If you are a marketer or even someone vaguely connected to the marketing department and industry, it’s more than likely you’ve encountered the term Marketing Automation at some point. You’ve also probably done a little bit of research about it without diving too deep into the secrets behind it. Even though you know the basics, there still might be a few aspects you’re not 100% certain about. Today, we will give a detailed overview that can answer the question What is Marketing Automation?
So, what is Marketing Automation?
On the surface, marketing automation is self-explanatory. It is automated marketing. But that’s not an answer anybody should be satisfied with, and you need to dig deeper to understand how the cogs and pulleys work behind the curtain.
A more thorough explanation would be that marketing automation is when businesses use technology and software to help in optimizing their marketing tasks that are considered repetitive and time-consuming through automated processes. In addition to optimization, it also helps to measure data and provide vital information related to your marketing efforts and campaigns.
Can I Have Some Examples, Please?
Absolutely. Even if you’ve never heard of marketing automation before, it’s almost sure you will recognize it once it’s explained. You witness marketing automation pretty much everywhere, but if you’re not in-the-know, you likely scroll or click past it without a second thought.
The most common form of marketing automation is through email marketing, particularly welcome emails that arrive almost immediately after you subscribe to a website or newsletter. While in the past, before emails were widespread and people recognized the potential for a marriage between technology and marketing efforts, businesses might send a welcome pack thanking you for using their service.
The problem is that this welcome pack would take time to put together and then even longer to arrive at your door. Welcome emails eliminate this wait. As the business has a template ready-made to deliver as soon as you hit Submit, it streamlines the process and lets the customer know that their subscription has been recognized.
Email marketing is not the only time you’ll see marketing automation, though. If you are part of any Facebook groups, you might see someone on this group – typically the admin – posting the same message every week like clockwork.
But how does this happen? Either they are incredibly organized or have nothing better to do every Monday morning. That’s what someone unaware of automated marketing might think, but you know better. Or at least you will.
This post is not typed out in full every time. Instead, it’s typed once, and then the person on the other side of the screen schedules it to post at the same time every week. This process frees up time for them, ensures they never forget to post, and keeps their audience engaged without them needing to lift a finger.
You’ll also see it on Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media platform where people can Follow or Connect, which when you think about it is all of them. If you look through your list of connections or followers, you might find a few of them post the same thing every time someone accepts them as a friend; it’s usually something along the lines of Hey! @Twitter Handle, thanks for the follow!
Some people are just that enthusiastic. However, most people do not feel the need to thank everyone for a follow or connection. The thing is, they are not. They are not personally thanking them anyway. Instead, they have used a recipe, process, or type of software to automate a Thanks every time someone follows them.
Now that we understand the basic ins and outs of marketing automation, let’s see how it can benefit you.
Why Should I Use Marketing Automation?
Any business can benefit from marketing automation, and the reasons you should use it are plentiful.
It Can Reduce Staffing Expenses
A single piece of marketing software can compete with the marketing department. Instead of using several people to work on your marketing campaigns, you can arrange it, so any marketing needs are triggered after a set of criteria is met.
Once you obtain the necessary information to personalize customer interaction through different platforms, you can send out hundreds, if not thousands, of individually targeted emails every day while having enough of your budget left over to focus on other areas.
It Can Increase Productivity and Creativity
With reduced costs and personal power dedicated to marketing automation, you can focus the extra hours available every day to investigate other areas. We always wish that there were more hours in the workday, and instead of overworking employees with multiple responsibilities, which can negatively affect productivity, they are free to work on additional projects and have enough time to do them, so they do not need to rush.
It also allows them to indulge in their creative streak. They get more time to develop ideas and redevelop them following an initial meeting. They will feel less pressure, which means you will find there are fewer mistakes and higher quality results.
You Can Target Multiple Customers Across a Variety of Platforms
It’s safe to say that most people use a variety of platforms and channels. There is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, as well as different email services. However, not all customers are the same, and while one may spend most of their browsing time on Instagram, another may prefer to use Twitter or vice versa.
For manual marketing, it can be a challenge to target these customers on their preferred platform. With automated marketing, the sequence you decide on can determine the best way to reach your customers so you can ensure they see it.
You Can Run Ongoing Tests
Previous marketing iterations meant that developers would only run A/B tests once or twice. This was particularly true when it came to landing pages and email testing. However, marketing automation means that you can continuously test without needing to drop the software for any amount of time.
