From the emails to the blog posts to social media to digital ads, marketers today are constantly publishing new content across many platforms. And thankfully, we have marketing automation technology to help us do it! In this guide, I’ll talk about what marketing automation is, how it benefits businesses, how to get started, different platforms to consider, and how to improve once you’ve started.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation is technology that automates marketing campaigns and communications across channels. Businesses use marketing automation to target prospects and customers with automated messages across web, email, social media, digital ad channels, and text. Each “workflow” is triggered by a set of parameters, often a user action like filling out a form or a specific date like the start of a promotion.
Marketing automation enables businesses to automate:
- Email campaigns
- Digital ad campaigns
- Personalized messages on your website
- Audience segmentation
- Testing and optimization
Benefits include increased efficiencies, productivity, more leads generated, and higher conversion rates.
Marketing automation & sales enablement
Marketing automation can act as the ultimate sales enabler. When integrated with your CRM, an update in your marketing automation software — such as a user requesting a demo — can trigger behind-the-scenes tasks like moving a lead from a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead or sending an internal email to your sales team about a new prospect. It can also trigger email workflows from the individual sales rep, such as asking the prospect for a call or sending a case study.
Marketing automation helps sales, but does not replace traditional sales activities. Individual outreach, whether it be a phone call, email, InMail or Zoom, is still critical to the sales process. Marketing automation simply offers a powerful engine behind sales to help sales people determine which prospects are more engaged and who to prioritize for individual outreach.
How to get started with marketing automation
Define your goals: Marketing technology isn’t free, so putting goals in place to justify the investment is critical to success. Goals might focus on productivity, increased conversion rates, or even a shorter sales cycle.
Identify stakeholders and get their buy-in: For success in marketing automation, you must have all stakeholders on board. Generally, this will include marketing, sales, and customer success.
Identify automation opportunities: Assess what marketing tasks you are completing manually that could be automated.
Select your software: Identify your budget and key features you require from your technology solution. I often create a checklist, demo each product and check off which features each platform offers to identify the best solution. Speaking to other marketers with experience using the platforms can also be helpful, since you often don’t truly know what you’re getting until you start using a software platform.
Identify roles and allocate resources: Marketing automation is highly reliant on content and oversight to be successful. Clearly define roles and responsibilities and allocate resources as needed.
Keep it simple to start: Marketing automation can be incredibly complex and powerful, but as you get started, focus on simplicity. You are always able to add complexities as you build out your strategy and workflows.
Track your workflows: Define a process for recording and tracking your workflows, including triggers, goals, logic, lead scoring, etc. I generally use spreadsheets to do this, but tools like LucidChart can also be helpful.
Analyze and optimize: Reference your key performance indicators and check-in regularly on your campaigns. Try A/B testing once you’re up and running so you can learn what messages resonate with your audiences. Optimize your campaigns as you learn what works and what falls flat.
Marketing automation platforms
Choosing the right platform is key to marketing automation success. And you — generally — get what you pay for. Below I provide several options to consider.
HubSpot: My software of choice for small to medium-sized businesses that are serious about marketing automation and aren’t fully focused on ecommerce. HubSpot offers a clean user interface with a full suite of marketing tools including email automation, list segmentation, social media scheduling, social media ads integrations, lead scoring, and analytics. It also has a suite of sales tools including CRM integrations, email notifications, meeting scheduling, and deal management.
Drip: Drip is geared toward ecommerce businesses. It offers automation across platforms including email, SMS, and Instagram. In addition, it has powerful audience segmentation features and analytics. It integrates with most common ecommerce platforms.
Other options include Marketo (if you have a larger budget), MailChimp (very affordable, but well behind the offerings of HubSpot and Drip), and Klaviyo (a more expensive option for ecommerce sites).