The Most Important Guide to Marketing Automation
The innovation known as marketing automation promises big things: more leads, conversions and sales, all with less work.
80% of the world’s top-performing companies using marketing automation technology for the past three or more years have seen a notable boost in revenue as well as consumer engagement.
For marketing professionals, marketing automation offers an exciting opportunity for greater efficiency, cost reduction, and an enhanced customer experience (CX). Embarking on an automation journey for your business may seem intimidating, but with the right advice, it’s easier than you think. Get it right and it will offer great rewards, too.
Here, we’ll explain everything a marketing team needs to know about automation in marketing and how you can use it to your brand-boosting advantage.
What is marketing automation?
So what exactly is marketing automation? Marketing automation is a term used to generally describe the use of a platform whose main purpose is to automate activities across your inbound marketing channels. Generally, these can include repetitive, albeit essential, tasks such as sending emails, social media, and managing contact information.
When used correctly, marketing automation allows you to efficiently and effectively generate leads and nurture prospects at every stage of the customer journey, allowing you to drive more revenue and maximize ROI – all without having to sacrifice the quality of your work. Through the implementation of streamlined workflows, marketing automation can help you to achieve more, faster.
Marketing automation is not a replacement for you or your skillset. It will simply enhance your existing capabilities.
“Automation is not about taking marketers’ jobs away from them. It’s just about re-angling what marketers do”. – Cathal Melinn on the DMI Trends Podcast.
What is an example of marketing automation in action?
- Imagine a user visits your website and downloads a brochure for a particular product or service.
- Their contact details are sent to your CRM. From here, you can access information on this lead’s history and interactions with your company.
- An email is then sent to them, thanking them for downloading the brochure. The content is personalized based on the information you have regarding the user.
- Follow-up emails can be sent automatically to that same user, all based on their previous actions and interactions with your company, and featuring tailored Calls-To-Action.
In this way, marketing automation can help you to easily nurture a lead with minimal exertion, and increase the chances of conversion.
Interestingly, 86% of marketers say that marketing automation has increased the quality of their leads. This is because the software facilitates constant personalization that increases the value and relevancy of your customer communications.
Why use marketing automation?
Working with the right marketing automation platform and approach, you will see a healthy return on marketing investment (ROMI).
Here we look at the business-boosting benefits of using marketing automation tools and making them a key part of your ongoing promotional strategy.
1. Cross-departmental collaboration
The right marketing automation platform and strategy will inspire better communication between your sales and marketing department.
Increasingly, the role of sales and marketing is seeing a colossal level of crossover, such as within social selling. Marketing automation tools offer sales enablement features that empower marketing teams to enhance their lead nurturing efforts with targeted campaigns, content, and communications.
2. Save time and lower costs
Another key benefit of marketing automation is its ability to save time and lower operational costs. Not only can these intuitive tools automate certain repetitive tasks, giving marketers time to invest in more creative or profit-boosting activities, but some platforms also serve up valuable pockets of data.
Automated processes will take care of customer communications, lead nurturing, content scheduling, social media management, market research, analytics; practically any task that doesn’t require active human involvement. Implementing automation can, therefore, lead to increased productivity and better efficiency for your business.
Insights based around marketing campaign success rates, engagement, and consumer behavior ultimately lower costs as they offer the intelligence to continually optimize your activities, making them more financially efficient in the process.
3. Improved budget allocation
Expanding on the last point: when team members have the time to focus on their core tasks, it makes them more productive. In turn, projects are delivered faster, without the need for investment in extra staff.
Automation removes the drain of repetitive tasks, allowing you to get the most out of specialists. With this saving, your business can reallocate the budget directly back into campaigns to see more returns.
4. Monitor and target audiences
A solid marketing automation platform will give you the power to monitor and target audience with pinpoint precision.
Armed with autonomous technology, such tools can track real-time data or monitor engagement and behaviors with minimal human input. In doing so, it’s possible to create more targeted, personalized communications across channels at the times where specific audience segments are likely to engage the most. The result? A consistently healthy ROI and increased customer loyalty.
Read: Our guide to customer segmentation and targeting to get the most from your marketing automation data.
5. Be consistent with branding
Without consistent branding across channels, you will become less recognizable to prospective customers. Strong branding is one of the cornerstones of marketing success and by using marketing automation to your advantage, you will remain consistent across the board.
