Nov 14, 2016

Marketing Automation – What is it and how can you use it?

by Digital Marketing Institute

In recent years, marketing automation has become an increasingly integral component to countless seamlessly executed digital campaigns. 91% of the most successful users agree that marketing automation is “very important” to the overall success of their marketing across channels.

Marketing automation facilitates versatility, adaptability, and empowers you to do more in less time – an essential ability for any marketer, whether you’re part of a large department, o r a small start-up. But in order to harness its significant benefits, you need to be able to understand exactly what marketing automation is, and the ways in which you can use it!

Luckily, we’re here to provide you with a comprehensive description of marketing automation, its benefits and key functions:

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is a term used to describe a platform whose main purpose is to automate marketing activities across various channels. Generally, these include repetitive, albeit essential tasks such as sending emails, social media and managing contact information.

When used correctly, marketing automation allows you to efficiently and effectively generate leads and nurture prospects at every stage of the customer journey, allowing you to drive more revenue and maximize ROI – all without having to sacrifice the quality of your work. Through the implementation of streamlined workflows, marketing automation can help you to achieve more, faster.

It’s important to know that marketing automation is not a replacement for you or your skillset. It will simply enhance your existing capabilities.

So what is an example of marketing automation in action?

  • Imagine a user visits your company’s website, and downloads a brochure for a particular product or service.
  • Their contact details are sent to your CRM. From here, you can access information on this lead’s history and interactions with your company.
  • An email is then sent to them, thanking them for downloading the brochure. The content is personalized based on the information you have regarding the user.
  • Follow-up emails can be sent automatically to that same user, all based on their previous actions and interactions with your company, and featuring tailored Calls-To-Action.

In this way, marketing automation can help you to easily nurture a lead with minimum exertion, and increase the chances of conversion.

Interestingly, 60% of marketers say that marketing automation has increased the quality of their leads. This is because the software facilitates constant personalization that increases the value and relevancy of your customer communications.

How can you use it?

The list below outlines only some of the ways in which you can use marketing automation platforms to your advantage.

1. Send personalized content based on customer journey stages

From research to purchase, being able to nurture your leads consistently throughout the entirety of their customer journey is critical to conversion. Different stages require subtly different approaches. Not only does content marketing cost 62% less than outbound marketing, it generates more than three times as many leads. Its true value, however, is only harnessed when you’re able to target the right person, with the right content, at the right time. For example, it may not make sense to send someone who is ready to purchase a list of your product’s features and benefits. Similarly, offering a prospect a percentage discount to a prospect who has only begun to explore their options and isn’t necessarily ready to purchase may be a bit presumptuous.

Instead, you can use marketing automation to send leads content that is tailored to their needs, preferences and specific stage in the customer journey. Early stages should be epitomized by informative, educational assets such as product demo videos, brochures and industry-relevant ebooks. As your leads progress, you can focus more on explicit Calls-To-Action, incentivizing offers and emails that encourage them to speak directly to a sales rep.

2. Use time delays for trigger emails

Email marketing has a well-established reputation as one of the most powerful marketing channels, with a 3800% ROI and $38 for every $1 spent. It is an intercessor between customer and brand, providing a direct channel of communication that you can easily use to convince and convert. We’ve already outlined the importance of personalization, but distribution and timing are equally pertinent.

Marketing automation allows you to customize both the content and distribution of your marketing emails. Not only can you create workflows that send emails that are triggered by particular customer actions (such as a ‘thank you’ email after a user downloads an ebook from your website), you can decide how many to send, exactly when they’re sent and what actions will trigger them. This makes it easier for you to segment your target audience and nurture them in a manner to which they’ll be most responsive.

Strategic trigger email marketing will also save you precious time and enable you to follow up with customers in a matter of seconds. When Capterra started using marketing automation software, their sales qualification rate increased by 400%. This was due to a combination of faster follow ups and the fact that their sales team was able to be more efficient and targeted in their areas of focus.

Capterra managed to increase their sales qualification rate by 400% using marketing automation.

Not only can you follow up with leads instantly, you’ll be able to stay in touch easily, and nurture them over time, rather than giving up after a single attempt. This is particularly significant as research has shown that 80% of sales occur only after at least five follow ups.

3. Share relevant promotions and discounts

Marketing automation allows you to segment your leads and engage them with a highly targeted approach. Offers, coupons, discounts and deals can be used to drive revenue and guarantee ongoing customer loyalty, but their effectiveness is largely determined by how relevant they are to your target audience.

Marketing automation’s powerful analytics integrations can help you to establish which offers will resonate most with your customers. You can use valuable insights such as the ebooks and brochures your leads download, and the topics they cover, to find out what they’re interested in. You can use this information to tailor the offers and discounts you send to them, which will increase the chances of them converting.

If your leads haven’t downloaded any content, you can use analytics to find out which of your site’s webpages they have visited, as well as the channels through which they found those pages. This means you can target leads who have visited a certain product page with a discount for that product, reach out via video to users who were referred by social media channels such as YouTube, and send strategically written emails to your blog subscribers.

4. A/B test constantly

Optimizing your content, emails and landing pages is essential to securing an increase in conversion rates. Using a marketing automation platform will let you quickly and easily test variations of your website and marketing efforts in order to see what works and what doesn’t. Use analytics to retrieve data on your current performance and use it to improve your approach. For example, A/B testing can help you to ascertain which days of the week you should send marketing emails, and how many you should send. This will help you to refine a schedule that will yield more conversions.

You can A/B test almost anything at any time, and marketing automation will let you run multiple tests on a continuous basis, which will help you to adapt and grow your digital marketing strategy in conjunction with the evolution of your various customer segments. You can update content, images, contact request forms and landing pages to optimize conversion, all based on the results of your A/B tests.

These insights will help you to set up campaigns that are tailored to specific audience segments. You’ll be able to nurture them to the best of your abilities, whether they’re new or returning customers, using a variety of channels. The more you can learn about your customers’ preferences and current performance, the more you can fine-tune your marketing. This will ensure a shorter sales cycle, which will facilitates closing more deals, a top sales priority for 70% of companies.

70% of companies say closing more deals is their top sales priority.

We’ve only explored a few of the impressive functionality that marketing automation platforms offers. Whether you use HubSpot, Pardot or Marketo, whether you’re a small business or a multinational corporation, we want to hear about your marketing automation experiences and favorite features. Let us know in the comments section below!

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