The term marketing automation describes any number of services, platforms, and solutions marketers use to facilitate repetitive activities. Examples of marketing automation tools include email marketing platforms, CRM (customer relationship management) systems, CMSs (content management systems), and analytics programs. When technology successfully takes the place of manual labor, it creates marketing automation.
Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) combines analytics, email, and content management system into one platform with the ability to integrated with a CRM solution. In some cases, a MAP might feature a CRM solution as well, but these are often not as robust as a stand-alone CRM solutions. The MAP’s analytic capabilities allow marketers to track and score individual behavior online. The MAP’s email engine allows marketers to communicate in a one-off campaign manually or provides the ability to create multiple campaigns that can be sent automatically over any period.
The goal of the email is to drive awareness and response to some sort of call to action by inviting a prospect to visiting a web page, download a whitepaper, fill out a web form etc. This behavior is scored by assigning a numeric value to each activity. The concept is that a prospect with the right demographic profile and online behavior shows more buying behavior than a prospect showing less interest or behavior. The MAP’s content management system allows marketers to create landing pages without the need for IT support thus making marketing more efficient. The MAP can push all the data captured on a prospect to a CRM Solution like Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics so sales can follow up with lead showing the most buying behavior saving their most precious commodity which is their time.
MAP also helps companies align their sales and marketing efforts because there is complete transparency between from the campaigns sent to generate a prospect or to whether sales closed won or lost the opportunity. MAPS also play a big role in media attribution because they can track where and when a lead first encountered a brand.
As a marketing concept, automation is difficult to grasp because it encompasses a wide variety of solutions, tactics, and strategies. While it can and does facilitate workflows, automation does not always make marketing work easier. Instead, it enables marketers to create predetermined online experiences in a seamless and more personalized manner. However, this requires a great deal of forward thinking and is often disruptive to existing manual marketing processes.
For example, if your company sells a considered purchase over $50,000 with an average sales cycle of 9 months marketing campaign will need to create an automated lead nurturing program The team needs to determine how often they want to communicate with a lead i.e. once every 10 days? Once every two weeks? Once a month for 9 months? Then what sort of copy is needed for that communication, and what call to action will be used for each? And then you must decide whether to segment the content down to industry or persona.
Once the nurture campaigns are completed they must be loaded into the marketing automation platform which is then integrated with the companies CRM system. Then the MAP takes over and controls who gets what message and when automatically pushing the data into the CRM solution for sales to act on accordingly.
To avoid missing out on social media updates, marketing preloads several engaging messages into a social media management tool and schedules their launch dates and times. As a final piece to the automated puzzle, the manager sets up a series of analytics reports to monitor existing campaigns as they play out and makes adjustments to everything from lead scoring to setting up a/b test splits. The goal of MA is to move prospects through the sales cycle or funnel as fast as possible (Funnel Velocity).
Almost every stage of the marketing process can benefit from some level of automation, from brand awareness to conversion. Marketing automation delivers efficiency in an increasingly competitive marketing environment. Not every business uses the same tools, and not every business knows how to optimize automated processes. Those who leverage the principles of automated processes and take advantage of technology can earn and maintain a significant competitive edge.
IMA has created a list of marketing automation platforms on Martec Showcase designed to help companies be more effective with their lead generation programs. You can also reach out to IMA thought leader Shawn Elledge for advice on marketing automation platforms and strategies. Shawn used to work for Eloqua (now Oracle) and has used several solutions i.e. Acton, Sharp Spring, Right On Interactive and MakesBridge.