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What Is Marketing Automation and 4 Reasons To Use It?

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At the most basic level, marketing automation is the use of an integrated marketing tool which allows a portion of the marketing workflow involved with driving the prospect further down the conversion funnel to be automated.  Once a person enters the marketing database, whether from a Google AdWords campaign and dedicated landing page or from an offline event like a tradeshow, they will be served targeted content at a predetermined rate based upon their levels of interaction with that content, with the ultimate goal of providing your Sales team with more sales-ready leads.

Marketing automation has, in its most rudimentary form, been around since the early 2000’s.  Since then, the prevalence of marketing automation solutions has increased steadily, especially during the last 2-3 years.  In 2010, only 10% of companies were leveraging marketing automation, however adoption is expected to increase by 50% by 2015 according to a report by Sirius Decisions.  Many might ask, “What does that mean to me?”.  In a nutshell, it means that there are ways to work smarter, not harder, in order to attain your marketing and sales goals and your competition is probably looking into them.  There are many platforms available, from Eloqua & Marketo to Pardot & Hubspot, each with varying levels of functionality across a number of price points.  A thorough review of functionality and cost should be undertaken before a decision is made.

Marketing Automation Benefits

Marketing automation platforms have a number of benefits that all help the bottom line, but these 4 are, in my opinion, the most important:

  • Improving User Experience
  • Marketing Team Efficiency
  • Sales-Ready Leads / Lead Nurturing
  • Closed-Loop Reporting

Epsilon reports that triggered email messages get 119% higher click-through rates than “business as usual” messages.  So gone, hopefully, are the days of the shotgun email approach where everyone on your email list receives the same message, no matter where they are in the buying cycle or what product or service they had inquired about and you hope that they don’t unsubscribe because this is the 3rd non-relevant email they’ve received from you.  Marketing automation tools are able to provide prospects and customers with useful, relevant information and ultimately, offers that are targeted to their interests or purchase history.

Providing your prospects with relevant information isn’t a new idea, however, the fact that it is automated based on their previous history allows you to create what appears to be a personal touch without actually requiring the sales or marketing person to be directly involved.  This fact, along with the email and landing page template functionality these platforms come with, frees up marketing resources to be more efficient and focus on marketing activities.  They now have the ability to run multiple campaigns, review the content interaction data and implement A/B tests, create landing pages quickly, and spend time creating more relevant content and offers.  The templatized functionality also allows for quicker reaction to market changes.

Once marketers have the time to better understand the interaction data and the conversion process, they can then funnel those prospects that are sales ready along to the sales team when the chance of converting them is much greater.  Most platforms contain a lead scoring system which sends leads to the appropriate sales person once they reach a certain criteria.   Most prospects don’t want to speak with a sales person immediately after learning about a company and receiving a whitepaper or case study.  On the flip side, the sales person is often discouraged after the interaction, feels the person isn’t a good lead, discounts them in the CRM system, and this person is never contacted again.  Often, they will also complain that marketing isn’t generating them “good” leads, further widening the rift between Sales and Marketing.  Forrester Research reports that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at a 33% lower cost.

Lastly, the ability to integrate the marketing automation platform with your CRM allows for closed-loop reporting on sales generated by your marketing efforts, providing a better understanding of the value of each marketing campaign.  List cost and ad costs can be entered when setting up campaigns and many of these platforms will also pull in ad spend data from 3rd party advertising platforms like Google AdWords.  This complete insight allows for a more targeted approach to allocating marketing dollars moving forward.

The increased level of personalization, internal efficiencies, and insight into customer behavior and marketing ROI are all potentially game-changers, however marketing automation is not a magic bullet.  It requires significant time up front to properly configure the offers and interaction paths as well as the need to continually create new content or you will soon run out.  For most companies, the time savings and increased ROI significantly outweigh the configuration time needed up front and the marketing team should now have the available time to create the new content needed to sustain the existing campaigns.

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