Online tools enable digital marketers to efficiently generate, nurture and convert sales leads into loyal customers. Marketing automation is a leap forward for those who really understand its uses. Download our Marketing Automation Book to learn how to make MA work for you today. You’ll learn all about what is Marketing Automation and what you can do with it.

 

Download Our Marketing Automation Book

 

You’ll learn:

 

• What is Marketing Automation?

• An introduction to marketing automation and today’s top platforms

• 10 core elements of a marketing automation program

• An explanation of inbound marketing

• The 4 responsibilities of inbound marketing content

• How to develop a content marketing strategy

• The best way to market directly to individual sales leads

• How to determine whether MA fits your needs

• What not to expect from marketing automation

 


Next Steps Digital Presents – Marketing Automation E-book

 

Digital Marketing with Marketing Automation:

What is Marketing Automation?

 

Marketing automation, as its name suggests, is a means of automating a variety of scheduled marketing tasks, such as sending email or texts, or posting to social media. Popularly, the term “marketing automation” refers to the software and online platforms that allow digital marketers to set up these tasks to be carried out automatically.

 

With a marketing automation program designed and underway, a marketing team can automatically spread its inbound marketing message through multiple online channels to generate, nurture and manage sales leads.

 

But the tools available also allow marketers to go much further.

 

nsd-ebook-marketing-automation-and-lead-generation-google-docs-2016-09-14-16-20-39(Image from Pardot)

 

Most marketing automation tools enable the user to segment leads, score leads, split test marketing material, and track engagement to compile analytics data and reports. Many marketing automation programs integrate with other analytics platforms to increase flexibility and compound the data available for analysis.

 

As such, what might first be planned as a simple series of emails can evolve into a multi-channel drip campaign that requires multiple iterations of each email, supporting social media posts for several platforms, explanatory blog posts, customized landing pages, and so on.

 

But marketing automation allows distribution of personalized messages that are narrowly targeted and delivered at the most opportune time.

 

To use marketing automation correctly requires an understanding of the software program or online platform used, content marketing, analytics and data analysis, as well as the company’s purchase funnel and the sales process.

 

But once set up and put into motion, a marketing automation program is a great time saver and valuable sales marketing tool.

 

How Marketing Automation Evolved

 

Marketing automation (MA) developed as a software about the time the online world began to feed the evolution of customer relationship management (CRM), email capabilities and website analytics. Forerunners of MA managed email lists and messaging.

 

But in 1999, Eloqua (later acquired by Oracle and renamed “Oracle Marketing Cloud”) debuted as a program that evolved into what is generally considered the first true MA program.

 

Eloqua’s success inspired a number of competitors to enter the market, Marketing Automation Insider explains. These included companies such as Infusionsoft, Net Results and Marketbright.

 

During the 1990s and early 2000s, faster internet access and computers that could handle more complex software fueled growth in MA, and the advent of broadband technology allowed MA tools to become cloud-based. Tools such as Ontraport, HubSpot, Act-On and several others arrived in the late 2000s.

matimeline

 

Marketing Automation Tools Today

 

The marketing automation platforms available today differ. They are designed for different sizes and types of businesses. MA is commonly used by business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-government (B2G) concerns. Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies that employ MA typically have a longer sales cycle than most retailers or large volumes of sales leads.

 

Let’s take a look at four of the more popular MA tools available today:

 

HubSpot

nsd-ebook-marketing-automation-and-lead-generation-google-docs-2016-09-14-16-21-06

HubSpot may be the most well-known MA platform today. It provides a range of capabilities in addition to marketing automation, email assistance and lead management, including social media management, SEO, landing page creation, blog hosting, and an integrated CRM tool.

 

HubSpot is easy to use and offers detailed instruction and guidance, and can be integrated with about 150 other apps.

 

The multiple functions on a single platform make HubSpot popular with small to medium-size businesses. Larger companies that have more resources may prefer other tools for some of the functions HubSpot provides.

 

Marketo

nsd-ebook-marketing-automation-and-lead-generation-google-docs-2016-09-14-16-21-18

Marketo was created by a team of marketers who say they designed it for marketers. In addition to general marketing automation functions like email marketing, lead nurturing and scoring, SEO, landing pages, and a limited analytics tool, it offers CRM, budgeting tools and marketing calendars. Its interface has been praised as simple-to-use.

 

The Marketo platform also offers options that add tools for A/B testing, progressive profiling, progressive forms and deeper integration with other CRM tools.

 

Marketo is primarily aimed a medium-sized B2B businesses and large enterprises, but has been found to be suitable for small businesses, as well.

 

Pardot

nsd-ebook-marketing-automation-and-lead-generation-google-docs-2016-09-14-16-21-32

Pardot also focuses on B2B with functions designed to support the longer purchase cycle and multi-step decisions associated with B2B sales. It offers a cleaner but technically oriented interface.

