The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Automation

Marketing automation promises big things; more leads, conversions and sales, all with less work. Businesses that use automation have seen increased leads and sales, driving a 14% in sales productivity and 12% reduction in marketing overheads. 

For marketing professionals, automation offers an exciting opportunity for greater efficiency, cost reduction, and an enhanced customer experience. Embarking on an automation journey for your business may seem intimidating, but with the right advice, it’s easier than you think!

In this article, we’ll explain everything a marketing team needs to know about automation in marketing. 

How Can Automation Fit into a Marketing Strategy?

According to new research, 44% of marketing leaders believe automation will become more important as a skill in 2020, something to bear in mind when reskilling employees and hiring new staff in 2019. 

Automation in 2020

Here are some of the ways to seamlessly slot it into your marketing strategy: 

Redirect Focus To Strategy

The goal of any kind of automation is to increase efficiency. Marketing projects can place huge demands on your organization’s resources. Automation frees up time that can be better spent on tasks that require the unique expertise of your team members, such as strategy and client interaction.

Automated processes will take care of customer communications, lead nurturing, content scheduling, social media management, market research, analytics; practically any task that doesn’t require active human involvement. Implementing automation can, therefore, lead to increased productivity and better efficiency for your business. 

Reallocate Budget

Efficiency is the key mechanism here; when team members have the time to focus on their core tasks, it makes them more productive. In turn, projects are delivered faster and without the need for investment in extra staff.

Automation removes the drain of repetitive tasks, allowing you to get the most out of specialists. With this saving, your business can reallocate the budget directly back into campaigns to see more returns. 

Support Customer Interactions 

Effective communication is crucial to nurturing leads or a potential client relationship. But this doesn’t require staff spending all day dealing with emails. Email automation is one of the easiest places to start, for example, when a website visitor makes a conversion, a sequence of well-timed and written automated emails can be sent to a new lead to keep them warm.

This creates two clear benefits. Firstly, it provides assurance that this critical communication has been sent in a timely manner, and secondly, it requires no extra input from you. Set the rule up once and that’s it!

Emails give you a sense of the potential of automation. From there, you can move on to other formats such as chatbots for immediate customer support on your website, time-limited offers by text message, and automatic phone reminders. Customers will receive the support they need throughout their journey, automatically.

Gather Meaningful Analytics

Automation software collects and analyses data regarding leads, customers, sales, campaign success, and so on. This helps marketers to assess the effectiveness of past and current campaigns, and predict which strategies will work well in the future.

The reporting from these auto-analytics allows each stage of your marketing process to learn and improve. Brands can also benefit from automated A/B testing, which allows them to optimize content in real time for maximum impact. 

4 Key Steps Towards Automation

Marketing automation flow

Before implementing automated marketing processes, it’s important to establish a workflow. This allows your team to prepare for new processes and ensures that automation yields the best results for your brand. There are four key steps to complete:

1. Identify The Right Tasks

Look for your teams' most repetitive marketing tasks. This is where you’ll find the biggest gains from automation. As we mentioned above, simply automating response emails, for example, can substantially reduce the administrative burden on your team. Plot out all of your current marketing tasks, and pick out those which are both time-consuming and compatible with automation.

2. Select The Appropriate Automation Software: 

There are infinite choices when it comes to automation software. Filtering the best ones can be a challenge – particularly when starting out. We’ll introduce you to the cream of the crop later in this article, but it’s also worth noting that there may be software that is specifically tailored to your industry. Expand your research to check this before you commit long-term. Most platforms offer a free trial, which gives you a chance to test the software in your unique setting, and evaluate which is the best fit.

3. Train Your Team: 

Although automation immediately makes marketing more efficient, the introduction of new software and processes requires an investment in training for applicable staff. It’s important for team members to understand how automation fits into their working day, and how their role might be refocused. Emphasize the benefits and give staff an opportunity to thoroughly test out new systems, while acknowledging any concerns they might have. Marketing automation is predicted to become one of the most important marketing skills, and businesses are responding accordingly, with increased investment now and in the future.

4. Evaluate Automation Effectiveness: 

Implementing automation is not the end of the story. We recommend a periodic review of what’s working well, what could be improved, and the impact of automation on key metrics. This allows you to make appropriate adjustments at the right time.

5 Key Automation Platforms

Marketing automation platforms

There are countless automation platforms out there, and sifting through them can take a great deal of time. Here are five of the best platforms for marketing professionals:

Marketo

Marketo is a tried-and-tested platform loved by thousands of marketing professionals. It offers campaign management, automatic emails, lead generation, budgeting tools, visitor tracking, and personalized messaging.

