to marketing qualified leads and report revenue growth 3.1% higher than non-users.
- A VentureBeat Insight report reveals that 80% of companies that use marketing automation see their number of leads increase and 77% also see their number of conversions increase.
- 74% of marketers say that one of the biggest benefits of marketing automation is found in how it enables a company to save time. 68% also cited increased customer engagement as a key benefit, 58% said they were impressed with the ability to send more timely communications, and 58% said that increased opportunities (such as up-selling and cross-selling) were a major benefit.
- A separate survey found that lead nurturing (57%), analytics and reporting (52%) and list segmentation (39%) were considered to be the most valuable benefits of marketing automation (so take your pick as you build your business case).
(Image source: emailmonday.com)
Marketing automation is also considered to be great value for money by the vast majority of users. 57% consider it to be either fairly priced or inexpensive, with 22% thinking that it’s a bit pricey, but nonetheless worth it. Only 11% consider it to be too expensive.
(Image source: emailmonday.com)
Over to You
Now it’s your turn. If you conduct solid research into your chosen platform, demonstrate how it will help your company achieve its specific business goals and provide decent data to back it up, you’ll certainly have a strong marketing automation case to present.
Post produced in partnership with Julia Payne, founding Director at Incisive Edge.