Around 5 years ago, a buzz started to rumble around the world of digital media and marketing, that was entirely centered on automation.
Now, personalized advertising campaigns driven by adaptive software were nothing new, even as far back as 1999 – Oracle had been selling marketing tools to various businesses in a package called Eloqua. But, by 2012 digital media, and AI, had advanced to such a point, that the possibilities offered by marketing automation really started to capture the industry’s attention.
When respected technology, research firms like Gartner proclaim that, “CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs by 2017”; and when Forrester states that marketing automation is set to hit a “tipping point” with more and more companies outside of Silicon Valley adopting. You know you you’re not just dealing with a flash in the pan any longer.
But What is Marketing Automation?
For less technologically oriented business owners, it can be difficult to understand exactly what marketing automation means; rest assured you’re not going to be thrusting your online advertising strategy into the hands of machines anytime soon.
What automation provides is a series of technologies and tools that help marketing teams track customers across multiple touch points including social media, E-mail, the company website and even SMS. These software then allow us to analyze the data we receive, in order to craft tailored, personalized interactions with customers based on past purchasing, and engagement behavior. The result? More leads of higher quality, ready to be ushered along the buyer’s journey all the way to a sales-ready state.
Common Features of Marketing Automation
So what are the core capabilities that make up these marketing tools? Definitions have been a little vague on the matter, usually throwing a bunch of different technologies into the mix. But any marketing automation strategy has to make use of at least some of the following features.
You’ve spent all that time and money developing your website, but the only way you can measure the impact it’s having is through some basic Google analytics and a possible increase in sales. There’s a wealth of data your online storefront is generating every day, and marketing automation allows you to access it by:
- Letting you see who’s visiting your site
- Monitoring how much visitors spend on each page
- Identifying unique visitor IP addresses by their location
- Recognizing which E-mails a prospect clicks and opens
- Tracing which keywords visitors are using to get to your website
- Even tracking what prospects are saying about your brand on social media
- Creating forms and landing pages that help you capture better information about your prospects
With all that extra data you can prioritize and target the types of leads and market segments you want to advertise to, and develop relevant campaigns to do just that.
With each banner, file and clickable link generating tracking URLs, now you can gain a better understanding of which content is resonating with your visitors. Through the addition of dynamic scripts and forms you can provide customized messages and offers for customers based on the time, their location, and their past behavior.
Real-Time Sales Alerts
Wouldn’t it be great to know which leads are ripe for the picking, and which ones are dead ends? Simply set the parameters for a qualified lead based on demographics, specific behaviors, recency and frequency of interaction in order to get a comprehensive view of interest levels. Then sit back and wait as your sales team gets real time alerts when prospects show up that meet all your criteria. No cold-calling anymore.
Trigger pre-set “drip” marketing campaigns that send relevant messages to customer based on their behavior and past purchases. From targeted E-mails, to SMSs and mobile advertisements, maintain and deepen your relationship with customers through marketing automation; and keep them engaged and informed right to the point of purchase.
Automation provides a wealth of resources to boost your E-mail marketing efforts. With easy-to-use tools you can create mass E-mails and newsletters, with in-built tracking so you can monitor key buyer metrics.
You can also filter out all the messages that just aren’t getting anywhere, with a range of tools that allow you to manage: unsubscribed customers, bounced addresses, clicked and opened E-mails, as well as general delivery monitoring. When customers do click, you can make sure they end up on a designated landing page, designed to facilitate easy purchasing.
Finally you can tailor your E-mail campaigns to fit specific platforms such as mobile, or reach out to specific audiences based on demographics, interests and job designations.
Multi-Channel Program Management
Whether you’re handling campaigns related to online videos, digital advertising, mobile, virtual events or social media, you can create and optimize marketing to fit each channel. For example if you’re hosting a new event you can automate personalized invitations, registrations, initiate reminders and follow-up after the event is over to get more feedback. All while you get vital data about prospective visitors.
If you liked a particular campaign, clone it. Automation allows you to keep everything you liked about a previous marketing project and replicate it, while adding any personalized touched that suit your new program parameters.
Social Media Marketing
With social media taking up an increasingly large chunk of the marketing budget it definitely pays to boost efficiency and functionality in this area.
Through listening and tracking software, you’ll be able to get insights into what prospects on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter amongst are talking about. Build that data into your customer profiles, and market segmented advertising to boost their effectiveness.
Design customized social media sharing buttons and images to get your message and products out into the public consciousness. With tracking data you can figure out who’s sharing the most, and which content and platforms are driving the most conversions.
Managing content and posting on social media profiles can be hassle. Automation allows you to schedule posting campaigns across all your accounts, based on time and date. Then you can measure how many likes, retweets, shares and replies you’re getting and adjust if necessary. If you’re looking to provide followers with unique content that rewards loyalty, then automation facilitates the creation of targeted polls, sweepstakes and referral programs to boost fan engagement. With all the advanced social analytics you’re getting, you can easily track the effect these campaigns have on your bottom line, as well.
Create automated customer reports based on specific campaigns, platforms, time periods or channels in order to get a comprehensive view of which digital marketing efforts are driving your business activities. With multi-touch revenue attribution you can track revenue and sales to specific programs and you can even see which campaigns and areas throughout the buyer’s journey most affected your prospects’ decision to buy.
Ultimately automation is a practical tool to help grow your business and increase your ROI, all that in-depth data only makes sense if it’s jump-starting sales. Use the ROI analytics to track the return being generated by your marketing efforts, and adjust your budget going forward to reflect ground realities.
