Thought Leadership

What is Marketing Automation?

Have you ever wished for a 28-hour day? (You and us both). If so, then you probably need some quality marketing automation in your life.

A Definition of Marketing Automation

Luckily, the what of marketing automation is not complicated; simply put, marketing automation is defined as software and tools that streamline, automate, and measure sales and marketing actions, especially those of the repetitive variety: email newsletter signups, social media posting, and sales confirmations, among them.

As a marketer, the idea of automation may feel threatening. But know this: the goal of marketing automation is always to make your marketing tasks easier. It does not compete with marketers; rather, marketing automation makes marketers more effective at their jobs. Think of automation as your partner, not your competition.

Who Needs Marketing Automation?

If you don’t already automate your marketing, here’s the litmus test as to whether you need to start:

Do you already generate a steady flow of leads – enough to keep your calendar 100% full of well-paying customers or clients? Because, if you don’t have more work than you can handle, then you need marketing automation.

If you’re up for some introspection, here are a few more questions to help you make a decision:

  1. Do you generate a steady flow of high-quality leads?
  2. Is your sales department at maximum capacity from those leads?
  3. Have you adequately and accurately mapped your buyer’s journey?
  4. Have you already developed an effective lead-nurturing strategy?

If you answered somewhere along the lines of no, no, yes, yes, then you’re ready for marketing automation. However, if you still need to work on mapping your buyer’s journey, or on developing good strategies to nurture existing leads, then stop here. Work on #3 and #4, then circle back to marketing automation; the result will be a much more effective and profitable overall marketing strategy.

How You Can Use Marketing Automation

There’s likely a marketing automation tool available for any task and/or workflow you have in mind. Like what, you ask? Well, here are several of the most common ways to use marketing automation to make your life (and job) both easier and more efficient:

How to Use Marketing Automation

  • Email Marketing: There are dozens, if not more ways to automate your email marketing, but one of the best is to automate your welcome email series.
  • Lead Capture: Automated sign-up forms on your website, landing pages, and other locations can help you easily capture new emails – no additional work required (post form set-up).
  • Segmentation: For example, you can send automated messages (or a series of messages) to specific, targeted segments of your active leads.
  • Send Reminders: If you ever send event reminders, product release lead-ups, etc., then you can automate these reminders. No more flying by the seat of your pants!
  • Cross-sell and/or Upsell: After leads express interest in a specific product, you can send offers for similar and/or more expensive products.
  • Social Posting: You don’t have to stay glued to Twitter to tweet all day; social media marketing automation can do it for you!

What are Keys to Successful Marketing Automation and Best Practices?

Now that you have a good idea of what marketing automation is and why you need it, you’ve started thinking about the how – how can you implement an effective automation strategy? These key steps will get you started:

  1. Define & Outline Your Goals

The worst thing you can do for your sales is to jump into automation without a fully formed plan. So, before you even get started with automated anything, be sure that you’ve thoroughly outlined your marketing strategy and goals: what do you hope to achieve from each aspect of your marketing? From there, you’ll be able to identify which automation tools you need.

Document these strategies. Revisit your goals. Be sure that each strategy has tangible goals, and that each step of the process leads to those goals. Without a clear purpose, even the most efficient automation will lead to a dead end.

  1. Integrate Your Automation with Current Marketing Strategies

This is a continuation of the above but we must be clear: marketing automation is not a standalone process. Unless it’s clearly and inexorably linked to your marketing strategies and ultimate goals, your marketing automation will be useless.

In this vein, be sure that your automation always aligns with your customer’s needs, wants, and interests. Let your automation enhance communication. Likewise, be sure not to use these tools generically; instead, ensure your automation carefully aligns with each personalized, highly detailed step in the customer journey. If not, you’ll get labeled as spam and, worse, alienate your leads.

  1. Keep Your Customers Engaged

We like to think of each step in the customer journey like a zip line tour: jumping off that first platform is the biggest leap of faith; from there, each jump grows exponentially easier.

If someone has already taken the leap of downloading your free PDF, it will be easier to convince them to sign up for your weekly newsletter. If they’re already a subscriber, it will be easier to sell them your eBook. And if you’ve already sold them an eBook, it will be easier to sell them another book – or a more expensive upsell. Etcetera, etcetera.

Use your marketing automation to nurture not only your leads but also your existing customers. Keep them engaged, even and especially after they’ve already made a commitment to your brand, and nurture these relationships with customer-only content, offers, and other value-adds.

Now that you have the basics, it’s up to you to take the next step. Where will your marketing automation take you?