HubSpot

You’ve probably already heard of  HubSpot, and with good reason. It’s well-integrated and user-friendly, offering a content management system, email marketing, performance monitoring, lead ranking, and real-time analytic data.

Customer.io

This platform is all about communication! Customer.io uses data from customer interactions to create bespoke email messages, triggering actions based on customer behavior and your own pre-determined rules. The data captured by  Customer.io also helps you to build a rich profile of each lead.

ActiveCampaign

There’s a lot to love about  ActiveCampaign. It allows you to fully customize the automations you require while providing insightful analytic data, sales support, and customer relationship management. 

Pardot

If your marketing team is primarily focused on boosting sales, Pardot is a great option. It’s built to accelerate pipelines using lead generation, scoring, and nurturing, as well as customized email marketing, sales alerts, and social media integration.

Focus on Content Creation

Top priorities in content creation

Automation will take care of the mechanics of marketing, but your expertise is still crucial to the message sent out to current and prospective customers. Keep these points in mind when creating content for your automated marketing campaigns:

1. Know Your Audience

We appreciate that you’ve heard this a million times before, but there’s no overstating the importance of knowing your audience inside and out. Establish their average demographic profile, their location, interests, and habits. What do they want to see? Creating a buyer persona can really help you to target your audience in a meaningful way, and deliver content that actually makes an impact.

2. Set The Tone (and stick to it!)

Your narrative voice is an important component of the relationship your company builds with its audience. Depending on the target demographic, you may opt for a tight, corporate tone, or something more warm and conversational. Once your brand has found its voice, stick with it – otherwise, your audience will find the switches jarring and off-putting.

3. Stay Human

Even though robots are sending out your emails, the content needs the flair of a human creator. Design communications in such a way that the recipient believes it’s been crafted just for them.

4. Mix It Up

Don’t get stuck in a content rut! If leads see the same thing, week after week, they will lose interest in your brand. Switch formats, refresh your images, be bold and unique, and most importantly – give your audience a reason to continue engaging with you.

5. Remain Relevant

Trends are transient, but if you embrace them at the right time, it can get you noticed by prospective customers. Be tactful in your approach; you don’t have to spin every trend, just the ones that are relevant to your brand!

The ‘black and blue dress / white and gold dress’ phenomenon, for example, was a field day for clothing retailers – particularly the one selling the dress – but talking about it in an email campaign months after the event would have be counterproductive. So, when the trend train moves on, make sure your content is swiftly updated.

5 Ways to Optimize Automation

If you’re looking to implement automation in your business now, here are some advanced strategies to help:

1. Know Your Message

Before you embark on any marketing campaign, you must know exactly what you want to get out of it. Otherwise, the endeavour is rudderless and unlikely to yield much of a tangible benefit. Whether you want to attract more visitors to your website, generate new leads, boost sales, or increase market share, automation can help.

2. Personalize Your Content

Generic emails aren’t going to cut it. Customers want to feel appreciated by the brands they buy from. Ensure content can be personalized by automation software, and is created with the illusion of being completely bespoke.

3. Make Use of A/B Testing

Your company may already be undertaking A/B testing as part of your evaluation of marketing campaigns, but automating the process is hugely beneficial. As well as time savings, automated A/B testing delivers real-time data about the impact of your marketing content – allowing you to make quick adjustments where needed.

4: Get Your Team on Board

Training and open communication are vital to the successful implementation of automated processes. Your team might feel threatened by the ‘a-word’, synonymous as it is with robots replacing humans – an unfair assumption in the marketing world! Instead of something to be feared, frame automation as a process to embrace, with tools that allow your team to focus less on the superfluous, and more on the talents you hired them for.

5: Focus on Customer Experience

Ultimately, the success of automation depends on how your customers react to it. Gather meaningful data throughout the process, using customer experience mapping, to establish feedback at major touchpoints. This allows you to make tweaks to your approach and integrate new automations where they will be helpful. It’s important to note that automation is only beneficial so long as you’re seeing results with the end consumer and your bottom line. If you’re not seeing the analytics you’d like,mix things up a little. 

Conclusion

There’s a lot to gain from automation. Greater efficiency, cost savings, improved productivity, more insightful analytic data, and better customer support; all of these benefits are irresistible for marketing professionals.

With good planning, clear goals, specialized training and optimized content, any company can implement and make a great success of marketing automation. And these processes have so much further to go; with the AI market projected to be worth $16 billion by 2022, this is an especially exciting time to bring automation to your brand. 

Clodagh O'Brien
Senior Content Specialist