If you’re a marketer, it’s safe to say that you’ve heard about marketing automation. This beneficial business tool is multi-faceted and requires a deeper understanding to determine whether or not it is right for your business. Hearing about it is just not enough.
Don’t worry, this isn’t your fault—there is a lot of content online about “marketing automation,” mainly saturated by software companies who sell the technology, which can make the reasoning seem a bit biased.
Before we go further, let’s make sure we’re referring to the same thing when I say marketing automation.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation is built around software platforms and technologies for marketers and marketing departments to manage digital channels and automate and schedule repetitive tasks.
At the core of marketing automation platforms is email marketing and an ever-expanding technology suite that supports integrated marketing execution, data collection, contact management, campaign development, return on investment, and reporting. The overall goal is to provide marketers the ability to provide leads to sales.
You’ll find that marketing automation platforms that are currently on the market offer three primary functions: email marketing, visitor tracking, and contact database for marketing. Beyond these core capabilities, the providers differentiate by offering additional tools at a scaling price structure based on functionality and size of database.
As you can see from the Google Trends chart (above), the term “marketing automation” has been around for over a decade, and in the last three years alone, the industry has tripled in size.
In spite of this growth, marketing automation is still the newest technology for almost all companies, as are most sophisticated strategies, tactics, and technologies.
Technology included in marketing automation consists of:
- website, content management systems, or e-commerce platforms. (WordPress, Shopify, SquareSpace, etc.)
- email marketing software
- landing page and form builder
- social media publishing tool
- customer relationship management (Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, On Demand, ZoHo, etc.)
- campaign management tool (Pardot, Autopilot, HubSpot, Adobe Campaign)
- analytic tool
Do you need marketing automation?
Whether you should use marketing automation or not is fairly straightforward to determine. If you need to improve your lead generation, nurturing, and overall inbound marketing and sales performance and are looking to save time, then marketing automation might make sense for your business.
You know you need automated marketing when…
- you spend more time building and updating standard operating procedures for different tools than you use the actual tools
- you don’t nurture leads
- you send each email campaign, response, and blog post manually
- you can’t connect your activities to trackable metrics
- your website doesn’t generate enough leads and sales
- your website isn’t nurturing visitors
- you would like to increase your online sales
- you would like to stop outbound sales
- you would like to stop cold call rejections
- your sales team is need of more qualified leads
- your sales team would like to better understand their prospects
- your company would like predictable monthly leads
- you would like to maximize your email list
- you would like to grow your email list
- you think social media can help your company
- you are not sure your content marketing is working
What’s the first step?
Start documenting your technical and marketing requirements—what you need the tool to accomplish and the data you want to it to track and manage. If you don’t, you’ll likely overpay for a solution with unnecessary functionality or, worse, you might waste time and money on a marketing automation tool that can’t support a crucial part of your business.
Also take into account the current software being utilized. Can functionality and tools be consolidated to allow for closed looped reporting, where you can track the results of your budgeted time and expenses? Or, does your company require independent specialized software packages to achieve a larger impact?
What should I consider from a technology perspective?
Simply looking at marketing automation market share in United States (source) you can see that there are many options.
Look for the tools with APIs. How easily can they be used to build a customized interface that works seamlessly with your CRM data? You also want programs that integrate with Google and Microsoft. If your employees are mobile and rely on their smartphones, make sure the marketing tools have native mobile apps for both Android and iPhones. If employees spend a lot of their day on email, look for vendors that marry email inboxes with your marketing tool and CRM so your staff can view all the info they need on one screen.
Then there’s security. Marketing and sales data hold a ton of personal and proprietary information. You want a tool that supports role-based authorizations.
Should I look at an all-in-one solution or specialized solutions?
The level of technology decision rests on your needs, budget, time, and resources. All-in-one tools like HubSpot give you more control and the power of a scalable and consistent SOP for a growing team. But going that route requires Swiss army knives for marketers to maintain the marketing software to its potential. This infrastructure is an upfront investment of time and money.
Specialized solutions requires your team to learn multiple technology platforms and maintain discipline in training to keep up with rapidly improving solutions. Specialized solutions, like infusionsoft, require specialists to maximize the tool. And therein lies the rub. If you have a small team of specialists, then this is a doable solution. But if you’re expecting rapid growth and cross-functional teams able to step into multiple roles, consider minimizing the amount of software they’re required to master.
Why Marketing Automation Now?
The highest performing companies, marketing teams, and marketers use marketing automation to build campaigns, analyze performance, and feed their sales teams good leads to achieve a better return on investment.
These companies aren’t 10 times better, smarter, or more capable than you. They simply take advantage of the right tools; tools that empower them to make better decisions, streamline processes, and view the entire marketing and sales funnel. The marketing environment is dominated by digital, making these abilities essential to your success.
As marketers, you care about more leads (volume), qualified leads (quality) and, most importantly, more revenue for business growth. Not to mention, you want to save time by systemizing repetitive tasks, have accurate data and analytics for your reports, and make your job easier rather than harder.
So, do you need marketing automation?
The answer is based on your business model, your needs, and the team you have in place. Marketing automation is the center of a digital, system-oriented, and result-driven marketing department, that allows a business to accelerate campaigns, reach more prospects, generate more qualified leads, and demonstrate a return on marketing and sales investment. These are all positive outcomes that can allow you to grow and thrive.
Need help deploying or improving your marketing automation? Talk to us about this sophisticated technology—we know the best questions to ask so you’ll have a better feel for whether marketing automation is right for your business.