 

Pardot users can create, implement, and track campaigns for batch email marketing and automated drip marketing, and work from email templates and customizable forms. Pardot is known for its strong lead scoring capability.

 

While Pardot is owned by Salesforce, some like and some dislike how well it integrates with the Salesforce CRM platform and with other programs. It’s social media integration also draws complaints, and one review cites “very basic lead nurturing.”

 

Infusionsoft

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Infusionsoft is aimed at small businesses that have already built a lead/customer base and are looking to streamline an existing lead generation and sales program. It is strong on allowing users to build sequences or workflows, maps of the steps in the purchase funnel and which ones should trigger inbound marketing messages.

 

Infusionsoft provides lead generation tools, marketing automation, email and social media tools, analytics with ROI tracking, and a CRM function.

 

Pricing Marketing Automation Platforms

 

Marketing automation companies typically price their products according to ascending levels of features and price. Some are more straightforward on their sites than others, while for some you have to talk to a sales rep to get a price quote. In the end, your price may be affected by how services are packaged, the length of the plan, specials or discounts.

 

For instance, HubSpot’s Basic plan allows 100 contacts and three users for $2,400 per year plus a $600 onboarding fee. It includes content creation and optimization assistance, email marketing, social media management and analytics.

 

HubSpot’s Pro plan, which includes “marketing automation” plus everything in the Basic plan and more, allows 1,000 contacts and an unlimited number of users for $9,600 per year plus a $3,000 onboarding fee.

 

And it’s worth noting that HubSpot, like others, bills on an annual basis, but on its website quotes monthly fees.

 

Infusionsoft starts at $199 per month ($2,388 per year) for the Essentials, which is CRM and marketing automation, 2,500 contacts and three users. At the Deluxe level, you add sales automation for $299 per month ($3,588 per year) and are good for 5,000 contacts and four users.

 

The five plans Infusionsoft offered as of this writing topped out at the Team plan for $599 per month ($7,188 per year) with CRM, marketing automation, sales automation, and ecommerce, and good for 20,000 contacts and 10 users.

 

Infusionsoft also adds one-time “kickstart” fees, with varying levels of setup assistance for $999, $1,999, and “from $2,999.”

 

 

Introduction to Inbound Marketing

 

A marketing automation (MA) program essentially allows a marketing team to get its arms around its inbound marketing program.

 

Inbound marketing refers to using various content to bring potential customers to some sort of a sales proposal or, more generally, an ecommerce website. Outbound marketing, on the other hand, sends someone to the potential customer with a sales proposal in-hand.

 

Outbound marketing is interruptive, such as television commercials or sales calls, including telemarketing. Inbound marketing has already been welcomed. The recipient has provided an email address, subscribed, or joined an online group where they expect to encounter marketing messages, or has searched for the answer the website provides.

Content Feeds Inbound Marketing Channels

 

As digital marketers, we have seen the breadth of inbound marketing explode in recent years with the formation of a multiverse of online marketing channels. We don’t necessarily need to market to customers via every channel, but depending on our business, we may use several or many of them.

 

Each marketing channel must be fed with content that matches the customer personas expected to be using that channel. Content must also answer to various customers’ needs and intentions, and portray the unique value proposition the company offers them.

 

Inbound marketing content must be relevant to the recipient where it finds them in their search for whatever it is they want to buy or learn, and it must inspire them to want to investigate this particular answer further.

 

The MA program can ensure that marketing content reaches the intended prospects with the message specified for them. But that content must be able to do its job once delivered.

 

Inbound marketing content is meant to generate and motivate sales leads.

 

Regardless of the channel or style of content – email, text, tweet, video, infographic, podcast, white paper, blog post, landing page, etc. – its role is to move the prospect into or along the sales funnel toward a purchase or some other goal.

 

Four Stages of Inbound Marketing

 

An inbound marketing campaign and its content are inextricably tied to the sales funnel for the product or service being sold.

 

A sales funnel is normally thought of as a visual representation of the steps required to sell a product or service. On an ecommerce site, it is more pointedly thought of as the various touchpoints, or interactions, a customer has with the website and/or the company as they consider and move toward making a purchase.

 

Inbound marketing content is used to nurture leads. Once a site visitor qualifies as a sales lead, various forms of content should satisfy that potential customer’s questions and needs, and alleviate their anxiety so they’ll keep moving through the funnel. Content may be triggered and sent to a lead according to their actions on the website or according to a timeframe.

 

While the number of touchpoints or lengths of sales funnels vary, inbound marketing has four stages, or responsibilities:

 

  • Attract: Before anything can happen on an ecommerce website, something must attract visitors to the site. Strong SEO helps a site rank well in organic search results. More aggressive marketing for that crucial initial visit often relies on pay-per-click (PPC) or display ad campaigns, or building brand awareness or thought leadership through social media, a blog, video channel, podcast, etc. Each piece of content links or refers to the website, where additional relevant information awaits the reader enticed by the ad, post, video, etc.   