Marketing automation tools are effective at retaining a specific style with visuals, content, and communications across all key marketing channels which, in turn, will help you boost your brand reputation in a saturated digital space.
Read: Our guide to how to develop a social media strategy that drives brand awareness.
Marketing automation tools & platforms
Now that we’re up to speed with the benefits, we’re going to look at a variety of marketing automation platforms.
These pieces of marketing automation software are designed to drive insight and efficiency, leading to progressively better promotional outcomes in the process.
Get Response is a marketing automation platform that was originally focused on email marketing. But now, this savvy piece of marketing automation software has a far more agile and integrated automation setup. With Get Response, you can organize workflows with an intuitive drag and drop menu that’s based on a trio of parameters: conditions, actions, and filters. The workflows system responds to subscribers’ specific needs, so segmentation is smooth and simple – you can even add filters to subscriber lists to assist with your targeting efforts.
Get response is incredibly accessible and its seamless scalability allows you to maintain the same systems even if your business grows or shrinks significantly in a short space of time. This platform is compatible with eCommerce sales, and it also comes with a handy landing page builder tool and video tutorials.
Get Response offers a full marketing automation plan including support and webinars for the reasonable price of $44 per month.
Customer.io offers everything you need to customize, target, and test your messaging based on how consumers interact with your business.
It’s a specially triggered messaging system that connects emails based on customer behavior and specific target audiences. Customer.io integrates smoothly with a range of mobile interfaces, serves up real-time data, and boasts a high level of interactivity with audiences. Packages start at $150 per month, which is ideal for small businesses.
MailChimp is one of the most popular and affordable marketing automation options out there, and it’s consistently one of the best-rated, particularly by small businesses.
As MailChimp has perfected email strategy down to the finer details, this is really its core strength. So, if you have colossal lists and not many additional automation processes needed, and work on a tight budget, this could be the tool for you.
That said, MailChimp now has a full suite of automation tools that work smoothly and integrate seamlessly with other platforms. The free option comes with newsletter templates, analytics tools, built-in signup forms, and more. And, the best part is, you can access many of its core tools for free.
An accessible tool for social media marketing, Hootsuite is one of the world’s most popular automation platforms.
To get maximum value from Hootsuite, there is a bit of a learning curve, but if you put the time in, you’re likely to reap great rewards. You can consolidate all of your social media platforms into Hootsuite, gaining deep-dive audience insights and scheduling a range of targeted content in the process.
The platform’s Professional Plan starts at around $39 per month and allows one user to integrate up to 10 social media accounts. There are also custom plans available depending on your business’s size and needs.
ContentStudio is another go-to automation tool for social media management. This powerful all-in-one tool is designed for brands, agencies, and marketers looking to stay organized while earning consistent audience growth across channels.
Here you can visually map out your social media strategy while scheduling content and automating your social media communications. Used by the likes of Decathlon, Unilever, and New York University, this is a trusted marketing automation tool that yields positive results. Price plans for ContentStudio range from $25 to $99 per month.
Key steps towards effective marketing automation
Before implementing automated marketing processes, it’s important to establish a workflow. This allows your team to prepare for new processes and ensures that automation yields the best results for your brand. There are four key steps to complete:
1. Identify the right tasks
Look for your team’s most repetitive marketing tasks. This is where you’ll find the biggest gains from automation. As we mentioned above, simply automating response emails, for example, can substantially reduce the administrative burden on your team. Plot out all of your current marketing tasks, and pick out those which are both time-consuming and compatible with automation.
2. Select the appropriate automation software
There are infinite choices when it comes to automation software. Filtering the best ones can be a challenge – particularly when starting out. We’ll introduce you to the cream of the crop later in this article, but it’s also worth noting that there may be software that is specifically tailored to your industry. Expand your research to check this before you commit long-term. Most platforms offer a free trial, which gives you a chance to test the software in your unique setting, and evaluate which is the best fit.
3. Train your team
Although automation immediately makes marketing more efficient, the introduction of new software and processes requires an investment in training for applicable staff. It’s important for team members to understand how automation fits into their working day, and how their role might be refocused. Emphasize the benefits and give staff an opportunity to thoroughly test out new systems, while acknowledging any concerns they might have. Marketing automation is predicted to become one of the most important marketing skills, and businesses are responding accordingly, with increased investment.
