“What, exactly, is marketing automation?”
This article will give you the lowdown on marketing automation.
What is it, what is it not? Which parts do you, as a marketer, need to pay attention to? What aspects do you need to understand?
Marketing automation software helps you build a relationship with people that aren’t ready to buy from you yet. It allows you to find out when a prospect’s timing is changing to your advantage. Marketing automation software can become your best friend because it does something that makes your job a little bit easier: it automates marketing processes.
Marketing automation and email marketing are terms that are often incorrectly used interchangeably. Maybe we should say it this way: marketing automation is not just email marketing.
A true marketing automation is multi-channel. It allows you to connect to your customers through whichever channel or medium they prefer by dictating the platforms behavior off of the customer’s behavior. And it allows you to leverage customer data to send out the right message to the right person at the right time.
The other thing marketing automation is not is inbound marketing.
Like email marketing, the term “inbound marketing” is often used interchangeably with “marketing automation”, but that’s also not quite correct either. It’s very possible to use marketing automation to power your outbound marketing strategies. But it’s certainly true that marketing automation has made inbound marketing strategies a lot more viable, because of how the software allows you to gauge interest and respond in a relevant way. Whichever method you choose (inbound or outbound), make sure you understand what your prospects and customers need in order to gain their trust and, ultimately, their business.
It’s about the timing.
Marketing automation software allows you to do two crucial things:
- It helps you build a relationship with people that aren’t ready to buy from you yet. Only a fraction of the people first encountering your business will raise their hand and say: “I’ll take it!” You’re most likely selling a high-value product, service or solution. Your prospective customers won’t make a purchasing decision overnight; they’ll do research first. Just like your company did when choosing a marketing automation solution (we are so happy you chose us!).
- It allows you to find out when a prospect’s timing is changing to your advantage. Those people you’re building a relationship with? At some point in time, they might be ready to buy. The marketing automation platform will be able (if you set it up correctly) to detect when this is happening and subsequently warn you it’s time to act! This way you’ll actually be talking to people that are interested in buying, saving you (but especially your sales team) heaps of time and frustration.
This functionality is the core of a marketing automation platform. Everything else is mostly meant to make our lives as marketers easier.
Who doesn’t want that?
Just like the term “marketing automation” can mean various things to various people, so can the word “Customer Journey”. Most likely you’ll have heard of it, as well as similar terms such as “Sales Funnel”, “Marketing Funnel” and “Customer Journey”.
The difference? It’s mostly semantics.
Usually, the term “Sales Funnel” applies to the process your prospective customers go through before making a purchase. Ditto for “Marketing Funnel” and “Buyer Journey”. The Customer Journey is also used to denote the sales process, but more often carries with it the added implication of a customer’s full stay with the company (including the time after purchase).
At Net-Results, we use “Customer Journey” in the latter way. We fully realize that when a customer decides to buy our product, it’s just the start of their journey with us. As a software-as-a-service company, we generate revenue on subscription basis. It’s absolutely vital that we continue to interact and wow our customers after their initial decision to buy from us.
**add links to articles where it explains info about customer journey
Many businesses have websites that generate a considerable amount of traffic. What they often fail to do is convert any of that anonymous traffic into identified prospects.
Sound familiar? Marketing automation software will help you fix this problem.
Most marketing automation software comes with the means to capture website visitor data and insert it into the database. Common examples are forms, pop-ups and bars (those colorful things at the bottom or top of a screen).
Where before a visitor would just leave your website, now you can give them an incentive to identify themself to you. If the only way to interact with your business is a contact form on your website, you’re missing out on potential relationship-building opportunities.
How do you improve the quality of your leads? By making sure they don’t talk to sales until they’re actually ready for a “sales” conversation.
Remember when we said timing is important? Marketing automation software can help you recognize which leads are exhibiting “buying behavior”. Looking at a pricing page, or downloading a prospectus from you website. Or simply looking at a ton of webpages in a short amount of time, indicating they’re really interested in your stuff.
Until they do exhibit such behavior, you can apply lead nurturing to build a relationship with them. By sharing relevant content with your leads as they exist in your Sales Funnel, you nurture your relationship with them and nurture them into the buying process when they are ready to talk to an actual sales person.
Interacting with the sales team is a major part of the job for most B2B marketers. Marketing automation makes this a lot easier for you.
If you’re currently manually uploading lists to your sales team’s CRM solution, get ready to have your life changed. Marketing automation software usually comes with a CRM integration.
Not only does that allow you to push leads to sales when the lead is ready (under conditions that you can define). It also allows you to notify sales reps directly when one of their leads is active on the website, for example.
Or what about using all of that precious CRM data in your marketing campaigns? If you integrate marketing automation with your CRM, you’ll start sharing (“syncing”) customer data between the teams automatically.