Marketing automation is the process of utilising technology to streamline and automate marketing campaigns across email, social media, mobile, online advertising and more. By automating repetitive tasks it frees up marketer's time to focus on strategic projects and campaigns.
Through tracking and analysis of visitor behavior, marketing automation software enables teams to to create 1-to-1 cross-channel journeys that delivers a consistent, connected, experience for the customer. This improves the efficiency of a sales funnel, quickly turning a broad base of leads into happy customers by using a combination of tactics.
Marketing automation delivers useful content to potential customers, at the right time, that develops trust and respect for the brand, educates potential customers about its services, and helps them to qualify their interest.
Further along the funnel, once prospects have narrowed down the types of products they’re interested in, the business can use automation to reach out with targeted messaging specifically tailored to those groups most likely both to respond and to benefit the business.
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.
By automating some of the manual and repetitive jobs of the marketing function in a business, marketing automation can free up time and resource. It can also supply intelligence to deepen marketers’ knowledge of the customer, and help them deliver better targeted and measurably more effective campaigns.
Marketing automation can help businesses to:
- Free up time to focus on strategy
- Get a rich, detailed picture of the behaviour of potential customers
- Customise follow-up
- Deploy wider marketing campaigns
- Prioritise leads
- Improve marketing ROI
- Predict future investment more accurately
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
Besides automating the lead-nurturing process, marketing automation software can also allow businesses to establish clear, objective measures of progress right through the customer lifecycle. Whereas determining a particular prospect’s readiness for sales might once have been left 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.
Marketing automation is very well-suited to B2B markets, due to the longer sales cycles, complex decision-making dynamics and multi-stage procurement processes. It can automate the targeting and tracking of campaigns and interactions, score leads and personalise the customer experience to encourage repeat business.
B2B markets tend to be highly focused and relationship-driven, and product education and awareness-building are vital. It’s an arena where purchases are considered and rational, take place over weeks, months or even years, and typically involve a range of influencers and decision-makers.
This means that in general, business procurement necessitates a longer process of lead nurturing than B2C marketing, over the course of which the prospect will have done a lot of research before they are ready to speak to a salesperson – let alone ready to buy.
By supplying targeted content at strategic points in the procurement journey and analysing the response, marketing automation can usefully generate multiple data points that can be analysed and acted on.
For example, financial services companies face challenges including new competitors and meeting the demands of millennials. Marketing automation can support growth without compromising the personal relationships on which such businesses are built. It offers both scalability and the ability to segment to deliver targeted messages at the optimum time.
B2C marketing involves familiarising the customer with a business’s brand and product set and giving them a compelling reason to purchase. B2C marketing automation both supports the nurturing process and automates the sales process so that it is quick and requires minimal or no involvement from a sales team.
While 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.
B2C marketing automation is also about tracking potential customer behaviour to decide a messaging strategy, but 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.
The roles and functions of marketing automation and CRM overlap and complement each other, and in many businesses the two systems combine to maintain a consistent, detailed profile of an individual from contact to lead to prospect to customer.
Generally speaking, marketing automation focuses on the automation of tasks for lead generation and lead nurturing. This is implemented across a wide range of campaigns, both online and offline, and at scale.
With a harmonised approach, sales staff can then access information on a lead’s behaviour, the pages they visit and the content they download, for example, while marketing teams can see a customer’s past buying behaviour. And reporting and analytics across the closed loop between marketing automation and CRM allow businesses to hone campaigns to greater effectiveness.