4. Evaluate automation effectiveness
Implementing automation is not the end of the story. We recommend a periodic review of what’s working well, what could be improved, and the impact of automation on key metrics. This approach allows you to make appropriate adjustments at the right time.
Marketing automation examples
These marketing automation examples demonstrate the power of working with the right tools and adopting the strategy can boost brand awareness and accelerate business growth.
One of the reasons for Airbnb’s impressive rates of growth is its commitment to emerging technologies—including marketing automation.
Not only does Airbnb use marketing automation software and strategies to optimize its content and communications, but it also offers automated services to its hosts. As a host, it’s possible to improve the way you run and promote your property with smart functionality including automated guest communications as well as pricing management tools.
This savvy move by Airbnb has created a self-sustaining eco-system designed to scale, helping the brand retain its position as leaders in their field.
Read: How Airbnb has transformed travel
With so much branded content to manage, quirky publication BuzzFeed uses automation to schedule social media communications while driving maximum efficiency across marketing channels.
Recently, BuzzFeed has used marketing automation to help create, optimize, and serve optimized paid ads to specific segments of its audience.
This migration towards automation resulted in an incredible 79% rise in revenue in the second quarter of 2021 alone. Wow, indeed.
When it comes to innovation, the success of Netflix is often mentioned as a touchstone. One of the key drivers of the brand’s streaming market domination is its commitment to creativity, customization, and operational efficiency.
To drive a far more personalized experience, Netflix uses marketing automation to create customized landing pages for its audience based on their specific preferences and behaviors. This is also pivotal for the brand’s industry-leading recommendation system, a tool that influences around 80% of user viewing patterns on the platform.
Marketing automation and artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence (AI) is in many ways, the driving force behind the world’s best marketing automation tools.
Marketing automation is essentially a brand of AI and as autonomous technologies have become all the more accessible worldwide, a wealth of brand-boosting tools have emerged from the digital woodwork.
Read: What are the best AI and marketing automation tools? For a deep dive into the innovations that are likely to skyrocket your business growth.
Tips on using marketing automation effectively
To reap maximum rewards from marketing automation tools and strategies, here are some practical tips to consider.
1. Know your audience
There’s no overstating the importance of knowing your audience inside and out. Establish their average demographic profile, their location, interests, and habits. What do they want to see? Creating a buyer persona can really help you to target your audience in a meaningful way, and deliver content that actually makes an impact.
2. Set the tone (and stick to it!)
Your narrative voice is an important component of the relationship your company builds with its audience. Depending on the target demographic, you may opt for a tight, corporate tone, or something more warm and conversational. Once your brand has found its voice, stick with it – otherwise, your audience will find the switches jarring and off-putting.
3. Stay human
Even though robots are sending out your emails, the content needs the flair of a human creator. Design communications and write a marketing email so the recipient believes it’s been crafted just for them.
4. Mix it up
Don’t get stuck in a content rut! If leads see the same thing, week after week, they will lose interest in your brand. Switch formats, refresh your images, be bold and unique, and most importantly – give your audience a reason to continue engaging with you.
5. Remain relevant
Trends are transient, but if you embrace them at the right time, it can get you noticed by prospective customers. Be tactful in your approach; you don’t have to spin every trend, just the ones that are relevant to your brand.
6. Make use of A/B testing
Your company may already be undertaking A/B testing as part of your evaluation of marketing campaigns, but automating the process is hugely beneficial. As well as time savings, automated A/B testing delivers real-time data about the impact of your marketing content – allowing you to make quick adjustments where needed.
7. Get your team on board
Training and open communication are vital to the successful implementation of automated processes. Instead of something to be feared, frame automation as a process to embrace, with tools that allow your team to focus less on the superfluous, and more on the talents you hired them for.
8. Focus on customer experience
Ultimately, the success of automation depends on how your customers react to it. Gather meaningful data throughout the process, using customer experience mapping, to establish feedback at major touchpoints. This allows you to make tweaks to your approach and integrate new automations where they will be helpful. It’s important to note that automation is only beneficial so long as you’re seeing results with the end consumer and your bottom line. If you’re not seeing the analytics you’d like,mix things up a little.
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