My name is Adam. I live in Boston, MA. I have been involved in marketing for close to a decade now. Before I went out on my own and started my e-commerce business I enjoyed an illustrious and fruitful work career in consulting and financial services. During my work career, I had the opportunity to use different marketing automation software’s, including Infusionsoft, office autopilot or Ontraport, Salesforce and Hubspot. The handful of companies I worked at were mostly mid cap businesses looking for ways to maximize business efficiency and ROI by implementing comprehensive marketing strategies.
For most of you folks who are just beginning to hear about marketing automation or for those who are looking to purchase some software, it is important to understand first that although marketing automation platforms can greatly influence and benefit your businesses, they are essentially not a quick fix solution. Having been in thick of things for a long time now, I am aware of the potential of marketing automation as well as its applications and I have pretty good idea of ‘what it is not’ and what it cannot achieve.
But before we get to that, let’s look at what exactly we mean by marketing automation.
What is marketing automation?
Simply put, marketing automation is all about bringing simplicity and efficiency to the entire funnel of the marketing process through software platforms and technologies. Marketing automation softwares are designed to enable and integrate all the different marketing practices, from e-mail marketing and landing pages to lead generation, CRM (customer relationship management) and marketing analytics, so that businesses can optimize their marketing-sales pipelines.
So when should you use marketing automation?
You might here people saying things like, “Since I invested in marketing automation, things are running much smoother and I can simply sit back and watch my ROI jump of the page.” Now, although this may be true , it does not say anything at all about the work that needs to be put into first learning about automation and then putting it together to automate your marketing process. Let’s put things into context and look at when you should get automation and what the software platforms really do for your business including the effort that you need to put in.
So, when is it the right time for you to opt for marketing automation…
Market automation is not just for large enterprises. In fact, small and mid-cap businesses make up the largest growing segment in the market automation technology space today. So, if you are a small business like me you can opt in for market automation to make your business move and work more smoothly. Chances are that you should choose an effective marketing automation software if:
- You’re producing effective inbound marketing content
- You’re generating a constant flow of new organic leads
- You’re sales team is overwhelmed with the volume of quality leads you’re passing to them
- You’re tracking your leads’ journey across every touch point and marketing channel (not just email) and,
- You have a lead nurturing strategy that you want to scale.
The above points are all great indicators that market automation could really help boost your business efficiency and free up a lot of time for you too focus on more important revenue generating tasks.
Before, we get into what market automation does for you, I want to tell you what it doesn’t do and debunk some of the myths surrounding market automation software.
Firstly, market automation does not do marketing or generate leads for you; it scales and manages your marketing and lead generation strategies.
Marketing automation acts on the information you provide it. For starters you need to create an effective automated marketing campaign, which is the process you want replicated time and again. Once you have created the campaign, you will need content, and plenty of it. The content can include blog posts, videos, graphics, and articles. If you don’t have that much time on your hands to create the content you can get someone to write it for you. Since, I have been in the industry for a while, it took me less than a month to be in a position to automate and learn all the different keys of the software. If you are just starting out, some softwares might take you about 2-3 months, depending on where you stand on your marketing strategies and campaigns, to learn all the different bells and whistles in making the transition to automation. However, the pay off and the ROI in terms of money, effort and countless hours saved from meaningless tasks is huge to say the least.
Marketing automation software is a glorified email marketing engine.
There are simple platforms out there like Aweber and Mail Chimp that are specifically built to send emails and nothing else. Although an email engine is a component of market automation, the platform is really about the automation. Marketing automation is much more “intelligent” and “aware” than email marketing. It can distinguish between a customer clicking on a link in your email, the page they ended up on, and whether or not they filled out a contact form. Marketing automation is designed to respond differently depending on the customer’s interests and preferences. For example, an email might be sent to a particular customer who visited a certain page of your website, while a completely different communication maybe sent to another customer who was interested in a different blog or product.
Marketing automation can be set up and forgotten about.
Although, market automation possesses powerful functionality, the software does not have the intelligence to tweak and custom make campaigns to suit your preferences; this kind of intelligence doesn’t yet exist in the market. You as the marketer need to stay focused and analyze your campaigns and make any changes you deem necessary. Also, the email marketing practices that you have been following are still applicable since market automation software is not equipped to funnel your emails through spam filters. You will have to avoid sending unnecessary emails, or emailing too frequently and emailing information to the wrong customer.
Market automation creates personalized communication.
What market automation does is scale and optimize your communication efforts. It can’t create anything in and of itself. The software collects data on your prospect’s interests and desires; using this crucial data you can tailor future offers which are more attractive and relevant to those particular prospects who will definitely appreciate the personalized touch.
Now let’s get to what market automation does and why it is capable of skyrocketing your business potential as it has done for me…
Market automation is more than just about saving time and effort, it enables business processes that are vital to any modern marketing department. This include lead nurturing, lead scoring and lead life-cycle management for B2B’s and cross-sell, up-sell and retention for B2C companies.
Research tell us that only “20% of leads are sales-ready when they first come in. This means you need a disciplined process – known as lead nurturing – to develop qualified leads until they are sales-ready. Done well, nurturing can result in 50% more sales leads at 33% lower cost per lead”.
The real job of the marketer after capturing a customer, is to retain and strengthen the relationship with that customer, so that he eventually purchases a more expensive version of the same product (up-sale), additional and varied products (cross-sale) and becomes loyal to your company or brand. To be able to do this , you need to have multiple tracks on your customer and know how he/she behaves so that so that you can tweak your offers accordingly. Lead nurturing along with CRM empowers you to do all the above and more.