The A/B test will run on every campaign that is currently in progress. It looks at each stage of the process to alert you about anything that demands your attention. The more tests you run, the more improvements you will see, and this will increase efficiency in the marketing funnel to deliver more satisfying results.
You Get Better Results and Data
Speaking of results, with such a wide variety of data available regarding your campaigns, thanks to marketing automation, you will be able to analyze everything as soon as it becomes apparent. Unlike manual marketing, which demands hours upon hours of analysis from a real person, automated marketing delivers clear and concise data in an instant.
This makes any changes you need to make immediately actionable, and it helps you tailor campaigns to suit your target audience better. Not every marketing campaign will be perfect the first time, but if you have access to the data, you can adjust it and tailor it fast enough to ensure you do not miss out on repeat customers.
There are more, of course, but if we gave you all the benefits of marketing automation, we’d be here all day. Instead, we’re sure you’re itching to learn about how you can automate marketing for your business.
How Can You Automate Marketing?
Marketing automation covers three primary areas you need to focus on. These areas are email marketing, social media marketing, and landing pages. It’s not enough to merely know the different areas, though. Even though the names are rather self-explanatory, you must understand how each one works and how to get the best from them.
You can use automation software to distribute and deliver marketing campaigns to the customer’s email address. The easiest way to do this is to set it up following an event, such as signing up for a newsletter or completing an opt-in form.
However, this is not the only solution, and there is also the opportunity to segment your email marketing. This is where your software identifies who the customer is and where they subscribed. Segmentation works by separating these subscribers to determine which marketing campaigns are most relevant to them.
The brick of the email marketing tower is autoresponders, which works like delivery and distribution but triggers after different actions such as browsing data or a product purchase.
Social Media Marketing
It is projected that by 2021, there will be 3.09 billion users on social media. With more ways than ever to keep up to date with notifications and offers, your marketing efforts must make the most of this widespread phenomenon.
There is a wide array of third-party software available to help you distribute and deliver content across all social media platforms. You can also use it to contribute to the growth of your business by doing what you can to engage with users and potential customers without seeming overbearing.
The leads generated here can help you adapt your social media marketing strategies to perfect it for the desired audience.
Finally, you can automate website landing pages. While once upon a time, setting up a landing page took hours of coding because you needed to do it manually, now there are templates to follow, which mean all you need to do is insert the web copy.
From here, you can use the same designs time and again, while the magic of continuous A/B testing allows you to recognize where customers are most attracted to. This will enable you to edit and alter the web copy to move text and links around to keep them engaged throughout the time they spend on your website.
How to Get Started with Marketing Automation
That, though, was just a brief overview of how you can automate your marketing efforts, and the more critical details take a little more explanation. With something as important as marketing, it’s vital that you can approach each area with the correct knowledge.
Segmentation is the best place to start when dealing with email marketing. As previously mentioned, this separates subscribers and customers based on where they came from. Mailchimp is the best place to start. It’s free, and it’s the platform that most marketers use for the automation processes.
Here, you can set forms to determine which platform or website your customers came from and separate them from there. For example, if a visitor arrived from a WordPress site, then you can create a field called WordPress. From here, your software will automatically sort unique visitors from WordPress into this field, sending emails to everyone who came from there.
It’s not always WordPress, though, and you can designate a specific field for wherever they arrived from, such as Medium or similar sites where they clicked your link. It helps to give readers an incentive to click the link, as they won’t want to click and sign up just because you ask them to. As with any service, it’s vital that customers see value in what you offer.
This method only targets new customers, though, so what do you do about segmenting existing customers if you’re only now starting to segment your mailing list?
The simple way to do this is to ask your customers directly where they came from. You can include these questions in an email that, hopefully, most of your subscribers will respond to. It gives you a way to separate existing subscribers to determine which marketing methods best appeal to them.
Not everyone will respond, though, and that’s okay. You can segment these into their own category and try again later, just don’t harass them. Instead, convince them that providing additional information will benefit them so you can better personalize correspondence.
We mentioned that segmentation is not the only way, though. There is also distribution, and this a little more straightforward than segmentation. All it needs is for you to design an email announcing new blog posts, products, or deals to be sent out whenever they are relevant. On Mailchimp, you can inform subscribers of new content by selecting a new campaign. It will automatically distribute to subscribers once a week, once every two weeks, or however often you create unique content.
