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Integrated Marketing Association

Why Marketing Automation Matters and How to Use it Effectively

Marketing automation

The streamlining and efficiency marketing technology can bring across multiple channels, along with the segmentation of audiences it allows, and the ability to measure, score, and evaluate leads has transformed the marketing landscape in recent years. Marketing automation (MA) gives marketers the capacity to generate leads, help keep current customers informed, and, in the process, create return customers like never before.

What’s not to like about that. Yet, you might have noticed my use of the qualified statement “can bring.” While many marketers are enthusiastically embracing marketing automation, it seems a substantial number are slow to adopt marketing technology and when they finally decide to give it a try, they aren’t always using it to full effect.

The Case for Marketing Automation 

Marketing automation matters. Why? Not just because it can help your marketing function be more effective, but because your competitors are using MA and leaving you behind as you fail to exploit the competitive advantages that automation can offer.

Writing on the topic of MA recently, my good friend and marketing expert, Shelly Kramer, summed up exactly what MarTech can do for your business.

“At its core, MA is the use of technology to streamline processes and efficiently develop and manage campaigns through a variety of channels.”

Moving to an automated lead management platform, particularly when it’s integrated with a CRM, empowers the marketing team to more effectively target campaigns, nurture leads, and track and gauge progress before delivering qualified leads to the sales team. MA helps a business know more about its customers, reduce trial and error, and scale up without a corresponding increase in manual input.

Today’s savvy consumers know what they want and expect to be able to find it where, when, and how they need it. MA can deliver just that in an integrated and seamless fashion that would be impossible without the sophisticated MarTech solutions we have at our fingertips. Not just in reaction to traditional marketing campaigns either. Predictive analytics have the capacity to monitor customer behavior and target personalized messages to capture interest and create viable leads.

Marketing Automation Challenges

Another marketing expert, Eric Vidal, highlighted how organizations have been slow to adopt advanced marketing concepts, even when they already use MA.

Openprise 2016 Mar Tech Data Report

Source: Openprise 2016 Mar Tech Data Report

Although the ever-present budget issue is undoubtedly a factor, Eric contends it’s the data that often presents the greatest challenges. Interestingly, both too much data and a lack of data are cited as pain points for marketers. Data management, data quality, and system integration were given as the top three challenges for marketers, even for those already using MA platforms.

The topic of data in the B2B space is one I tackled recently, as I believe passionately it’s an area where marketing automation has a big part to play. Lack of relevant data, or an excess of disorganized data about your prospects and customers, makes it hard to understand what makes them tick. Deploying the right MA tools to collect and analyze company, personal, and behavioral data empowers marketing and sales professionals to be relevant and to build relationships to the benefit of the bottom line.

Lets take a look at how you can use marketing automation to take your business to the next level.

Set Goals and Define Your Process BEFORE You Begin 

Although the process of adopting MA might seem daunting at first, it doesn’t have to be. It does, however, require a little planning and a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve, BEFORE you start.

Begin by identifying your core marketing issues. This will help you gain an understanding of the path from research to purchase that your target buyers take and will make clearer the processes that will be the most successful for you. Involve internal stakeholders, in sales and marketing, as part of the design process. This will help to establish exactly what your organization needs and what resources will be required to manage the system. Before deciding which of the multitude of MarTech solutions will work for your business, do your research. Seek testimonials and talk to your business peers to get feedback on their MA experiences.

Set goals and instigate a continuous process of measurement and evaluation. Have a focus on key performance indicators and don’t waste time analyzing spurious reports just because you can.

Avoid “Set and Forget” Mentality

The temptation with any automated system is to set it up and sit back—just waiting for the benefits to accrue. It bears repeating that constant monitoring and evaluation is essential with your MA to ensure future campaigns are tweaked and refined based on your analytical insights.

Remember, human talent will always be a key part of the mix. It’s not just about pressing start and waiting for the results. Marketing, sales, and data analysis professionals will need the skills to interpret results and implement plans. Interestingly Eric Vidal also highlighted, while data management was stated as the top hire in marketing in 2016, marketing automation hires were considered to be a much lower priority.

Openprise 2016 Mar Tech Data Report

Source: Openprise 2016 Mar Tech Data Report

I agree with Eric on this. It is an area that needs to be addressed in order for the full benefits of MA to be realized.

Start Small and Scale Up

Scale Your Efforts – try one new thing at a time instead of trying to do them all at once. Start off in a measured, manageable, and controlled way, based on your understanding of where your priorities lie. Test, measure, evaluate and tweak. Then scale up and introduce new features.

Here are a few ideas of the types of advancements that could be introduced with MA.

  • Automatically distribute top performing content to your leads.
  • Prioritize and qualify leads using a points system based on behavior.
  • Send cold leads relevant content based on previous actions.
  • Test landing page copy and CTAs to find out what works best for you.
  • Send customized emails to your audience based on purchasing, browser, and social media activity.
  • Automatically promote upsell and cross sell opportunities.
  • Identify and analyze industry influencers and brand advocates.

I could go on but hopefully this list gives you a taste of how MA can be spread out as you introduce it and doesn’t need to be done all in on day one. You can start out on a small scale to test the water, then scale up as you learn what will work best for your business.

Personalize Your MA Efforts

Marketing automation can assist in adding the personal touches your clients look for in your marketing communications. Those little touches are something that really matters if you consider this graphic from MarketingCharts, based on October 2016 research from Econsultancy/Red Eye.

Openprise 2016 Mar Tech Data Report

Source: MarketingCharts.com

Automated personalization can go far beyond the addition of a name to communications. Details based on previous behavior, buyer persona, and location can be added automatically to increase the impact of marketing messages and landing pages. People can reveal a great deal about their interests and preferences in their online dealings with your business. It just makes sense to harness the power of MA to analyze and act on that data automatically.

Missed Opportunities

If you aren’t using Marketing Automation you are potentially missing out on opportunities. I hope I’ve encouraged you to dip your toe in the MA waters so that those opportunities don’t keep passing you by.

Keep in mind though at the end of the day people like to do business with real people, not with automated systems. Marketing technology is fantastic at handling large amounts of data faster and more accurately than we can, but if you attempt to hand the marketing reins over to the machines and completely remove the human element you risk losing customers instead of gaining them.

Have you been reluctant to get on board with marketing automation and if so what has been holding you back? I would love to hear your feedback.

Photo Credit: Markus Jaaske Flickr via Compfight cc

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