Personalized messaging is key to marketing success, but small businesses don’t have time to schedule every email and converse individually with each customer. Small business owners can take some of this important but tedious work off their team’s plate with 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. Read on for a guide to the benefits of automation software, how it works and how it can grow your business.
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Marketing automation is the integration of data and processes from various sales and marketing channels into an organized central platform with automated workflows. 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, allowing marketers to streamline and automate tasks.
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 doesn’t store your customer information like a CRM. Rather, it is implemented in addition to your CRM, like any other integrated application, to operate alongside that data.
Marketing automation software serves two primary functions: It completes mundane and repetitive tasks through automated 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 touch point. Customer profiles update whenever the customer engages 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 touch points. 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.
Marketing automation simplifies communications between sales and marketing teams by enabling them to work within the same database. Marketing automation is one of many popular CRM integrations. Such platforms pull data from the CRM, layering its own information atop the original sales profiles. Sales teams receive qualified leads as marketing team members further personalize the marketing aimed at each prospect.
Holly Simmons, former vice president of product management at Oracle, said that 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.”
Sales and marketing teams can more easily work together with integrated CRM and marketing automation platforms. Both teams can access updated customer profiles and visual outlines detailing the full customer journey.
Marketing automation can improve work efficiency for every member of a company’s sales and marketing teams. Some of the specific benefits include the following.
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 that 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.”
When all marketing channels are linked via automation software, they “converse” with one another. An employee doesn’t have to check which customers responded to a Facebook poll and manually create each follow-up. Instead, they can program the automation software to initiate an email drip campaign that sends personalized messages based on customer answers.
Such details are already stored in customer profiles, again limiting the time spent recording information. When all marketing channels are linked through automation, the shopper navigates a smooth, curated path and employees aren’t bogged down by repetitive tasks.
The synergized feedback and connections between all of your marketing 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.”
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 due to human error allows marketing teams to “slow-roll” their strategy with the assurance that they will not need to remember every instance they must contact a customer or forward their 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 because they aren’t using the system to its fullest.
“They don’t leverage automation to get more customers from that customer, and they don’t leverage [it] 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.”
Marketing automation can cut costs and raise revenue by streamlining workflow and requiring less hands-on labor.
Marketing automation software can overwhelm users with its massive number of features. Here are some of the most essential functions provided by every marketing automation platform.
Email campaigns can be prepared, created and scheduled months in advance using marketing automation software. 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. [Check out these email marketing tips to make your next campaign a success.]
With so many accounts and networks, it can be difficult for marketing teams to juggle the slight variations on campaigns or track customers across networks using different usernames. The social media dashboard included in marketing automation platforms typically displays all of your social networks and their respective content calendars in one place. Use the software to schedule posts in advance, link customers to each of their profiles and avoid repeatedly messaging them, and review engagement analytics across all applications.
Users set up all automation processes with workflows. These are simple coded instructions that are the building blocks of automation. They tell the system to complete a task based on a specific trigger, such as email triggers that prompt the software to send 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.
Building workflows in marketing automation platforms requires 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 tools to maximize the personalization of their outreach. For instance, a general follow-up may be sent to most customers who like a Facebook 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 systems track all campaigns to deliver detailed analytics, such as conversions, click-through rates and website statistics. These behaviors inform new criteria for customer segments, and 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.”
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 online forms for previously registered customers, removing the need for them to input any information manually. 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 with your CRM and an integrated accounting system, marketing 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 your budget. [Learn how to use CRM analytics.]
Start your marketing automation journey with the essential features: email campaign management, customer segmentation and a social media dashboard. Determine which tasks to automate and which should have hands-on employee involvement.
To make the most of marketing automation software, follow the tips below. Ask yourself these questions to ensure you’re improving your marketing strategy through the use of automation and not hampering it:
Small business owners and their teams have so many things to worry about in a day. The more technology can lend a hand, the more likely it is that everyone will have extra time for key business needs.
Marketing automation software can connect your sales and marketing systems and streamline your workflows, freeing up valuable time. From beefing up your marketing plans to learning how your customers think, marketing automation – when deployed correctly – will help your business achieve its sales goals.
Natalie Hamingson contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.