How Marketing Automation Can Take Small Businesses to the Next Level
While all these features and benefits are great for larger organizations, those of you who are operating smaller businesses may be wondering whether the expense of automation is worth it. Perhaps you’re only targeting your products and services to a localized area, maybe you employ less than a hundred people and your customer base is in the low thousands. With all those limitations is it even possible to pursue marketing automation? The answer is a resounding yes.
Recently marketing consultancy Gleanster, released a report detailing how smaller companies and businesses are interacting with automation.
- Figures revealed that 68% of top-performing businesses are using marketing automation to manage leads efficiently as they grow.
- 79% of the businesses using these technologies are more than pleased with the result on their ROI, and in fact they see automation as critical to their future success.
Instead of requiring additional employees and maintenance, automation boosted efficiency.
- 90% of the companies who began using it reported that they didn’t need to increase hiring at all since implementation.
- Marketing automation software is also forming a vital tool in the arsenal of sales executives. 95% of sales and marketing personnel are using the customer histories and engagement profiles generated to boost their selling strategies and create more satisfying customer experiences.
- It’s not just quality of leads either, it’s quantity. Sales data reveals that small businesses pursuing lead nurturing strategies are increasing leads generation by 120% on a quarterly basis!
- Automation doesn’t just help businesses reach new customers. The tailored profiles and advertising triggers generated allow these firms to up-sell and cross-sell to existing customers to such an extent that 50% of revenue is coming from this segment. That’s compared to the 30% of repeat of business non-automated businesses are getting from their automation strategies.
Smaller businesses facing greater threats than ever before: from franchises and massive online retailers, to the estimated 28 million SMEs already operating in the US. Marketing automation allows your organization to level the playing field, and even gain a competitive edge. Instead of going bigger, automation allows businesses to target more niche, localized markets in efficient, personalized ways.
While you might have previously required a sales team at physical locations, now you can direct your sales team towards the leads most likely to generate conversion.
Automation manages boring repetitive tasks performed employees, allowing them to focus on strategy and growing your core competencies instead. While automated marketing strategies get your brand out to customers you get to focus on creating quality products and services.
Marketing Automation: What to Do and What Not to Do
The range of tools provided by marketing automation platforms are both intuitive and adaptable. They are powered by sophisticated and powerful software. A defined strategy and commitment behind implementation is required in order to get the most out of their capabilities.
Most businesses that implement automation into their advertising start seeing results within 6 months. If you’re looking to boost the effectiveness of your implementation then here are some tips to follow.
Collaborate and Set Objectives
From sales, to management, to customer service and other staff; all stakeholders in the business need to be aware of the changes being implemented. Make sure to get their input regarding the tools and data that would help them perform their functions better. Do all of this before, talking to your external provider.
Establish a timeline for mailing. Establish the sort of information you want to extract from your systems and channels. Finally, establish KPIs that you want see reached through automation. It is important to define market characteristics and criteria for high quality sales leads. Provide a list of metrics you want to keep track of. They may include, clicks, opens, engagement times, demographics, and averaged times for conversion.
Focus on Personalization
Automation gives you the tools to tailor your marketing campaigns towards a variety of buyers. It is important that you make these prospects feel as if they’re receiving individual attention. Focus on creating content and messaging that fits the different customer profiles identified through analytics. The days of blasting mass E-mails and general messages to every customer are long gone.
Remember at this stage, there is no idea too big to implement with your new software. Brainstorm ideas for different marketing campaigns, website pages, forms, and E-mails.
Start Simple Then Build
Start gaining a familiarity with your new tools by tweaking and upgrading the digital marketing efforts already being deployed. There’ll be plenty of time to make full use of the tools as you move forward.
Get a Partner with Appropriate Expertise
Few small businesses have the experience, skills and knowledge to implement automation solutions in-house. A digital marketing agency or specialist consultancy that specializes in planning and deploying automation tools is a must.
Don’t Just Focus on New Customers
Growing into untapped markets and reaching potential customers is great but closing new leads takes time and effort. A large portion of your revenue still comes from existing customers, remember that 50% statistic? It’s much easier to sell to someone who’s already had a successful purchase before. Make sure to send detailed personalized messages to your loyal base; educate them on new offerings, and let them know how you can continue to provide value to them.
The Future of Marketing Automation
With automation platforms on the market growing exponentially and prices dropping, marketing automation has become truly mainstream. Now many companies are looking towards the possibilities of the future in order to gain that extra advantage.
AI advancements in machine learning are bringing some highly anticipated developments in the field of automation. As software learns to recognize patterns and build actionable insights from data sets; we will see tools able to predict the messaging and content best suited to customers.
Another exciting avenue for development is the field of account-based marketing; more than 70% of B2B businesses are now focusing on these programs. Those businesses are experiencing an unprecedented 171% growth in contact value when pursuing these strategies already. ABM will allow software to select high value accounts, define a budget, and outline the competencies.
This will provide high-value customers with an unprecedented level of personal care and attention based on their personal needs. Of course ad copy, e-mails, website landing pages, and mobile browsing will all adjust dynamically to reflect this experience.
Despite all of these innovations that automation is bringing, ultimately the human touch is still required to bring the process home. Any situation that requires nuance or multi-level handling, and a human connection still needs your input. Automation simply provides you with all the tools and tricks to close the deal as quickly and efficiently as possible.