Marketing teams work tirelessly to figure out the hows and the whys of customers’ buying decisions, new ways to bring in clients and remind current customers why they should continue doing business with you. All of which is a necessity for pretty much every business.
Unfortunately, making that all happen sometimes requires routine, repetitive tasks that are quite time and resource consuming.
Enter marketing automation.
You’ve probably heard the term tossed around before and may have thought, “Oh, that’s for the big guys.” After all, it sounds fancy and expensive, right?
It very well could be. In fact, if you’re not careful, it could end up costing your business more than the initial required investment.
Here’s the thing: marketing automation isn’t just for big businesses. There’s something for everybody. Small businesses and startups alike know that effective marketing—using automation to save time and energy while focusing on big-picture strategy—is crucial to business growth.
There’s a way to fit marketing automation into your business. It’s your job to find and evaluate which solutions are right for you and when they can be implemented with minimal disruption to your daily operations.
Before we discuss how to make that all happen, let’s get on the same page about marketing automation and how it can benefit your business.
What is marketing automation?
Many people define it, simply, as the automation of marketing tasks.
While this is true, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Marketing automation goes beyond saving time on daily, redundant tasks. It involves engaging customers and prospects across various channels, adequate monitoring of your website, and having better alignment with sales efforts.
It’s about applying what you learn about your customers and prospects to your company’s message and making your marketing efforts scalable.
Marketing automation refers to technologies and software platforms that help organizations and marketing departments market more effectively on multiple online channels, increase lead engagement, and track opportunities, while also automating repetitive tasks.
Marketing automation is becoming an essential part of doing business, which is evident in the fact that about 67% of marketing leaders use marketing automation, while 21% plan to implement new platforms for automation in the year ahead.
Benefits of marketing automation
Marketing automation is a fast growing business strategy that smart business leaders are working hard to implement. There are three key benefits of using marketing automation software.
Marketing is considered by many as the sweet spot between art and business. No wonder many people grew up aspiring to be marketers. Automation has made it an even more inviting position by making the work faster and more fulfilling.
When the redundant parts of the job are automated, time is saved, and marketers are able to spend more time on important, meaningful tasks. Automation allows them to get back to the essence of their work: creatively connecting with potential buyers and customers.
According to Forbes, about 82% of marketers admit marketing automation can make them more efficient and lead to a positive return on investment. Without the need to worry about the “whos and whys” of marketing communication on an individual basis, marketing teams are able to get a lot more done in a lot less time.
More importantly, increased efficiency means your marketing team is able to spend more time focusing their efforts on how to generate high-quality leads and grow your brand.
While effective marketing will help you build a sustainable flow of new customers, marketing to your current customers should also be a top priority. Making an effort to remind your existing clients of your products and services is ultimately less costly than focusing your efforts on bringing in new business.
Marketing automation software provides interesting insight into your customers’ interests and buying habits, allowing you to position your company in front of them when the timing is right.
Understanding how and why your existing clients make purchasing decisions and communicating with them at the right time will lead to better customer retention.
Things to consider before investing in marketing automation
At first, incorporating marketing automation software into your business might seem like an expensive strategy. However, if implemented correctly, there’s potential for a huge return on investment.
Here are a few things you should know about marketing automation before making an investment in a new solution.
Research & planning are important
This may seem obvious, yet many companies make large investments in marketing automation software prior to understanding how it will impact their operations. That’s a recipe for an increased workload and unhappy employees, which is the opposite of what we’re going for here.
According to Ascend2, 91% of most successful users agree that marketing automation is “very important” to the overall success of their marketing. So the question isn’t whether marketing automation is right for your business; it’s which solution is right for you.
The bottom line: do your research.
Anyone who has a crucial role in the marketing workflow should take a look at the options you’re considering and provide their individual feedback.
Most importantly, make sure the sales and marketing teams work together on choosing the right marketing automation tool. These two teams are constantly working together to make sure everybody is on the same page with your lead flow and follow up.
There are a lot of details to cover within marketing campaigns, and every company handles things a bit differently. By opening up the lines of communication between sales and marketing during the research process, you’ll have a better understanding of how the solutions you’re evaluating will impact your marketing campaigns and sales efforts.
You’ll need support
While the power of marketing automation is incredible, you’re going to need help setting it up. As with choosing any software partner, it’s important to ensure they’ll work with your team and provide additional resources to help you make the most of your software investment.
You’ll also likely need to involve your IT department, especially if you’ve never experienced the complexities of marketing automation software.
For example, you’ll have to map out the different paths your leads and customers take when they subscribe, unsubscribe, make purchases, or trigger specific steps within your marketing campaigns.
Assistance from your IT department, along with resources from the software provider, will be crucial in ensuring your messages go to the right audience at the right time.
Make sure you’ll have adequate support, resources, and a technical team with enough capacity to handle a new tool.
You’ll get the best results with a CRM
While there are many ways marketing automation will benefit your business, the best way to maximize your return on investment is with CRM integration. In fact, some of the best CRMs have marketing automation built right in.
Take some time to understand which marketing automation capabilities, if any, are already built into your CRM. For starters, you should look for things like automated lead tracking and email campaign management.
For example, when a prospect enters a request on your website it should be automatically logged and organized into your CRM. Automation should subsequently allow you to seamlessly transfer the prospect’s data into one of your email marketing campaigns.
With messages being sent directly from your CRM, you’ll avoid time wasted sending individual emails because you’ll be able to use templates you’ve already configured.
Take some time to understand the marketing automation capabilities of your CRM. If your software budget is limited, it’s best to start here.
Over time, you can transition into more sophisticated software designed specifically for marketing automation. Just remember to ask potential software providers if their solution will work seamlessly with your Customer Relationship Management software.
Make sure your website is ready
Marketing automation programs generally have a lead score feature that allows you attribute scores to various activities—activities like opening an important page, requesting more information, or downloading a resource.
Based on the level of importance you set for each activity, the system will generate a lead score for each of your prospects. The total score of each lead depends on which important activities your prospect takes and at what frequency they’re performed.
You can then group the leads from most promising (lead with the highest lead score) to least promising and use the information to deal with each lead accordingly. You’ll obviously want to approach your more promising leads differently than leads that may just be shopping around without serious intent to make a purchase.
This type of automated lead qualification can be an incredibly powerful tool. It’ll help your salespeople prioritize their time by having conversations with the most interested prospects first and it will allow your marketing team to understand important triggers events within your potential customers’ buying journey.
In addition to sophisticated lead scoring tools, marketing automation software will allow you to track general activities of website visitors and potential customers.
For all this to work properly you’ll need to spend time determining if you’ve laid the proper foundation, meaning that before implementing marketing automation software your website should include the appropriate calls to action, downloadable resources, and product-specific pages.
Marketing automation can be used for virtually any type of business, regardless of size or industry.
While it will help you drive real, measurable results, it should be clear there’s a lot of setting up and planning required prior to deciding which solution is right for your business.
Before making an investment in marketing automation software, do your research and schedule some collaborative planning sessions between your marketing, sales, and IT teams. Be sure to also consider CRM integration and your current website set up.
Once you fully understand the requirements of the software and how it will fit into your daily operations, you’ll be able to decide which marketing automation solution is right for your business—and you’ll be prepared to use the software to drive business growth.