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What is Marketing Automation?

Published by Spinutech on July 20, 2021

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is a buzzword you probably hear at every conference and seminar. You may know that marketing automation holds great potential for increasing your marketing success and growing your business. However, it’s okay if you’re still a little fuzzy on the meaning. As with terms like “machine learning” and “AI,” it’s frequently used but often misunderstood.

It’s hard to say exactly when and where marketing automation became “a thing,” but it gained traction in the mid 2000s with HubSpot and other CRM platforms promising to make marketers’ lives easier. As technology grows it allows marketers to segment their customers and learn what makes them tick — pretty standard marketing stuff, actually — but on a much larger scale than previously possible.

Today, using a marketing automation platform, you can gather useful information about leads and customers as they interact with your digital presence. For example, you might learn which pages of your website they visit or which links they click in an e-newsletter. Then, you can send them information that you tailor to their exact interests and behavior… automatically.

Marketing automation relies on “if, then” logic. If a prospect does x, your platform sends them y.

Technology sometimes seems to create more work for marketers — such as by offering more and more new channels to test for lead gen — but ultimately, it should reduce the workload. Or, at least, it should shift your focus onto more meaningful marketing work and away from repetitive, inefficient tactics. Marketing once involved a certain element of “throwing it at the wall and seeing what sticks.” Marketing automation, if nothing else, will keep your walls a lot cleaner.

How Companies Use Marketing Automation

HubSpot reported that, in 2019, slightly more than half of marketers were using automation. However, even those using it currently may not be using it to its full potential. Many people associate it only with lead generation. And while it is certainly a powerful lead gen tool, that is only one use for it. Here are examples of how businesses utilize marketing automation:

  • Nurture campaigns. Walk a warm lead through the sales funnel, demonstrating exactly what your product can do for them, so they almost can’t help but convert.
  • Abandoned cart strategies. Re-engage those shoppers who disappeared and get them to convert to delighted customers.
  • Personalized offers. Send a lead just the right coupon or incentive, at just the right time, to tip them into making a purchase.
  • Product demo scheduling. Let interested people select a time to see a product demo, without having to do anything on your end. Follow up automatically after the demo.
  • A/B testing of messages. Automate the comparison of headlines, subject lines, offers, days of the week, and any other factors that affect buyer decisions.
  • Lead scoring. Know which leads are worth your sales team’s time and which are going to cost you.
  • Reporting. Produce robust reports about how visitors are interacting with your website and other digital communication channels, with information you can use to refine your strategy.

How you use marketing automation depends entirely on your goals. Let’s look at some factors to help you determine when and how your company should take the plunge into marketing automation.

How to Determine if You're Ready for Marketing Automation

The best approach to marketing automation is to use it to amplify what already works for your company. If nothing seems to be working right now, you might need to take a step back and consider whether there are other underlying issues. Evaluate your content strategy and ensure that your website meets current best practices.

To succeed with marketing automation, you also need a steady supply of leads. Too often, marketers try to forego this top-of-the-funnel step. Buying a list of leads might seem like the quickest fix, but that practice usually yields extremely low ROI. An inbound marketing strategy is the most productive way to attract quality leads.
Once you’re certain you can provide a positive user experience and you have leads rolling in, consider the following list of signs your business is ready for marketing automation:

  • Your sales team wastes a tremendous amount of time chasing down unqualified leads.
  • You’ve worked to boost your search engine ranking or otherwise increase website traffic, but the new traffic doesn’t convert.
  • Your current lead nurturing strategy works, but it’s not scalable.
  • Your current emails have a low open and click-through rate, indicating that you’re targeting too broad an audience, or the wrong one entirely.
  • Visitors frequently add items on your site to their cart without completing a purchase.
  • You have marketing personas, but if you’re being honest, you don’t really know who your customers are and what they want.

Questions to Ask a Digital Marketing Automation Partner

When you’ve run through all of the considerations above, and you see the potential that marketing automation offers, you will likely wish to partner with a digital marketing agency. It’s important to find the right partner and discuss expectations and costs thoroughly.

Start by asking any prospective agency what software tools they recommend, and share with them your team’s comfort level with different platforms. Everyone will need to work together using tools they can agree upon.

Ask them what kind of marketing automation strategy would best serve your company goals. Make sure they clearly outline the steps to creating the strategy, including developing any content you will need as part of your marketing efforts.

Find out what is needed from your own team. Ask who should be involved in calls and meetings and how often you and the agency will touch base. 

Discuss reporting. You’ll need to know whether any marketing efforts you undertake actually work. Ask for clear expectations about how long it will take to get your automation strategy up and running, and how quickly you can expect to see results. Your agency partner should provide you with regular reports as the plan unfolds.

Need Help Developing or Managing Your Marketing Automation Strategy?

We would love the opportunity to partner with you on your strategy. We want to see your business grow, and we can bring more than two decades of experience to making that happen. We have helped numerous companies succeed with marketing automation and can do the same for you. Think of us as your extended team of digital experts!

Contact us today to get started!