What is marketing automation and how will it benefit your organisation?
Just like email marketing ten years ago, marketing automation might be a hot space, but is still only providing benefits to a select group of marketing pioneers. Many companies of very different sizes are experiencing significant results from marketing automation; through better lead generation processes, improved email open rates, fully automated campaign workflow and tailored marketing campaigns, they are building an engaged nurture pool.
If marketing automation is successfully implemented, businesses never again need to look at an empty or stagnant sales pipeline.
What is it?
Marketing automation is a technology platform (and there are several vendors tailored to company size and requirement), which eases the planning and deployment of marketing campaigns and promotions. It simplifies and enhances lead management by automating time-consuming manual processes, establishing a reusable workflow for communicating and nurturing database prospects, reducing human error, ensuring tailored campaigns, and increasing business intelligence, through integrating web activity analytics and response rates with your CRM.
With marketing automation it is possible to track entry points of leads into the buying process, identifying which marketing and promotional campaigns are most successful. It continues to monitor leads along each step of the buyer’s journey from initial contact, through their entire journey and interaction with a company. Content should be matched to the engagement level of the buyer at each step to move them to the next phase, and the system automatically manages and dispatches this content along the prospect journey.
In short, it provides an intelligent way of identifying prospects whose buying cycle has now changed to using search engines for initial research for their product or service needs. Using this information you can respond with timely communications, to evolve a cold prospect to a marketing-qualified sales lead. By tailoring your content to different roles within a prospect or customer organisation, it can increase sales, improve customer satisfaction, and enhance efficiency. In today’s challenging economy, it becomes an essential tool to help market to your target audiences.
Marketing automation, email marketing and CRM system differences
Marketing automation is complimentary to CRM systems like Salesforce, MS Dynamics, NetSuite, Sugar and others, and is the natural next step to your email marketing campaigns. Think of email as like a single-track road - it only offers one-way email capability. Sometimes it can link to the CRM but it doesn’t cure the siloed approach to marketing, which is where the real issues lie.
Marketing automation is more like a roundabout - a central customer or prospect hub for all your marketing, into which other roads and marketing communication silos can feed. A marketing automation platform encompasses email but also a digital library for image reuse and tweaking, a database for lead scoring and nurturing, full automation so you get set and forget, web analytics for customer and prospect behavioural analytics, and complete CRM integration, to the point that one is embedded within the other.
So in an ideal world if organisations want a truly comprehensive approach to marketing and sales, they would invest in both marketing automation and CRM.
Choosing a platform
If you are new to marketing automation there are numerous platforms and they all have their strengths, but it can be confusing for marketers to decide on an appropriate solution. Consider your CRM system and which marketing automation vendor will best integrate with it. Some are aligned to one vendor, others are platform-agnostic. There are other questions you need to ask, and to be successful you firstly need to understand your business/marketing objectives, and the resources you have internally. Then you can embark on finding the technology to support both.
Obvious considerations are; what constitutes success? Do you have the marketing resource to manage or do you need campaign support from external agencies? How many campaigns do you send to your database every month? Do you need to consider a mobile strategy or link to other platforms, like social media? Is the sales team onside (they should be, with bi-directional feeds from the marketing automation platform to the CRM, it will provide complete visibility of how prospects and customers are engaging with the company and its web site in real-time). Have you got the right data to embark on successful campaigns? The database is the bedrock of marketing campaigns, bad data will result in low response rates.
A key question to consider is how you are going to decide which leads to pass on to sales and when? This is a critical part of your sales and marketing workflow. Too many leads go awry between marketing and sales – this technology aligns the processes and ensures marketing prospects stay in the system.
Marketing automation technology also has a surprisingly low cost of entry – and if you are talking about it increasing your leads pipeline by over 300% as some of clients do – it really is about saving resources as well as improving profitability.
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