The early days of my marketing career really sucked. The time and stress of manually compiling email lists for segmented campaigns, the lack of data to understand how to segment them in the first place, and the endless array of Excel spreadsheets frustrated me to no end.
Does that sound all too familiar? Do you also find yourself spending hours trying to track and measure engagement and outcomes to pass along to your sales department? That means you're probably also stuck having to chop and change between several systems or programmes to gather your information, only to have to consolidate it in another place.
It's a highly annoying and completely ineffective way of doing things.
Fortunately, thanks to marketing automation tools/software, you don’t have to deal with those time-wasting tasks and you can get on with running your marketing programmes effectively. But, like so many great innovations, there may be certain challenges you have to face on the path to automation. Here's my full round-up of the pros and cons of implementing marketing automation for your business.
But, first ...
What exactly is marketing automation?
In short, it's the process of automating various, mostly repetitve and otherwise time-consuming and/or resource-intensive marketing tasks, with the help of software.
Other than saving you a ton of time and money in the form of resources, marketing automation just makes good business sense. In our fast-paced modern marketing world, timing is everything. A beat missed or a slight delay, means an opportunity lost. Marketing automation mitigates this. By setting up workflows you ensure your leads get the right amount of nurturing throughout their buyer's journey until they're ready to make a purchasing decision.
So, how does automation make a difference to your manual marketing setup?
For one thing, all you're doing is setting up parameters and performing regular checkups. There's no need to keep updating your criteria, or manually scoring your leads. Setting up automated workflows does all the hard work for you.
Not all leads are equal, so marketing automation software offers you the ability to select leads to enroll for a workflow based on certain actions they take or characteristcs they hold. For example, you could choose to enroll leads who have downloaded a specific eBook, those that have a lead score of a set amount or higher, or perhaps someone who has viewed a specific page on your website. These are your marketing automation "trigger criteria" that activate your workflows.
Is a marketing automation workflow really that effective?
Imagine a lead that's downloaded a few of your offers and is edging closer to being a sales qualified lead, lands on your pricing web page. That's a pretty good indication they are taking your product or service under serious consideration. Now imagine if your sales team was instantly notified that this hot lead just visited your pricing page. Wouldn’t it be great if they could reach out while the lead is in the process of looking for information? Indeed, workflows allow this process to happen.
So how does marketing automation support your buyer's journeys?
Because marketing automation software combines channels and functions, what you’re presented with is a tool that can easily support the entire buyer’s journey well. Emails, blogs, social media, website building, CTA creation and analytics all in one place (just to mention a few). This helps you to create cross-channel campaigns that complement each other and takes the buyer along their journey from prospect to promoter.
Because all of your analytics are in one place with marketing automation software, you can easily track prospects’ and leads’ journeys across your content, creating a map of their interaction. This helps you to understand what they’re looking for, and to create content to convert them more consistently and quickly. Being privy to these amazing user-insights, means you can more accurately frame your buyer personas and better position your content, serving them the most relevant information.
Automation, by the very definition, alleviates the manual activation and management of tasks. Marketing automation software allows you to pre-schedule certain tasks, cutting down on the time and resources needed to plan, execute and monitor your marketing activities. This frees you up to address more strategic or immediate responsibilities and improves your overall efficiency.
Using the lead intelligence, scoring and nurturing elements of marketing automation software allows you to feed the sales team with not only more leads, but with leads that are of a much higher quality in terms of sales readiness. The lead intelligence aspect is of particular importance as the sales team is armed with a deeper understanding of each lead prior to initial contact. This means they can tailor their opening call to the lead’s specific area of interest making for a far ‘warmer’ reception than a traditional cold-call.
Marketing automation software seamlessly connects your marketing touch-points such as email marketing, landing pages, lead intelligence and scoring, CRM integration, social media marketing as well as campaigns and marketing analytics. This integration allows for detailed, holistic profiles of your contacts, which can help you effectively segment and target specific contacts based on behaviour and interaction preferences.
We often stress the importance of aligning sales and digital marketing teams for overall business success. Implementation of marketing automation software can encourage this consolidation as it creates a closed-loop system, integrating marketing elements with the CRM system and allowing a greater level of transparency and collaboration between the two departments.
Let’s talk about a previous point in some more detail. Imagine your analytics of all your marketing efforts were kept in one place, and then correlated into detailed overview reports in which you could easily read? Well, it’s possible.
This is possibly the greatest benefit of marketing automation software – that you can see how every channel is performing and reacting in relation to your other channels. Having easy access to this data allows you to constantly improve your content and marketing by understanding what is working best for you along the way.
Access to this aggregated data is nearly impossible to create when working across multiple platforms, and definitely takes more time if you can ever get it right. In fact, some marketing automation platforms even forecast revenue growth and manage your cash flow, based on your previous statistics.
Enhances Personalisation and Eases Segmentation
Let's call on two facts: That all or most of your marketing channels are found in one place and, second, that all your analytics are in one place. Above everything else, this makes it far more possible for you to develop a unique voice and personalisation for your content. Your online engagment will never replace face to face interaction, but it can come quite close.
Personalisation is what makes your business stand out from the plethora of others, and anything that can aid you in building personalised content for visitors to your website is certainly something to consider. With marketing automation software, you can analyse how your visitors are engaging with each of your content channels and react to this.
Find out which content they prefer, which keywords they use, which emails they prefer to open and click-through, and even when and how they interact with social media – there’s no jumping between different platforms to correlate this data, instead you can see it all on one.
Arguably one of the most significant driving factors for marketing automation adoption is the ability to not only deliver a better return on investment (ROI) but also to be able to effectively track and report on valued performance metrics. The built-in analytics of marketing automation software allows for a closed-loop view of marketing through to sales activities meaning you can effectively and accurately report on your contribution to the overall company results.
So how intense is it getting a marketing automation workflow up and running? Well, depending on the software you opt for, it's surprisingly simple.
We use HubSpot's all-in-one marketing software to setup our workflows. The platform makes setting up your lead nurturing incredibly simple when using the Workflows tool. Next up is a step-by-step rundown to get your first automated marketing workflow up and running and reconverting leads. Ready? Right, let's do this!
Lead scoring, mentioned above, involves categorising your leads according to actions they've performed, or yet to perform. If someone's clicked on a CTA, downloaded an eBook or fills out forms on webpages, they trigger various workflows which enroll them and nurture them appropriately.
Next you’ll need to determine the individual steps your workflow will have. This can be as simple as a single email – like I use when people subscribe to our blog as a welcome and thank you – or a complex 12 step series. The number of steps required will come down to the objectives of your campaign.
Once you have the individual steps mapped out, you can turn your attention to deciding about the timing for each step to be executed. The idea here is to define the time between the follow up emails. For example, my automated 'welcome to the blog' email goes out instantly while in another campaign I send one email 2 days after a specific action, the next goes out 3 days thereafter and the last 5 days after that. Most B2B companies will complain about a longer buying cycles, but it has been shown that lead nurturing campaigns can speed up the decision making process.
Alrighty! All that’s left to do is to take that bad boy live by activating the workflow. Check in on your workflow performance periodically to identify if any changes or optimisation needs to be addressed. The Workflow overview pane plots your overall workflow beautifully for easy reporting.
Having been on either side of the marketing automation software fence (i.e. trying to be an effective marketer without it, as well as with it), I can honestly say that the benefits heavily outweigh the challenges you may face. Technology is a great enabler of results and if you are looking to up your marketing efficiency, marketing automation software should be your first port of call.