It’s no secret in our social and digital world that marketers are trying to get people’s attention. Your prospects and customers expect marketers to participate, and, in turn, they also expect marketers to know something about them and to respect their preferences and interests. It’s no longer surprising to receive a message or invitation at the exact moment we need it. In fact, it’s a deal-killer if we don’t see that right message at the right time. People have lost the need to go searching – they will use what is at hand.
This is how marketing automation has become the most important tool in the marketing portfolio. In fact, in 2012, Gartner reported that marketing automation would continue to be the highest growth segment of customer relationship management (CRM), and that it would continue with a 10.7 percent annual growth rate right through 2016. If you are not investigating and investing now, you may soon wake up behind your competition.
First, a quick definition. Simply, we use marketing automation tools to streamline and automate marketing and workflow tasks. Most marketing automation tools focus on lead management, lead nurturing, lead scoring, social marketing, integration with CRM systems, campaign management, landing pages, messaging (email, SMS, social), multi-channel marketing, resource management, and marketing analytics. The key benefit of automation tools is to enhance communications between people and brands to be responsive to need and life stage and available in preferred channels. Automation tools use marketing scores to identify and target content to people when they need it most. That value translates to engagement and empowerment – and ultimately response and sales. Automation can be used effectively for both B2B and B2C marketers.
Some of the key concepts here:
- Customer-centric, not company-centric.
- Content-driven, not sales-cycle-driven.
- Multi-channel, beyond email messaging.
- Customized, based on predictive scores that provide the most helpful content and support at the most helpful times.
While often automation tools are used to send more and more relevant messaging, it’s important to make a distinction between marketing automation software and email broadcast delivery. You can use almost any email broadcast tool to trigger messages off a behavior or timeframe to support a “next best action” suggestion or upsell. Those are great programs, and I recommend taking advantage. Marketing automation is a bigger commitment to tracking, scoring, and optimizing the full multi-channel customer journey – and while email marketing is a part of that, it’s not the only channel or opportunity.
The most common business challenges marketing automation solves are:
- Single marketing database. Rather than having Web analytics, call center, email messages, and landing pages all collecting and trying to manage customer data, a marketing automation solution can give you one version of the truth about each customer. This will allow you to respond to individual’s needs with content or interaction across channels and in near real time as they engage with branded sites and content assets. Marketing automation tools let you ACT quickly and efficiently (and hopefully, wisely) on the data you have, which is the key to strengthening relationships.
- Lead nurturing. Marketo has stated that nurturing can result in 50 percent more sales leads at 33 percent lower cost per lead. Often, this manifests in a messaging flow and cadence for various segments. A great way to improve your offer performance is to identify the highest value segments and optimize. Another big win area is in reactivation of leads – those who are unresponsive to the initial offer.
- Predictive scoring. This is the best way to identify when someone is raising a hand or is likely to be interested in taking a next step. In B2C, these scores help with a recency offer or upsell, or to engage loyal customers in sharing or product review activity. In B2B, scores are used to aid and enable decision making through the buying cycle. The ability to segment and identity the “moments of truth” is key to nurturing and conversion – people are overwhelmed with messaging of all sorts. Our goal is to communicate only when it resonates.
- Marketing-sales collaboration. Marketing automation can improve the contributions from the marketing department to lead development and conversion. Instead of having marketing work up front, turn over the lead, and then never participate again, a sophisticated, content-driven lead nurturing program can help marketing teams interact with people throughout the sales and buying journey(s) – which allows sales teams to focus on strategic relationships. In B2C, automation tools are used to engage people between transactions and improve the relevancy of the messaging.
Please comment below on your own journey to use marketing automation effectively. How else are you finding benefit?