- Sales and marketing tasks now occur through myriad portals and applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software and social media platforms.
- These separate tools often lack out-of-the-box integrations, which can overcomplicate workflows and create inefficiencies.
- Marketing automation software connects these disparate applications and platforms to enhance the customer journey.
- This article is for business owners looking to implement marketing automation software to increase marketing campaign ROI and overall work efficiency.
Personalized messaging is key to marketing success, but small businesses don't have time to schedule every email and converse individually with each customer. Instead, small businesses should use marketing automation software. Automation takes care of time-consuming, menial tasks and allows marketers to focus their efforts on developing and refining their marketing strategy.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation is the integration of data and processes from other sales and marketing channels into an organized central platform. A comprehensive marketing automation hub complements and organizes the customer journey. It integrates all of a business's channels and outreach within the customer database.
The improvements marketing automation offers complement the benefits of customer relationship management (CRM) software. CRM and marketing automation software are mistakenly viewed as interchangeable. Marketing automation software does not store your customer information like a CRM. It is installed in addition to your CRM, like any other integrated application, to operate alongside that data.
Key takeaway: Automation helps marketing teams complete time-consuming manual tasks and categorize the enormous amount of data made available through digital channels.
How does marketing automation work?
Marketing automation software serves two primary functions: It completes mundane and repetitive tasks through templated workflows, and it integrates all marketing channels into one seamless program. Its many integrations include dedicated platforms for email, social media and analytics. The system tracks multiple simultaneous schedules and reports the effectiveness of all marketing activities through three core operations.
Marketing automation software records all customer interactions with each brand touchpoint. Customer profiles update whenever they engage with an email, website form or social media page. A consumer's journey with your brand is always detailed through analytic reports.
Marketing campaigns continue to grow in complexity, with an increasing number of digital touchpoints. Users of marketing automation software can view campaign timelines in accessible visual interfaces. The customer journey can also be viewed as a road map to help marketers identify the engagement path taken by their customers.
Finally, marketing automation streamlines communications between the sales and marketing teams by enabling them to work within the same database. Marketing automation is one of many popular CRM integrations. It pulls data from the CRM, layering its own information atop of the original sales profiles. Sales teams receive qualified leads as marketing campaigns further personalize each prospect.
Holly Simmons, vice president of customer experience product management at Oracle Marketing, said collaboration between these teams enables more sophisticated marketing to your customers.
"[It's an] opportunity to be more aligned with your sales organization," Simmons told Business News Daily. "The alignment piece also speeds up the opportunity phase, and the salesperson is able to engage in a better and more meaningful way."
Key takeaway: Sales and marketing teams can more easily work together with integrated CRM and marketing automation platforms. Both teams can access upgraded customer profiles and visual outlines detailing the full customer journey.
What are the benefits of marketing automation?
Marketing automation improves work efficiency for every member of its sales and marketing teams. Some of the specific benefits are:
Enhanced marketing plans
A cohesive marketing plan empowers a business to better reach its goals. Visual builders and comprehensive integrations help marketing automation software support those plans, with projections and research based on quantitative and qualitative data. Simple visual road maps offer a transparent "full picture" that can help achieve buy-in from leadership unfamiliar with certain marketing practices.
Automating tasks such as email scheduling and lead generation allows your marketing team to focus on activities requiring critical thought. Because many automated tasks involve manual data entry, automation also mitigates human error that can require so much time to fix. These savings can scale with the growth of your business as the size of your marketing team and the scope of their campaigns evolve.
Jonathan Herrick, CEO of Benchmark, said companies should automate "non-revenue-producing tasks" and keep the strategic focus on their personalization efforts.
"Automation at its finest really delivers a human element to your customers," Herrick said. "It can really help you to spend your time where you need to, which is building relationships and growing your business to its full potential."
Interconnected brand touchpoints
When all marketing channels are linked, they "converse" with one another. An employee doesn't have to check which customers responded to a Facebook poll and create the follow-up. Instead, they program the software to initiate an email drip campaign that sends personalized messages based on customer answers.
