Marketing automation. It’s one of those internet buzz terms that everyone is talking about.
But why is it one of the most discussed topics in the business world today? What’s all the fuss?
According to the Aberdeen Group, nearly 70% of best-in-class companies are currently using (or implementing) a marketing automation platform.
And that’s probably because the benefits are many. Marketing automation can improve your prospect targeting, customer service, lead management, and more:
What exactly is marketing automation?
In general, marketing automation is about taking specific marketing tasks and setting them up to occur automatically with the help of software. If you already have some experience in marketing, you’re well aware that it entails a series of repetitive tasks, such as emails, social media, and website updates. You can use marketing automation to save time and make these tasks easier. In fact, you might even be using some marketing automation tools already without labelling them as so.
If you do marketing automation the right way, it should improve your business’ bottom line, but not just through reducing your money spent on man hours. Ideally, marketing automation should improve your efficiency and accuracy when targeting and nurturing prospects. At its best, marketing automation will help you create and distribute targeted content that converts more prospects into customers and improves retention.
I’ll get into more about how this magic happens later in the post.
How has marketing automation changed the way we do business?
People used to talk about how the internet changed the way we do business. But now digital marketing is a crowded field. There are literally thousands of online platforms you can market on continuously and still not reach your target audience. For many, it’s starting to seem like only the internet Goliath’s (Google, Amazon etc.) have enough clout to find and nurture new customers online.
But that’s not really the case, thanks to marketing automation. It’s helping speed up and improve all sorts of tasks that can help any sized business grow online.
According to one report by Redeye and TFM&A, marketers say the main benefits of marketing automation are:
- Taking repetitive tasks out of marketers hands, allowing them to focus on new/more exciting projects (36%)
- Better targeting of customers and prospects (30%)
- Improving the customer experience (10%)
- Better email marketing (9%)
- Reduction of human error in campaigns (8%),
- Lead management (4%) and multichannel marketing (3%)
Instead of wasting time shouting out your marketing message into an already crowded marketplace, you are able to use marketing automation to save time and better target your prospects.
According to Ascend2’s State of Marketing Automation Report, here are some of the important objectives businesses hope to achieve with marketing automation:
And it’s all possible if you choose the best tools and use them in the right way.
What things can you automate in your marketing process?
Today, there are already all sorts of marketing tasks you can automate, and the list keeps growing. New tools come out all the time that make it even easier to target your audience efficiently.
Here are some prominent examples of processes you can automate:
Social media marketing
If you do social media marketing right, it’s a pretty complex strategy. You need to share content, engage in social conversations, build your following, and more.
Luckily, there are tools out there that can automatically curate and schedule content that your audience will be interested in, such as Dlvr.it.
You can also optimize your sharing times using tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, or FlypChart.
And, if you use tools like ManageFlitter or SocialQuant you can partially automate your Twitter following strategy to grow your audience. There are other free software options that help you find powerful social media influencers to target and broaden your reach. The possibilities are endless.
Email marketing software can help you automate customer engagement, such as sending out a welcome email to new subscribers and other triggered campaigns. A top-of-the-line email marketing tool makes it possible to monitor your prospects’ on-site behavior and use that information to segment your email lists. You can also send out personalized messages to each of your subscribers and analyze the effectiveness of each email message.
MailChimp is probably the most popular email marketing tool out there for small business, and it’s completely free for your first 500 subscribers. It integrates with all sorts of tools (including FlypChart) and offers detailed analytics to improve your campaigns:
Shameless plug: The intersection between social media and email marketing is where FlypChart provides the most value to our users. You can integrate with your external tools of choice, automate and schedule a bunch of relevant content with the click of a button, and then get visibility across all of your activity within our calendar interface!
Content marketing has a lot of moving parts that can easily be managed with marketing automation. Hubspot, for example, helps you with list building from your blog and monitoring how site visitors interact with your content. (Among a ton of other stuff)
With marketing automation, you can also automate your content promotion, including tasks such as:
- Sending out an email blast when a new blog post is published (Flyphart can do this for you by using our “Campaign Recipes”)
- Automatically sharing on social channels (Ditto)
- RSS syndication (Not yet, but maybe soon!)
IFTTT (If This Then That) is another (free) tool that will help streamline your content marketing efforts. It creates rules that automate tasks. For example, if you publish a new blog post, you can have it automatically shared on social media.
The more rules you create for your content promotion process, the more time you can save.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is all about lead tracking and nurturing. Most software options will help you automate lead capture with their contact forms, but some take it a step further. Take a look at ActiveCampaign or Drip as two good examples. They allow you to automate actions based on site visitor behavior, creating targeted drip campaigns to nurture individual leads.
No matter if it is social media, your blogging platform, email marketing or another tool, all will come with descriptive analytics to help you improve your marketing strategy. The great part is that most will turn this data into actionable reports for you that you can learn something from.
Twitter, for example, has great analytics built right into the platform. It shows you a month overview of your most impactful tweets, and how your performance has changed over time.
This makes it easy to see what kind of tweets and stories resonate most with your audience, so you can adapt your strategy accordingly.
Landing page tools can help you A/B test different elements of your web pages, such as the call-to-action, content, headline, and more.
Of course, what tasks you actually automate are going to depend on what tools you use. I recommend outlining your business goals, finding the tools that will help you best achieve them, and start with those.
All-in-one marketing automation
The best marketing automation tools out there will be multifunctional – helping you work towards a wide variety of marketing goals. Take a look at Hubspot, Marketo, Pardot, and Autopilot. They’re all equipped to help you with:
- Lead scoring
- Email building/personalization
- CRM lead generation
- Email auto-responders
- Landing pages
- Online behavior tracking
- Lead nurturing
G2 Crowd created a nice comparison graph of the top all-in-one marketing automation software available:
Of course, these are quite expensive options for a small business. If you don’t have the budget for software like this, you can still take advantage of a collection of free and reasonably priced marketing automation tools that will achieve the same thing.
FlypChart is designed to bring all of these disparate tools into one place – helping small businesses like yours compete with the big boys!
Why is marketing automation essential to small business?
Believe it or not, marketing automation is nothing new. Direct marketers have been using software to automatically print names and addresses on letters for decades. That’s marketing automation.
The only difference now is that everyone’s starting to use it. According to a SiriusDecisions study, there are nearly 11 times more B2B organizations using marketing automation now than in 2011:
If you want your business to stay or become competitive, you’re going to need some help from the robots. A human hand just can’t handle it all with the same speed and accuracy.
Marketing automation is certainly a buzzword that has come to mean a lot of different things at once. But really, it’s all about speeding up and improving the accuracy of your marketing processes using helpful tools.
And no matter what size marketing budget you have, you can start taking advantage of it to improve your bottom line. In today’s marketing world, it’s essential for success.