Marketing automation is a crucial digital marketing concept for companies big and small.
When you think ‘automation,’ you might think about saving time by automating away manual tasks. While this is true, marketing automation is that and more.
Marketing automation systems sit on the front-lines of your digital marketing strategy. All information a customer enters into your Web site forms goes directly into your automation system. Your automation system keeps a history of all form data a customer entered on your Web site.
If you are just sending data from your Web forms directly to your inbox then you are losing a big opportunity. By storing the Web form data you automate follow-up emails, newsletter, promotions, etc.
- What pages did they view on your Web site and in what order?
- What forms did they fill out?
- How did they find your site?
- Are they responding to your social media or Google AdWords campaigns?
- Where are they located?
- Are they using a desktop Web browser or a mobile device?
Data does not just have to come from the Internet. You may collect data over the phone or at a trade show. Politicians are known to collect data at their rallies and events. In fact, one of the main purposes of a political rally is to gather data on supporters. Later in the election season, the political campaign can then reach out to these supporters for help knocking on doors or giving donations.
The marketing system builds up a user profile over time. Users are much more likely to give you details if you build a progressive profile, rather than asking them all the questions up front. For instance, the first time a user comes to your site you might capture his name. The next time you might present a different form to capture his favorite coffee drink. The next time you capture his birth date. Now you can market time him by sending a coupon for his favorite caffeinated beverage on his birthday.
A good marketing automation platform helps you understand your customers’ behaviors. Marketing automation platforms track users on your Web sites. They follow users around your site, essentially peering over their shoulders. They may also track your customers’ emails and even their response to your social media posts. And they integrate with third-party tracking platforms, such as Google Analytics. Marketing systems maintain the history of every user interaction on your site, allow you to report on this history, and may even alert you when a given user does a particular action (e.g. you send an email campaign and a user clicks a link in the email and visits your Web site).
Consumers know (or suspect) large companies like Facebook and Google have troves of user information. These companies use this data to target content and keep you engaged. Facebook serve ads for baby formula to new parents, not to people whose kids are grown and in college. If you ever browsed for electronics on Google and then noticed ads for those electronics on other Web sites, that is not a coincidence (it is called ‘remarketing’). For you to compete in this digital world, you need to take advantage of your customer information too.
Of course gathering data is only part of the challenge. The benefit comes in how you use the data to your marketing advantage. Such decisions will depend on your business and the demographics of your customers. However, you should use your data to create a marketing campaign who success you can objectively measure. If you send out coupons for your customers’ birthdays, you should track whether customers end up doing more business with you as a result.
Your marketing automation system may also be your system of record for storing consumer preferences, such as whether someone has opted out of receiving emails or text messages. Increasingly, there are heavy penalties for misusing customer data (CCPA for example
). A marketing system can be an excellent way to manage this type of information.
If you are big enough to have a sales team – or are lucky enough receive more leads than you can follow-up on – then advanced marketing systems will also ‘score’ leads. You need to help your sales people (or yourself) prioritize their work. You can score customer interactions and have sales people work on leads with the highest scores. For instance, every time a person comes to your Web site you might give them one point. If they register on your Web site to download a white paper or watch a video, however, you might give them five points. Once a potential customer has accumulated a certain number of points – ten for instance – you might route their contact information to your salespeople. Until then, you might just ‘nurture’ their interest with digital marketing campaigns that you send through your automation system.
Workflows are also an important feature of a marketing system. For example, if someone hasn’t been to your Web site in a month, you might want to send them an email trying to get them interested in returning. If that doesn’t work, you might want to send another email. If they still haven’t returned, you might want to have someone call them. A good software program will track the different stages of this ‘marketing campaign.’
All of this goes hand-in-hand with reporting. How successful was your marketing campaign? If you run a marketing campaign on Facebook is that more or less profitable than running the same campaign on Twitter? What percent of the people coming to your Web site become customers? Do you get more customers from paid Google ads than from ‘organic’ Google keyword placement?
Finally, one common point of confusion is the difference between a marketing automation system and a customer relationship management system (CRM). While the two applications will have overlapping data, their purpose is very different. Marketing systems are for marketing. They are meant to drive potential leads to your doorstep.
CRMs are for sales and account teams. Lead data flows from your marketing system to your CRM, where salespeople try and convert prospects to customers. Account representatives may use CRM data to provide customer service and support. Once your marketing team has reeled in a lead, all interactions from that point forward are stored in your CRM. CRMs should contain the total picture of your customers (from quotes through phone or email conversations through purchases and support history). Some CRM data may be fed back to your marketing system as well. For instance, if a lead goes cold in your CRM, you can use the workflow in your marketing system to try and heat it back up again.
Marketing systems offer different features and come with vastly different price points. You can grow into more complex (and costly) solutions over time. You should invest in a system that aligns with your business maturity; it is fairly easy to measure the return on investment. No matter what, if you rely on your Web site to generate leads – as almost every modern business should – then you need some form of marketing automation system to track and automate your customer interactions.