Bonuses are the best thing to deliver automatically through marketing automation, and it’s relatively easy to do. All it takes is setting the Lead Pages editor to recognize when people interact with the lead magnet. From here, it will create an automated and personalized email that offers something for the reader following an opt-in.
Finally, autoresponders activate once someone signs up to your email subscription. It sends a previously set chain of emails over a month, two months, six months, or however long you need it to be. This keeps customers and readers engaged and always in the back of their minds. If you offer an applicable service, they can learn more with each email and look forward to what comes next.
Automation helps you run your social media accounts without needing to remember what you’ve already posted, when, or even why. It frees up more time to focus on developing new campaigns, while also allowing you to better understand the secrets behind a successful social media marketing campaign.
Let’s start with distribution this time. This means posting content on all possible social media platforms. Considering that the average person has an account on five platforms (even if they don’t use them), it’s crucial that you make use of as many accounts as you can.
However, it’s important not to post precisely the same thing across multiple platforms, as customers who follow you on each of these platforms will become desensitized to them. This is where automation comes in. Buffer is a great tool that allows you to connect five social media accounts and posts different messages across different channels when you need it.
You can go one step further and work with Edgar, which cycles through your content until it has posted everything you have in line before starting all over again. This helps older content reach newer customers who make have missed it the first time.
There is also IFTT, which comes from the coding world and stands for If This Then That. Here, you can create recipes by finding the RSS feed URL and customize it to react as you please. One common method is to set it to reply to posts by other websites to try and increase engagement with more prominent companies and their audience.
Growth is another aspect you can automate, and the best place to do this is on Twitter. Services such as Tweepi make it easy to follow, unfollow, follow back, and get an idea who is following you (and who is not) so you can analyze your audience and see if you’re hitting your engagement targets.
Here, you can look for influential people in your industry and follow them. You should also be sure to follow back anyone currently following you to increase your chances of getting noticed. Don’t be too concerned about going on a mad follow or unfollow spree, as Tweepi tells you when you’re overdoing it, and you can finish the rest tomorrow.
While there are still some manual components, it saves hours of time, and you can boost your following and followed counter in a matter of minutes. If you don’t have the time for this, paid services can do the work for you and deal with all the following or unfollowing aspects. To make it seem more natural, you can spread this out across the week or month, so you don’t come across as a bot.
Remember, you can also direct messages on Twitter, but only when you both follow each other. Crowd fire can automate this so you can engage immediately with your new follower, just like you would with a welcome email following a subscription.
There is undoubtedly similar software for other platforms. However, Twitter’s accessibility makes it the best place to start, and with new accounts created every day, you should never run out of engagement opportunities.
As discussed earlier, landing pages used to take many hours and many instances of trial and error to get it right, and while creating a landing page isn’t entirely automated just yet, it’s as close as you can get without relying wholly on systems.
Services such as Lead Pages, Instapage, and Unbounce all offer a vast library of templates for you to choose from that you can publish instantly, and many of them are customizable to suit the theme and color scheme you want for your business. This eliminates experimenting with CSS to launch your landing page as soon as it is ready.
While it’s tempting to choose the most attractive template, you should also consider which has the highest Conversion Rate. Visitors don’t want to be transported to something that looks a little too like a mid-2000s MySpace page, so selecting something easy on the eyes and easy to navigate is a must.
From here, you can edit the template however you please and include whatever information is necessary to the landing page. If you’re running a sale, you can include a ticker that shows how long is left until the sale ends. If you have just launched a new product, you can show a video of it in action. In some instances, you might be able to display a live feed of what other customers say, but you’ll need to be careful about trolls.
The beauty of this is that you only need to do it once, and any subsequent landing pages can be under the same template with minor adjustments. All that needs to be different is the copy, and if you’re really concerned with metrics and conversion success, you can compare them to see which works better for you and your audience.
All that comes after this is testing it works, which Lead Pages allows you to do automatically.
Think About the Marketing Funnel
The marketing funnel is the process that visitors go through with the aim of converting them into customers by the time they reach the end.
Start by scheduling a post or direct message (or both) announcing a service. These posts contain a link that directs them to a Landing Page with information about the service. Here, they can sign up for more information about the service, which will be unveiled later.
Your automation software tags them as someone interested in your service. But you shouldn’t leave it for them to remember the deal, so be sure to follow up with autoresponders leading up to the launch.
