What the heck is Marketing Automation and why should you care?
July 1, 2021
Marketing Automation is software that automates your marketing for you. It is made up of a set of tools and processes that attract, engage, service, track, and analyze your customers and their behavior. Marketing Automation assumes that the goal of your business is to earn more revenue and to make the customer experience as seamless as possible. This means having data at your fingertips. Knowing what a customer wants, when they want it, and at what price is said to be Marketing's holy grail. Marketing Automation aims to lead us closer to it.
Who should use Marketing Automation?
Marketing Automation is for any business and can be as simple or as complex as you'd like. Ten years ago Dr. Simmons got most of his patients through referrals. If you were looking for a doctor you'd ask anyone in town because they were likely to have been one of his patients. The Internet made it easier for the good doctor to multiply those referrals. People go to Google looking for a local doctor, they find his website, read the patient reviews, and get directions and contact details there. On his website, there is a calendar where patients select an available time for an appointment. Marketing Automation software generates a confirmation, sends it to the patient's email, while sending the doctor an alert saying someone just booked an appointment. On the day of the appointment, the patient gets an automated text reminder and all the doctor has to do is wait for the patient to show up. When the appointment is over, the patient gets an email inviting her to leave a review, which is then posted on Google. Pretty straightforward.
On the other hand, Dr. Simmons' daughter Amanda, is a Medical Inventor. She sells her inventions to private hospitals and medical practices through the family-owned company. Amanda discovers early that closing a sale is a lot of work. She has to build relationships through various touchpoints. She has to find leads, nurture them, and turn them into customers. She brings on a team to help her with marketing. They go to conferences, and seminars, and workshops together. They set up booths, do social media, run a blog, and do press releases to create excitement around the founder and her inventions. Between Board Meetings, R&D meetings, sales meetings, and zig-zagging the country to meet with potential clients, it becomes clear that she has to find qualified leads and close high-quality clients in more a sustained way.
Amanda understands that to be successful she has to align her marketing organization and processes with technology. Lead Generation, Segmentation, Nurturing and Scoring, Cross-sell, Up-sell, Retention, Lifecycle Marketing, and ROI measurement all need to align. Marketing Automation will help Amanda to connect these dots in a logical, seamless, and automated series of workflows that enable her organization to become more efficient.
When done right, marketing automation is a money-maker. The key is understanding what and how many Marketing actions it takes to make a sale. Software can handle much of the complex, grueling, time-consuming work involved, but it is important to know what you want the software to do and how to make the software do it. Depending on your industry, your brand, and your stage of growth, your needs may differ.
Due to the variation in buyer journeys across sectors, marketing automation software must be tailor-fitted to the unique needs of your customers, and the distinct use cases within your marketing team. While the data inputs might be similar, they often have to be organized around the peculiarities of your industry.
How to get started with Marketing Automation
Salesforce' State of Marketing Report, says that 67% of marketing leaders are already using at least one marketing automation platform and a further 21% planned to start using one in 2019. According to Performance Marketer, the most commonly used marketing automation features are email marketing (89%), lead nurturing (84%), integrations with other software (CRM, mobile, social media, etc.) for centralizing customer intelligence (80%), and cross-channel campaign management (82%). Where the goal is to attract and engage customers in a more sustained way Marketing Automation software offers some big advantages. But knowing how to get started is where most folks get stuck. If you are one of those folks, here are five tips that you might find helpful:
1 - Document your Process.
For Marketing Automation to work, you must know the stages involved in making a sale. In the case of Amanda's Medical Company, she sells her widgets to private practices and public hospitals. She has to influence the Doctor who will be her end user and the person who will eventually sign the check. She meets her prospects mostly at conferences where she collects emails and phone numbers. She typically follows up with a series of emails to introduce herself and her products, and request a meeting for a demo. Once she demos her widgets, she receives feedback, and an invitation to submit a cost proposal. When a quantity is agreed, she signs the contract, then sends her first shipment. Afterward, she has to service the parts, replace any widgets that go bad, and upsell add-ons and enhancements. Closing an account may take up to six months. But by documenting her process, Amanda understands how many steps it takes to make a sale, and how much customer data she needs to make the transaction go smoothly.
