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Marketing Automation: what it is and why you need it

Date Posted: Thursday, 15 August 2013 12:41
Posted By: Kerry Butters

Marketing automation technology is a rapidly growing sector right now, with analysts at IDC predicting that the overall market will reach 4.8bn by 2015. This has been brought about by key trends which have driven more and more companies to adopt a solution.

These include:

  • Changes to buyer behaviour
  • The need to prove ROI in the wake of the recession
  • Cloud technology, specifically software-as-a-service (SaaS) acting as an enabler

marketing-automation-process

Marketing automation software uses technology to allow firms to effective streamline, automate and analyse marketing workflows, in order to increase productivity and boost revenue.

What does marketing automation software do?

Marketing automation software has a number of functions and can be integrated as a part of a CMS or as stand-alone software. It’s used for a variety of marketing activities such as lead generation, nurturing and scoring, segmentation, relationship marketing, ROI measurement and customer retention, amongst other things.

Whilst some of these can be carried out manually within a small business, this is a very inefficient way of going about it and any scale will require software.

Elements of marketing automation software are:

  • A central database set up for marketing detailing all aspects of customer interactions
  • A relationship marketing engine, or CRM
  • An analytics engine for testing ROI measurement
  • Cross-channel marketing capabilities

Basically, many of the marketing processes, both online and off, are measured and automated; this applies to email marketing, website landing pages and forms, campaign management, social media marketing and analytics.

Due to the rise in cloud technology over the past few years, marketing automation software is seeing the biggest growth in the SMB sector. This is because cloud-based solutions often don’t require capital expenditure and can be used on a monthly basis with a single fee.

Whilst in the past it was used primarily by those in the technology, manufacturing and B2B industries, it’s now used by a wide variety of industries thanks to its relationship-orientated approach and the ability to work in real time.

Why should my company use it?

According to Marketo’s Jon Miller, citing Nuclear Research, 95% of companies that adopted marketing automation software reported benefits. It was also found that marketing productivity increased by between 1.5% and 6.9%, resulting in a 4% rise in sales productivity, on average.

“In fact, most companies see ROI from marketing automation within a year. According to a Focus Research Study, most companies start seeing a 32% improvement in as little as 7-12 months,” he said.

By using marketing automation software to improve calls-to-action on the company website, ‘warm’ leads can easily be achieved. This is done by ensuring that a site has numerous opportunities for visitors to input their contact details, with downloadable content such as whitepapers, articles, webinars, video, newsletters and contact forms.

These are then automatically followed up by the software, which keeps a track of the sales prospects, no matter where they are in the sales funnel.

Unlocking the power of content

Marketing professionals are aware that with the rise of social media and blogging, content is more important than ever before. However, if that content is not producing leads, then it’s not really very much use.

Marketing automation can help overcome this by putting every lead that’s generated into the lead nurturing funnel. These are then filtered according to the perceived value of the lead.

Whilst marketing automation and CMS solutions differ in functionality and price, the best way to gain ROI depends more on strategy, content and the people who work with the information.

The real key to marketing automation is to take the interest your company has generated online via various channels and deliver content that is valuable to the leads via email.

Building lists

Building a list can take time but doesn’t necessarily just need to be internet based; collecting email addresses from customers through other channels means that these can be considered cold leads and added to the database. It goes without saying that the customer should have always been given the option to opt out of marketing communications though, no matter where their details have come from.

Many companies under-use marketing automation software by just using it for email marketing. However, the software is powerful and has much more functionality than mere mail merge and the highest ROI will be seen by those companies who realise this.

Gathering customer information such as email is just one small part of the marketing automation process. The power of the software means that leads can be prepared and acted upon at every stage of the sales process, rather than just ‘top of funnel’.

For example, by monitoring interactions and customer behaviour on the company website or social media, leads can be moved along the tunnel in real time. This depends on the action but at certain points, the action that the customer takes will trigger the software to send a communication for a special offer that’s on at the moment, or similar.

All of this is just a fraction of what good marketing automation software can achieve. The functionality is vast and these days, powerful enough to make a real difference to any company that uses sales and marketing techniques.

That will be the majority of all of the companies across the globe then.

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