If you send around ten emails announcing this service, you double the conversion rate. By the time the service launches, they will either be there or be able to catch up with it later, and if not, you’ve still got them on your mailing list, which allows you to try to engage again in your next campaign.
Once they do, you have a brand-new customer, and that’s all thanks to marketing automation.
How Can You Measure Performance?
Before looking at a mound of data that may not mean a lot to inexperienced marketers, you must understand a baseline that will assist in neutralizing issues. This can include poor segmentation, current win rate, the scope of your content, sale alignment, and the reliability of the automation software itself.
Once these are arranged, you can start measuring your performance. The key areas to focus on are:
This includes overall activity, activity per workflow, diversity of automation workflows, and segment activity. The metrics here tells you how many emails are sent out, the stages of the customer journey, what happens after the email is sent, and how differently targeted segments respond.
Engagement and Performance
Look at opening rates, click-through rates (CTR), site traffic, and conversion rates to determine what keeps people on the site, who comes back, and how long they stay there.
Return on Investment
Also known as ROI, these metrics can show you revenue growth, and while it’s tempting to go big picture here, that’s not at all necessary. Only focus on revenue related to automation processes; otherwise, you could get confused.
Are There Any Issues That I Could Encounter?
Yes. As with any technology, it’s there to make our lives easier. We’ve seen this throughout the entirety of human history, from designing tools to manufacturing machines during the Industrial Revolution to smartphones allowing us to contact anybody anywhere in the world.
However, we all know technology is not perfect, and even though your marketing automation will make some tasks more accessible, it is not perfect.
The main issue you could encounter is a lack of preparation and testing. This comes from a lack of leads and a lack of understanding of how to market your product effectively. While existing customers are good, the potential of new customers is even better, and by neglecting to generate leads, you risk losing them to your competition.
Another issue involves failing to retain customers or gain repeat business. This comes from failing to follow up after purchase or even a site visit and subscription. Failing this means you can’t personalize your marketing efforts across multiple platforms to multiple customers.
How Do I Know the Difference Between Good and Bad Marketing Automation?
Good marketing automation is where you take advantage of all the channels available to you. Not only does this widen your audience, but it also allows you to gain more data to adapt campaigns and personalize correspondence.
Bad marketing automation involves overwhelming your audience with too many messages and emails so that it is considered spam. You’ll also struggle if you do not correctly analyze your marketing data either through a human source or a poorly designed program.
What Terms Are You Likely to Hear?
Like any industry, there will be hundreds of terms that mean nothing to you at first. To save you time researching the terms every time you hear them for the first time, here are the most common industry terms.
- Behavior-Based Marketing Automation
Nurturing leads and only sending relevant information
- Brand Advocates
Someone who supports your goals and mission, often those who promote your products online
Stands for Customer Relationship Management. It is a software that interacts with customers, both existing and potential
- Cross-Channel Analytics
A system that analyzes metrics and behavior across a variety of different channels
- Customer Lifecycle
Includes research, inquiry, purchase, and use. A long customer lifecycle is profitable, so make sure to do what you can to retain customers
- Cross-Platform Marketing
- Marketing automation across a variety of platforms and sources of engagement such as PC vs. smartphone
- Drip Marketing
Keeping subscribers engaged through regular emails
- Landmark Emails
A celebration of landmark occasions to entice customers such as birthdays, customer anniversaries, etc.
- Loyalty Offers and Discounts
Exclusive gifts and rewards for loyal customers
- Repeated Purchase
A customer who comes back to purchase the same or a different product after the initial sale
- Qualified Lead
A customer who is happy to learn more about the company after opting-in
- Permission-Based Marketing
Marketing based around permissions such as subscriptions
Revenue Performance Management is software that improves interactions and measures performance
Separating customers into specific categories to target them more effectively
- Abandoned Cart
Where an order is left incomplete, you can send reminder emails or improve your lead nurturing campaign
Marketing automation is a powerful tool that can deliver a wide variety of benefits and streamline your marketing efforts to ensure that campaigns, follow-ups, and deals or discounts are delivered to your customer base immediately.
However, it’s still important to use automated marketing ethically and responsibly. Customers do not want to feel like you are trying to sell them something, so do not overwhelm them with spam emails every hour of the day. This is a surefire way to drive them away from your business.
Instead, arrange your automation to engage your customers and build lasting relationships gradually. With the correct approach, you can increase profits, engagement, and customer satisfaction that will benefit you but most importantly the customer.