What do you think of when you hear the words marketing automation? I picture a public relations robot in a suit coughing up shiny marketing buzzwords. Does the term make you cringe a little bit, too?
It’s true that the term "marketing automation" can be vague and apply to many different parts of your marketing funnel. But marketing automation can also be a powerful tool to help your small business with lead generation.
So, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s talk marketing automation, shall we?
In this guide to marketing automation, we’ll look at what it is, what you should automate, and how marketing automation can help your business grow.
Marketing automation is a process used to set up triggers in various platforms so that marketing actions are automatically taken based on specific criteria. It can refer to many different parts of the marketing process, but is usually focused on customer acquisition and retention. Common areas include email marketing or social media marketing. You typically need software to execute your marketing automation process.
A marketing automation platform is a type of software that captures, qualifies, and nurtures sales leads. Then, these leads can be funneled to the appropriate person or down a digital path in your customer journey so you can close a sale.
Often these platforms integrate with your social media accounts to execute and track social media campaigns; they can also focus on email drip marketing.
According to Gartner, companies that focus on business-to-business (B2B) sales purchase the majority of these types of platforms. However, some business-to-consumer (B2C) companies can also take advantage of marketing automation platforms—especially those that sell high-value products that require a lot of customer research and consideration such as cars, higher education, or software (full content available to Gartner clients).
If this sounds like your business, head on over to check out GetApp’s catalog of marketing automation tools to get started on your software shortlist.
If it doesn’t sound like your business, it’s still important to know about these tools so you can keep this type of software in mind as your business grows and scales, even if you decide to pass on purchasing one of these tools for now. Read on to learn more.
To help you figure out if you need a marketing automation tool, let’s talk a bit more about the types of companies that typically use these tools, according to Gartner. In the following section, we’ll look at examples of marketing automation. From there, you can decide if a marketing automation tool will help you reach your business goals.
One important thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to assess your team’s willingness to use and learn the software. Does your team have the skills to collect the necessary data, analyze it, and then make adjustments to your marketing strategy? Are they interested in learning? These are crucial considerations for deciding if now is the right time to purchase marketing automation software.
If your company sells high value items that don’t need to be purchased very often (like insurance or investing products), consider a marketing automation tool to better connect your customer acquisition with your sales process through content and email marketing.
If you don’t think you need an automation tool right now, you might still be able to benefit from parts of the automation process, such as A/B testing. A/B testing could be a good way to experiment on your site or app. From there, you can move the needle on increasing engagement or clicks, which could set you up for marketing automation in the future.
Check out our article on A/B testing if you want to learn more about this part of the marketing automation process: What Is A/B Testing In Digital Marketing? A Startup Founder’s Guide
Let’s start by digging a little deeper into what a marketing automation system can help with, then talk about how you can decide what to automate. In the next section, we’ll look at real world examples of marketing automation in action.
Lead aggregation: Marketing automation technology helps collect unqualified leads from multiple sources, like other marketing, customer data, and eCommerce systems.
Lead augmentation and deduplication: Lead augmentation can help fill in missing customer information (such as a missing email address), while deduplication is exactly what it sounds like. It helps clean your customer data by removing duplicates or incomplete customer data.
Lead scoring and qualification: Score leads based on certain criteria, such as customer engagement with marketing efforts or estimated customer value.
Lead nurturing: Manage the entire lead lifecycle from collection to conversion, and remove inactive leads.
Multichannel lead management: Implement a single strategy across multiple channels (many software products support email marketing, social media marketing, website, and even webinars and event marketing).
Analytics and measurement: Marketing automation solutions typically provide preconfigured KPIs to monitor lead generation, as well as dashboards, metrics, and reports. Although it’s more of a new technology, software providers may also have predictive AI capabilities that support other marketing automation processes, such as content marketing recommendations and customer journey design.
Now that you know a little more about what these platforms can do, let’s talk about what marketing tasks you should automate.
Email marketing: Rather than manually drafting and sending emails to customers, you could begin to automate this process. For instance, when a customer signs up for an email newsletter, rather than being silent until your next scheduled newsletter, automate a “welcome” email so they hear from you immediately.
Customer journey building: Many marketing automation tools include journey building as a feature. This means you can plan out your customer journeys based on entry points you determine, such as downloading an app. Then, plan out journeys based on certain triggers from your customers, such as closing a service ticket, or making a purchase. You could then send customized messages, such as a survey after closing a service ticket, or asking the customer to leave a review after making a purchase.
Customer service: You can use automation to analyze email text and predict responses and tasks to help save some manual time and brainpower to respond to customers more quickly and efficiently.
Now for some real-world examples. In the hospitality industry, RLH Corporation was able to increase customer loyalty at their hotels through an automated marketing program. They saw 60% above-average email open rates on guest reservations and loyalty marketing campaigns, and saved 20 hours per month on manual design work.
By sending highly personalized emails to users, they were able to cut through the clutter and avoid spam filters. With eight separate hotel brands that each have their own unique branding, it would take a lot more time and effort to manually create and send emails versus using a marketing automation tool.
In the retail industry, SportPursuit generates 85% of its revenue from people signed up for email and uses marketing automation to send personalized emails at scale. Even though SportPursuit sends a high volume of emails to their users, customers are still interested because they receive highly targeted emails, often seeing items in their particular size and based on their personal interests.
SportPursuit can also do extensive A/B testing within the platform to help increase engagement or reduce unsubscribes. Thanks to marketing automation, they saw sales triple in the last five years and were also uniquely positioned to increase sales during the pandemic as interest in outdoor activities went up.
As an insurance company, Aflac saw a huge volume of emails coming in from customers. Using marketing automation, they were able to implement natural language processing to automatically filter emails to the appropriate inboxes, and even automatically respond to some less complex inquiries.
They used marketing automation to sort through more than 3,000 email messages per week and automatically respond to 30% of incoming emails without needing agent help.
As you seek to increase qualified leads, marketing automation can help you better collect, track, and analyze data. And as you discover your audience's behavioral patterns, you can use software to automate repetitive marketing tasks and better customize content for your customers.
If you’re a small business that sells high-value products or services that require significant research, investing in marketing automation software can help you better acquire and nurture leads and get them in your marketing funnel. Check out our buyers guide for a deeper dive into this type of software and to learn how to find the right product for your team.
If you’re still experimenting with new methods for expanding your audience and increasing engagement, you might want to keep exploring other marketing tactics. We've got tips for that, too (and we made sure to keep your budget in mind).
The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.