What Is Marketing Automation, Really?
Marketing automation. It’s one of the biggest buzzwords (well, two) in marketing right now. It sounds like something that would allow you to to just kick back and have a cocktail on a tropical island somewhere. You open your laptop and watch as your website visitors and social media fans magically slide down your sales conversion funnel until they become loyal customers.
But what is marketing automation, exactly?
Simply put, marketing automation is software that you can use to streamline marketing tasks and workflows, helping your business to be more efficient and increase revenue. It’s an integral part of customer relationship management and it helps with everything from lead generation and customer segmentation to nurturing potential customers, making sales and measuring overall ROI on campaigns.
The tools that make up marketing automation packages include things that you'd probably expect, such as email marketing and A/B testing tools, but they also include tools to help you identify your audience, design content, and automatically trigger actions based on schedules and customer behavior.
So does this mean that you can push prospective customers in at one end of the marketing automation machine, and watch the sales pop out the other? Well, not exactly…
Of course, it still requires your input to set up and maintain. And as you begin a campaign and start receiving data, you’ll want to tweak things like email headlines, CTAs and landing page, to improve engagement.
But marketing automation can vastly improve your workflow, so you can spend much less time doing repetitive, menial tasks and more time focusing on the higher level stuff, like strategizing and customizing your marketing copy for different customer segments.
If you’re still managing your marketing efforts via Outlook, Word docs, and Excel spreadsheets, then marketing automation will be a real boost to your productivity. It connects activity across channels, including social media, email and your website, and stores user data from all of them in a central database.
You might think that something so automated would be spammy, but it's surprisingly the opposite. Instead of hitting all of your potential customers over the head with the same thing, marketing automation software uses the data points that you have about your leads and customers, to deliver exactly what they’re interested in and what they need to make a decision.
The user experience can also be seamless across channels. Say, for example, someone first responded to your website. Then later, when they’re surfing the web, a targeted ad appears on the sidebar of a website they're on. They might then see a sponsored post on Facebook that's tailored to them. And when your software emails them or they visit your site, the content they see will meet them where they are in the customer journey.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Nowadays, there are a lot of options when it comes to software. Companies like Act-On, Eloqua, GetResponse, HubSpot, MailChimp, Marketo and Salesforce all offer great products and most also offer free trials. Of course, the one thing that automation can’t replace yet is great content and you’ll have to do that for yourself or hire an agency to do it for you.
Another option is to have a marketing company use their in-house automation tools and talent to handle your marketing operation, with even more sophistication. Either way, marketing automation will transform your marketing game.