What is Marketing Automation?
You’ve probably heard of the phrase marketing automation; but what actually is it? Essentially, marketing automation is all about using software to manage and automate marketing activities. Many businesses automate time-consuming, repetitive tasks such as social media posting, email marketing, and even ad campaigns. While the efficiency of marketing automation is definitely a benefit, that isn’t the only reason that companies are using it. Marketing automation can provide customers with a more personalised experience, and ultimately help you to build long-lasting relationships. In this article, we explore marketing automation in more detail.
Marketing Automation in an Ideal World
For best results, marketing automation needs a combination of strategy and software. Instead of just sending out emails, the process should allow you to build personalised relationships with potential leads and help you to convert prospects into happy customers. A great analogy for marketing automation is growing a garden. For the seeds to grow into blooming plant, you’ll need to do more than just shove them into the ground. Instead, you’ll need to fertilise the soil and provide water and light for them to grow. With good marketing automation, you can nurture leads (the seeds) well enough to produce happy customers (a blooming plant).
For a successful business, customers need to be more than just the output of successful marketing. Instead, they should be at the heart of everything you do. This means that marketing automation should continue to grow, and nurture, your relationship with them. Instead of customers being an afterthought at the end of the funnel, they should be held on a flywheel that works better as you add force to it and lower customer friction. Successful marketing automation will reduce points of friction and speed up your wheel, allowing you to grow your customer relationships after the deal has been done.
Marketing Automation in Reality
As marketing automation rises in popularity, a misconception has grown that the software can be the magic fix for any slowdown in marketing growth. This leaves many businesses with the right tools to automate the strategy, but no way to generate new leads to win in the first place. Because of this, many businesses have started buying email addresses to target, rather than generating inbound leads. While this may seem like a quick solution, it’s not a long-term fix. Not only does this strategy produce poor results, but it also fails to create the foundation for a healthy, long-lasting relationship with the customers.
If you’re planning to use marketing automation, you need to stop thinking about the traditional funnel and pay more attention to the flywheel we touched on earlier. If you use the funnel strategy of generating a lead, putting them in an automated email queue and passing any leads over to sales, you’ll create a disjointed experience for potential customers as you pass them from one department to another. While you may end up with a few more leads this way, the chance of them turning into long-term relationships is slim. Instead, you need to create an efficient, contextual experienced based on your customer’s needs.
Why Does it Fail?
Marketing automation often fails because there’s no foundation put in place to support it. Before jumping into marketing automation, you need to have a steady flow of leads. Without this, you’ll spend all your time working out how to squeeze more out of the few leads you have in your database. While you’re wasting time with this, your competition could be out there pulling in the rest of the market. For marketing automation to be successful, you need to have a steady flow of leads. If you have a few great ones but no plan to generate more, what’s going to happen once you’ve converted those leads into customers?
Knowing that you need a large database of leads for marketing automation to be successful, many companies go out and buy lists of email addresses to put through the process. Unfortunately, this isn’t the answer. Not only does this tactic produce exceptionally low ROI, but it could actually harm your business long-term. Sending these unsolicited emails has the potential to hurt your IP address reputation and lower your email deliverability rates.
What Does Bad Marketing Automation Look Like?
In the past, marketing automation focussed on actions like email clicks and email opens or triggering emails based on time delays. Today, there’s more to it than that. Unfortunately, it now takes more than an email click to gain enough data to execute a lead nurturing strategy. Strategies that offer limited data tend to result in bad marketing automation. To provide your leads with a good experience, you need more context about who they are and what they’re interested in.
When marketing automation is supported by an inbound strategy, it becomes centred around the lead. Inbound marketing automation takes everything we know about a lead to inform the strategy. This allows us to provide the lead with the information they need to make a purchase, exactly when they need it, in the place that they’re searching.
What Does Good Marketing Automation Look Like?
Good marketing automation forms a strategy based on the evolving needs of your prospects. It also takes into account the interactions they have with you across your various marketing channels, instead of just email. This allows the software to build a strategy based on the behaviour of your leads; for instance, what interaction they’ve had with you on social media, if they’ve read a particular piece of content, or if they’ve viewed your price list.
For best results, marketing automation uses those other channels, such as social media, to communicate. This means that your campaign doesn’t rely solely on email and uses all the relevant channels to market your product.
When used correctly, marketing automation is a powerful tool. Before pouring your marketing budget into it, however, you need to understand all of the components. You can then make an informed decision on whether it’s the right strategy for your business.