Lets look at an overview of the common features of market automation software. These software platforms provide robust functionality with email marketing, landing pages, marketing programs and lead generation, lead management, CRM integration, Social marketing, Resource management and Marketing analytics.
Features of Marketing Automation Platforms
Email marketing: Marketing automation systems allow you to create, test, send and measure your email campaigns progress. While most systems also allows you to segment lists, set up trigger and drip email programs and nurture leads, your vendor should provide robust functionality and services to ensure inbox delivery. A lot of softwares will also track and measure email campaign results like number of opens and click throughs, as well as provide higher-end services such as dedicated IP addresses, email preview, spam checking and link validation.
Another awesome capability that comes with most market automation systems is Triggered email. With this capability you can listen for specific customer behaviors and events and respond with an appropriate real-time email. For example, when a prospect of mine clicks on a specific link, I can automatically send the right message at the right time. These personalized, 1:1 emails based on real-time behavioral data have helped increase my open rates by 70% and my conversion rates by a whopping 200%.
The split testing or A/B testing functionality allows you to test emails, graphics, landing pages, forms and more to learn what works and maximize response rates and increase conversions.
Landing pages: Every online marketer is aware of the importance of landing pages for conversion. Market automation software are built in with WYSIWYG capability’s an essential part of their marketing programs. By directing clicks to your landing page customized for capturing email rather than a generic home page, you can significantly improve your conversion rates.
Campaign management: Some campaign managers have a drag drop option, which makes it easy and simple to create amazing looking campaigns. Most systems allow you to manage multiple campaign channels, including online ads, video campaigns, mobile, virtual events and social media. You can track and optimize your campaigns, and asses their overall effectiveness for conversion and overall ROI.
Marketing Programs and Lead Generation:This functionality gives you event marketing capabilities, cloning capabilities and an import/export capability as well as awesome lead generation potential.
Every business needs leads for growth. I was using Aweber for email marketing and another e-commerce platform called Magento to sell to my customers. It was tough for me as I was unable to manage my buyers and my leads because both platforms were different. When I started with Infusionsoft I was able to manage my leads as well as my buyers from the same platform and not only that I was able to know what kind of people are interested in my product, their interests and preferences. All this was not possible before and you can imagine the benefits of a multi-dimensional platform such as marketing automation.
The event marketing program capability simplifies the cumbersome event management process by equipping you with the abilities to streamline the entire event process. You can efficiently organize and facilitate personalized invitations, registration forms, reminders and even post-event follow-ups. And, of-course the analytics tells you how many people attended, how many registered and much more.
Now for the cloning capabilities. Although each marketing program contains campaigns, lists, emails, landing pages, and more, they all share a similar structure. So you can imagine the relief, if you could simply clone a program and most software’s have this inbuilt capability as well as edit the program all at one location and update it. This saves you a lot of time and energy.
Aside from cloning, some market automation platforms give you access to pre-built and tested marketing programs as well as allow you to exchange these programs with other users. So you can save even more time and energy and really get down to business quick with the advantage of verified programs.
Lead management : This is the heart of your marketing system and as such pumps the essential blood – leads and contacts that keeps your business alive and growing. Your database should include all the data gathered form each and every marketing touch point between every person and your company including website visits, email clicks, scoring changes, data updates, and more.
Before I started using Infusionsoft, I had no comprehensive method of keeping track of my leads. With the data I have collected through my campaigns, I know exactly what my leads are doing and at what stage in the life-cycle they are at. This has made my work and that of my team much easier and a lot more lucrative.
I have learned that segmenting your database is the key to all round marketing success. Your filters and segments should include demographic, household and behavioral information about your contacts, leads and prospects.
Using lead management you know the audience you have and you can easily send them emails, offers, up-sells, cross-sells, down-sells according to your data.
CRM Integration:Most platforms have the capability to ingrate with CRM systems, which makes life a lot easier. With CRM your sales reps can send emails and add contacts to your campaigns from within the CRM. Advanced data syncing makes it possible to sync your CRM opportunities, campaigns, and other information. The self healing schema allows you to make changes to your CRM fields and automatically add new custom fields. Finally with this integration you know exactly how to deepen your customer relationships and can effectively create a strong image of your company or product in their eyes.
Social Marketing: It is important to be able to track the social media activity of your clients. Different software’s offer different functionality, so you should check the details before purchasing. The social share options allow you to add intelligent share buttons in your content and campaigns as well as track who share your content and drives conversions. With social profiles you can enhance segmentation and with social engagement and promotion you can encourage audience engagement and boost your messages.
Resource management: This tool helps you to budget, analyze and plan your marketing spending across various programs, co-ordinate work flows and reconcile plans with different bills and payments. Also the calendaring function makes work much easier and less tedious to keep track of your entire marketing calendar including content, PR , lead generation etc and makes it equally easy to keep other coordinated groups such as sales on board and in the loop.
Marketing Analytics: This is where you get the all important feedback and can assess the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, including your campaigns and other programs. Although all companies offer this functionality the depth and breadth of the potential of the analytics varies across the board, so it is important to read reviews carefully when you’re choosing a market automation platform for your specific business.
Web analytics tracks the frequency of a prospects visits and returns to your site, which is invaluable in determining the kinds of offers to approach your leads with.
The keyword analytics option gives you the ability to check how well you rank in different search and also equips you with the data to create a more effective strategy.
With basic reporting you can track your leads performance relative to a host of parameters, whether they be landing pages or emails or specific campaigns and even web activity including social media presence.
And finally, with the help of ROI analytics you can track which marketing efforts and channels generate the greatest return and also analyze what changes to make to your marketing budget to increase return in the future.