What is Marketing Automation?


Better marketing through technology

With consumers being bombarded with marketing messages from every direction, making a marketing campaign stand out has become more difficult than ever before. Marketing teams are under increasing pressure to come up with more innovative ideas that are bigger and better than anything their competitors are doing. But doing this, on top of day to day marketing activities, is not easy.

Marketing teams need more time to focus on the bigger picture and therein lies one of the major challenges being faced by many businesses across the UK. But technology, in the form of marketing automation software, could be the answer.

Marketing automation explained

Marketing automation helps you to identify potential customers, automating the process of nurturing those leads to sales-readiness. It automates actions that bring prospects to the point where they can be directly approached by the sales team with the aim of closing a sale and starting an ongoing relationship, and the information it gathers can drive your choice of marketing tactics.

Marketing automation does this by massively improving the efficiency of your sales funnel, quickly turning a broad base of leads into happy customers using a combination of tactics.

For example, early in the lead-nurturing process education and awareness might be the key task. Marketing automation can supply useful content that develops trust in and respect for your brand, quickly and easily helping leads to understand what it is they’re getting. Further along, when prospects have narrowed down the types of products they’re interested in, you can reach out with targeted messaging, specifically tailored to the groups that could best help to grow your brand. Finally, as activity tracked via the marketing automation system indicates yet more focused interest, a qualified, comprehensive and well-understood lead is automatically handed to the sales team.

Why is marketing automation valuable?

Lead generation is an extremely important step in any business’s growth. By automating many steps in the process from marketing to sales, your team has more time to focus on overall strategy and nurturing the leads that show real promise. That means more prospects, and more customers.

Marketing automation is also able to give you a richer, more detailed picture of the behaviour of potential customers. Using behavioural tracking methods such as following a user’s path through your website, marketing automation software can help your marketing team to understand a prospect’s interests and where they are in the purchasing lifecycle. They can then customise any follow-up based around those action points.

For instance, let’s say a particular customer is reading about a broad category of products. This might indicate that they are at the beginning of the purchasing process, researching and comparing while preparing a shortlist. If they later download white papers on a specific product, that could indicate a narrower focus and a readiness to be contacted by a salesperson.

Bringing together information from touchpoints including website visits and downloads, social media activity and direct marketing enables automatic scoring, qualifying and prioritising of leads. This in turn can then drive wider marketing campaigns, including:

  • trigger-based marketing messages
  • infrequent “drip-feed” emails to maintain interest
  • personalised emails
  • Facebook or Twitter messages

Prioritise leads and improve marketing ROI

Besides automating the lead-nurturing process, marketing automation software can also allow you to establish clear, objective measures of progress through the customer lifecycle. Whereas in the past a particular prospect’s readiness for sales approaches might be down to an individual marketer’s intuition, it can now be based on pre-defined and measured outcomes.

With such analytics at its heart, marketing automation can help prioritise sales staff time, measure the effectiveness of touch points with the prospect and establish overall campaign effectiveness.

Guesswork is also removed from the process: in particular when deciding the point at which an individual prospect is handed over from marketing to sales. Indeed, closed-loop reporting allows you to calculate accurately your cost per opportunity and the ROI of your marketing efforts.

Learn more about marketing automation from Salesforce:

B2B Marketing automation

The business-to-business arena has been the traditional home of marketing automation. That’s because B2B prospects and customers form a small, focused target market, which is usually:

  • engaged in a multi-stage procurement process
  • part of an ongoing relationship of repeat business

For these reasons, B2B is a relationship-driven environment where product education and awareness building are vital. It’s also an arena where purchases are not made on the spur of the moment by individuals; instead, they are considered and rational, and usually involve more than one person.

The buying decision in such circumstances will also take some time, with weeks, months or longer elapsing between the start of the process and its conclusion. This means that in general, business procurement necessitates a longer process of lead nurturing than B2C marketing, and in that process the prospect will have done a lot of research before they are ready to speak to a salesperson – let alone ready to buy.

These characteristics – a long marketing-to-sales evolution, combined with customer research generating multiple data points that can be analysed – makes marketing automation software supremely well-suited to the B2B environment.

See how Pardot puts B2B marketing automation into action:

Consumer marketing automation: a shorter sales cycle

If B2B marketing automation is all about long sales cycles, marketing in a consumer-facing environment is all about convincing potential buyers over a much shorter time frame.

While B2C marketing automation is also about tracking potential customer behaviour to decide a messaging strategy, the big difference comes in duration of campaigns. A consumer campaign needs to gain the customer’s interest very rapidly, with the road to checkout kept short, simple, obvious and enticing.

That’s not to say there is no place for longer-term strategic approaches to the customer base. Building brand loyalty and trust is also vital in B2C, as is market education.

But these take a different form to the multi touch-point journey of B2B, with its deeper requirements in terms of product knowledge.

When a B2C customer is handed over to the sales process they should ideally have:

  • familiarity with the brand and product set
  • a compelling impulse to pull the trigger on the purchase

In terms of marketing automation this means a nurturing process that builds brand awareness, and a sales process that is quick and requires minimal or no involvement from a sales team.

Marketing automation and CRM

Marketing automation software is distinct from CRM in that it manages the process of nurturing leads at a far earlier stage in the purchasing process. But marketing automation and CRM work extremely well together, maintaining a consistent and detailed profile of a person as they make the journey from contact, to lead, to prospect, to customer:

  • First, marketing automation gets a handle on prospect interest and handles lead generation and lead nurturing by means of campaigns across a wide range of online and offline channel
  • CRM then takes those prospects, tracks sales and sales opportunities and manages the ongoing customer relationship.

Sales staff can access information on a lead’s behaviour, the pages they visit and the content they download, for example. Meanwhile, marketing teams can see a customer’s past buying behaviour. On top of all this, reporting and analytics across the closed loop between marketing automation and CRM allow you to hone campaigns to greater effectiveness.

To learn more download our white paper 'Pardot + Sales Cloud: The Dynamic Duo'


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