Why Marketing Automation Still Makes Sense

To run effective demand generation and lead management programs, marketers must respond personally to each prospect in the buying process. But given the sheer volume of marketing campaigns, you can’t possibly identify and respond to each sign of buyer interest manually. To really target customers and prospects with the right messages at the right time, you’ll need a cross-channel marketing platform that customizes content and automates the timing of all your marketing communications—namely marketing automation. The marketing automaton process involves the targeting, timing, and content of outbound marketing messages in concert with prospect actions and behaviors.

Reaching a New Breed of Buyer

Buyers can use websites and social media to refine their preferences. By the time they engage a business, they've probably already made their buying decision, based on information from you, your competitors, and multiple third-party sites.

In the past, marketers and email software focused on sending batch-and-blast emails. Today, businesses need marketing automation software to orchestrate the precise information that buyers need as they move through the process.

Reading a prospective buyer's Digital Body Language can help us determine where they are in the buying process and what’s of most interest to them. This allows marketers to visualize these observations so that you can determine whether the buyer is ready to buy, or should be held back and nurtured with high-value web content until buying signals begin to emerge.

Connecting the Art and Science of Modern Marketing

Compelling offers, captivating visuals, clear positioning, and convincing copy are still challenging to put together. Today’s new buying process requires elements of science in automating message delivery, building an understanding of market segments, and buyer journeys. However, what moves a buyer still differentiates the best marketers from the merely good ones, and understanding this and producing marketing messages based off of it can be considered an artform.

As marketing shifts from bulk outbound messages to understanding and facilitating each prospect’s buying process, marketers need new technical capabilities. Marketing automation can guide the conversations, timing, and personalization needed to make the shift.

How Does Marketing Automation Work?

The number of channels that marketers can use to engage with customers continues to grow, as does the amount of work marketers must put in to stay ahead of the competition. Marketing automation makes marketing processes more efficient and effective. It saves time that could go into manual processes, such as managing the automation software, creating content, and project management.

Marketing automation simplifies, streamlines, and enhances

  • Lead generation, nurturing, and scoring
  • Segmentation
  • Up-sell and cross-sell opportunities
  • Customer lifecycle marketing and customer retention
  • Analytics measuring and reporting

The software can act as a central repository for all your customer data to better segment, target, and reach your audience. You can use the customer data to tailor every interaction with a customer to create a seamless, personalized experience through every channel. The software can also track results and measure ROI to show where you might need to shift gears.

Generally, marketing automation works in a similar fashion to this:

Step 1You collect data about customers through various interactions with them, such as website visits, when they use your apps, if they sign up for your emails or newsletters, watch a video, subscribe to a podcast, attend a webinar, and so on.
Step 2Based upon the data, you create relevant, useful content for customers.
Step 3The software helps you identify, target, and segment your customer base.
Step 4You design your marketing campaigns, and the more personalized they are due to customer data the better.
Step 5Then you let the software do its work. Customer actions and schedules will trigger messages across various channels, such as email, the web, text, and social media.
Step 6You track your results to see what is working and what isn’t.

Nurture Your Potential Customers

Marketing automation streamlines the marketing process and can make it more effective. However, it is not the work of AIs. It requires a human touch. With marketing automation software, you might feel tempted to just sit back and let it simply blast emails out to your entire list. Resist the urge to rest on your laurels and think that the software does all the work. These days, the hard-sell approach does not produce as many results. People are constantly bombarded with emails and advertisements they have no interest in, and a generic email just trying to sell them something without any real value to them will be discarded. You do not want your marketing messages to end in the trash pile with the rest of the spam. Marketing automation requires an able, flexible human mind to manage its activities. Do not forget that the marketer is the one actually nurturing potential customers. The software is merely a tool to help this, albeit a powerful tool.

How then do you make your emails and other marketing communications stand out?

Personalization is key.

To deliver the right message at the right time, marketers must make sure their content marketing is personalized to each buyer's role in the organization. Personalization comes from the customer data you have collected and compiled. In order to truly segment messaging, one must trust the data in the marketing automation database. No matter where that data comes from, it will need to be cleansed continually. That is where data management plays a key role. Data management is the process of collecting, organizing, storing, and protecting data to ensure its quality, accuracy, and reliability.

By compiling information on your potential customer’s position, responsibilities, preferences, and interests, you can better tailor your approach to nurturing them. The more personalized you can make your communications to them, the more likely they are to be engaged with them and the more eager and likely they are to take the next step in the sales cycle. You want to provide valuable content to customers in all your communications, something that they will find useful and relevant. If they come away having gained an insight, a nugget of useful information, or having learned something, they will become more likely to welcome your next communication and interested in your products and services.

It could work something like this:

Step 1A customer visits your website or follows your company on social media, and signs up for your newsletter.
Step 2They receive the newsletter, and it provides valuable insights into what is going on in their industry and obstacles people in it might face.
Step 3You follow up with another email with information about how your products and services deal with the obstacles the customer might be concerned with.

Adding personalized touches to your communications will make the customer feel more engaged in what they are receiving. It is a more delightful and pleasing experience for them as well, and customers see that you have put some thought into contacting them and considered their needs. They are not merely a name on an email list to you. They are a person with needs, and you want to help them deal with any problems their jobs and industries might present.

Using marketing automation successfully involves listening to your customers and understanding their wants and needs. You have to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what keeps them up at night. What pain points do they experience with their jobs? Empathy plays an important role in any marketing campaign, and it is something only a human being can feel and not the software.

Moreover, consider the data you have on your customers very carefully. Note if they seem to prefer to sign up for webinars or would rather read an ebook about a topic. Some people are visual learners and others choose to read or look at an infographic. If you have the information to determine what content types they prefer, then you can deliver it to them.

Do not fall into the trap of limiting your thinking and assuming marketing automation can only work with emails. In fact, marketing automation can involve multiple types of content, including case studies, leading pages, social media, mobile messaging, digital advertisements, and more. It can help you reshape your entire outbound marketing strategy. It can even help you to perform A/B testing to see which headlines, offers, copy, images, and other marketing collateral are working better and provide insights into what is resonating with customers. The results can aid you in further optimizing your marketing and content efforts.

Best Practices

Start with having a roadmap where of where you want to go with your marketing campaigns. Using marketing automation can help better align your marketing and sales teams. Collaboration is integral to the marketing process, and you need everybody on board and prepared before you start your campaigns. However, this calls for having your goals set and with numbers to justify the actions you want to take.

Build up your content library with assets in a variety of mediums and forms (emails, social media, white papers, case studies, videos, landing pages, infographics, and more). You must have a content strategy in place so that you can share relevant, useful content at all stages of the customer lifecycle. Using customer data, you can then see that the right content reaches the right customer at the right time.

Finally, keep track of what you are doing and never stop analyzing. Always keep an eye on your results so that you can tweak and change your plans if necessary. Knowing what the metrics are saying about what is working and what needs improvement will vastly help in the decision-making process.

Automation software will save you a great deal of time and effort. It will work smoothly with your campaigns and optimize your workflows. However, the software can only collect customer data and track results. It is up to you to decide what to do with this information and to design the campaign. The software cannot tell you to tailor your content. You have to do that. The software cannot tell you when to change course based upon the metrics. You have to make that decision yourself.

Utilizing marketing automation to its fullest potential means more than simply pressing a few buttons and kicking back. A great deal of thought and planning also has to go into the campaign. Use the data and metrics you have wisely, and you will reap rewards for your efforts.