Step 2 - Know your Resources
Before you acquire Marketing Automation software, you have to figure out what and who you'll need to make it work properly. You'll probably need someone to take the lead with the software, who knows their way around technology, who understands workflows and how to analyze customer data. You'll need someone who can write emails and other content, and deliver presentations. You'll also need product champion who can take the sale to the last mile over the phone or in person. Knowing who and what you have prepares you for the inevitable teething pains you'll experience when you first introduce marketing automation software into your organization.
Step 3 - Evaluate your Options
You'll find there are many software options to consider. The folks you'll meet at Marketing Automation Software companies are some of the nicest people you could ever meet, but they are aggressive salespeople. Luckily, you would have understood and documented your process so you'll be less overwhelmed by choices or enamored by hype. You'll know exactly what you need. It will take about 3 months to get familiar with any Marketing Automation software, and a full six months to start seeing any real benefits. Just remember, once you commit to one software, it will be difficult to get a divorce because your data, your processes, and your staff will have become entrenched. You must be comfortable with the software before making a decision. There are many resources online to help you see and compare what is available. This is a pretty good one.
Step 4 - Be Patient
For marketing automation software to deliver it needs data, and lots of it. If you're just starting out, it will take a while for sustained organic traffic to pass through your website, or for folks to click on your Google or Linkedin Ads. It will take time to discover customer behavior patterns in your data, and time to understand what a qualified sales lead looks like. It will also take time for search engines to notice your industry blog posts and other SEO optimization tactics. Whether it's your marketing processes, your lead flows, your content pipeline, or your promotional campaigns. It will take time, usually a year, to establish a benchmark for your company. Once you've established a performance baseline, it will be easier to measure your progress and grow over time.
Step 5 - Consider Outside HelpcRunning a business is complex. Especially if you have multiple moving parts. Marketing Automation will make your life easier, but will still require time and talent. If economies of scale are in your favor it would suit you to build your own marketing automation team inside. Likely you'll have lots of legacy data that you'll need to harmonize. You'll have multiple lines of business, multiple sales teams, and multiple decision points to consider. If you're an up and comer like our friend Amanda, and you're trying to move large units of product quickly, then you could probably use some outside help. You may need someone to help with the technical setup and maintenance of the platform. You may need someone to design your assets, write your brand copy and your call scripts, someone to design and set up your workflows, manage your website and SEO. As your business grows, you'll either need more people or better processes. There are several good Content Marketing agencies out there including this one.
Why you should care about Marketing Automation
According to Google Insights, 90% of all B2B customer research in the US begins online, and it is reasonable for that to be the case in most developed markets. Frankly, this is reason enough to care about Marketing Automation. But more precisely, here's why; Marketing Automation Software doesn't only allow you to "automate marketing actions", it allows you to automate the entire customer journey from prospecting to closing. And this is a big deal. Imagine your target customer in the wild, surveying the internet jungle to find what he needs to grow his business. He travels through a search portal and discovers a headline describing your piece of content. It is exactly what he's been searching for. He clicks the link and takes in the information. But he wants more. Luckily, there's an option for him to get more by leaving his name, email, company, and telephone number- so he does.
He gets an automated email response with a link to learn more about the product, the company, and how his needs can be satisfied. By this time all his data is in a CRM, and you begin gathering intelligence about him. You know based on previous experience (in your data), that he fits a specific profile, and that you can assign him a score that says whether or not he'll become a customer. A couple of days later you feed him another piece of useful information, and he loves it. Then you send him another automated email to request a meeting. He's eager to meet. You show him what you have, tell him what it costs, and by this time he's happy to write a check because he sees how you can solve his problem. It's called Inbound Marketing - where your customer comes to you instead of the other way around. If you apply this methodology at scale in your company, can you imagine what will happen?
That's the promise of Marketing Automation. And why you should care.