Those details are already stored in their customer profile, again limiting the time spent recording information. When all marketing channels are linked through automation, the shopper navigates a smooth, curated path.
The synergized feedback and connections between all of the channels can increase the individual value of each through personalization. Unique strategies can be implemented across every network without fearing that the customer might miss the one most effective for them. Whichever platform they currently use directs them toward others that are relevant to them, where they will encounter each customized message.
"The ultimate strategy or outcome is to give the customer what they need when they need it," Simmons said. "Personalization is the Holy Grail."
Builds customer lifetime value
Highly targeted, personalized messaging that adds value for each customer allows them to engage with your brand at their own pace. A happy customer is one who provides more customer lifetime value (CLV).
Removing the worry that a customer may be forgotten by human error allows marketing teams to "slow-roll" their strategy, assured that they will not need to remember every instance they must contact or forward that customer's information to slide them into the next step of the buying process.
Herrick said many businesses fail to obtain maximum CLV with their automation practices.
"They don't leverage automation to get more customers from that customer, and they don't leverage to get more revenue from that existing customer," he said. "The smaller your company, the more you need to automate, because you don't have enough resources to do everything you need to do in order to grow your business."
Key takeaway: Marketing automation can cut costs and raise revenue by expanding your marketing plan, connecting all brand touchpoints, and increasing the value of each channel and customer.
What are the main features of marketing automation?
Marketing automation software can overwhelm users with their massive number of features. Here are some of the most essential provided by every automation platform.
Email campaign management
Email campaigns can be prepared, created and scheduled months in advance. These schedules can follow static timetables or use advanced features such as chunk sends or A/B tests. Diverging email paths based on customer interactions with your other integrated channels can trigger more personalized emails. The ability to stagger large email blasts also boosts your search engine optimization capabilities by protecting your company's IP ranking.
Social media dashboards
With so many accounts and networks, it can be difficult to juggle the slight variations on campaigns or track customers across networks using different usernames. The social media dashboard displays all of your social networks and their marketing calendars. Schedule posts in advance, link customers to each of their profiles and avoid repeatedly messaging them, and review engagement analytics across all applications.
Users guide all automation processes with workflows. These are simple coded instructions that are the building blocks of automation. They complete a task on a specific trigger, such as sending a follow-up email to customers who like a social media post. Visual dashboards often map these workflows to demonstrate their effects in the context of the overarching marketing campaign.
Workflows require no coding knowledge. They can be selected from templates or created from scratch to support your campaigns, and are easily modified with a few clicks before or during a campaign. Marketers use these to maximize the personalization of their outreach. A general follow-up may be sent to most customers who like a post, but users can create more complex workflows that send one of several messages based on an extensive set of criteria.
Businesses can use the integrated data from automated marketing to improve their customer segmentation strategies. Automated marketing tracks all campaigns to deliver detailed analytics such as conversions, click-through rates and website statistics. These behaviors inform new criteria for customer segments. More precise segments boost the personalization of every customer interaction. Many automation platforms include advanced segmentation tools that organize much of this data.
Jason VandeBoom, founder and CEO of ActiveCampaign, advises businesses to "find a way to blend automation and that human, personal touch together."
"What's the smallest possible audience you can message something to?" asked VandeBoom. "Ensure that you have that right content at the right sequence and that you're not necessarily overcommunicating."
Landing pages and forms
Make it as easy as possible for customers to download your content and subscribe to your newsletters with landing pages. Automation tools can generate simple landing pages and even fill out a sign-up form for previously registered customers, removing the need for them to input any information. These downloadable assets and pages can be stored within the database. Even if hosted independently, they can be tagged with tracking URLs generated by the software.
When linked through the CRM and an integrated accounting system, campaign costs can update in real time with every proposed adjustment. Calculate the cost-benefit analysis of each additional email or purchased content piece to always stay a step ahead of the budget.
Key takeaway: Start your marketing automation journey with the essential features. Familiarize yourself with email campaign management, customer segmentation and your social media dashboard.