 

  • Convert: Any action a user takes on a website that is intended by and useful to the site owner can be considered a conversion. But for inbound marketing purposes, the first conversion sought is the conversion from site visitor to sales lead. A lead is a visitor for whom you have contact information, which lets you market directly to them.

 

Your landing pages must ensure the capture of contact information, particularly an email address. This requires asking for it through some call to action (learn more, sign up, download, etc.) and a form. The effort is more likely to be successful if there is an exchange, such as a newsletter, an ebook, a white paper, a coupon, etc., that represents some value to the potential lead.

 

  • Close: Once you have a sales lead, the objective is to close the sale and convert the lead into a customer. This is not usually a one-step process, and for large-scale B2B or expensive consumer sales, the process may not be confined to the website or online marketing. But much of it, if not all, will be done with digital content.

 

Beyond the landing page, which may include a “buy” CTA, your content aimed at closing the sale may include email that links to a deeper discussion of the product’s many uses and value, or to a series of satisfied customers’ testimonials. An FAQs page featured prominently later in the funnel may provide information welcomed at that point of the purchase consideration. If you’ve segmented your leads and customized content accordingly, email can speak directly to customers’ needs and likely concerns, and help to close the sale.

 

  • Delight: The responsibilities of inbound marketing content do not end when a sale is made. The next step is to convert customers into loyal customers and advocates. Stay in contact with your customers to show you care about them receiving and enjoying what they bought, and that you value the prospect of an ongoing relationship.

 

Sending a thank-you email after a purchase almost goes without saying but, beyond thanks, you should confirm receipt of the purchase and its details, including delivery information. A while after the product’s delivery, inquire about the customer’s satisfaction, and ask for a testimonial or suggest a product review. Send your customers coupons or invitations to webinars or in-store events. Ask them to join your social network to stay abreast of sales, new products and other news. Show customers that there continues to be value in your relationship, and they will tell others about you.

nsd-ebook-marketing-automation-and-lead-generation-google-docs-2016-09-14-16-22-16(Image from HubSpot)

 

In addition to creating content that will satisfy each stage of an inbound marketing program’s responsibilities, you must have a plan for its distribution. Marketing automation revolves around your content marketing strategy.

 

Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

 

The content to be distributed by a marketing automation program has a big job to do. It has to attract, engage, inspire and persuade the reader while ultimately selling them something.

 

Beyond what the content in a marketing automation program is meant to do, there is simply a lot of content to create.

 

You need not one, but two distinct strategies:

 

  • Content strategy, which is a guideline for what your content will say about your products, services and company, and how you’ll say it. Determining how your content will express your marketing message ranges from consideration of its tone and depth, to the basics of how taglines and brand names can be used. Content that is consistent in style across the board conveys a sense of professionalism and defined purpose.

 

  • Content marketing strategy, which outlines how you’ll present your story to customers, and how you will use content to attract, engage, inspire and persuade potential customers.

 

For this discussion, we will focus on a content marketing strategy and particularly how it applies to inbound marketing and marketing automation.

 

Content in a marketing automation program must, in the words of the Act-On MA tool, provide “information that resonates – in the right format, through the right channel, at the right time.”

 

Standard Elements of a Content Marketing Strategy

 

As you work to outline and develop plans for populating a marketing automation program with relevant content, consider each of the elements of a content marketing strategy as outlined below. Each campaign should have its own defined strategy.

 

Campaign Goals

 

Start by defining what you want in the end. In marketing automation, the overall objective is to generate and nurture leads toward making a purchase. You may create strategies for narrower goals, such as a campaign simply for generating leads. You might strategize how to use content to resolve an ongoing problem, such as a point in your purchase funnel that has to exist but causes too many users to leave your site. You might devise a customer retention campaign. But each campaign must have a defined goal.

 

Unique Value Proposition

 

Why you? Surely there are other places a customer can go to get a product that is much like yours. What do you offer that your competitors don’t? Define the unique value proposition (UVP) of the product you plan to market. A UVP is a statement that not only explains why a customer should buy your product but, more importantly, how it is the single product that best fits their needs.

 

Your inbound marketing content should state the UVP at the outset of contact with potential leads and reinforce it at each touchpoint in the purchase funnel, as well as with every timed communication to leads.

 

Customer Personas

 

Customer personas depict fictional representations of the people who would be found among your customer base. They are drawn from studies of your customers’ demographic and psychographic traits. You need to know who your customers are and why they act as they do to understand what they value, and what message will speak to or resonate with them.

 

Having customer personas drawn up enables you to develop personalized content that shows how your product fits their specific needs best.

 

nsd-ebook-marketing-automation-and-lead-generation-google-docs-2016-09-14-16-22-33(Image from WordStream)

 

Channel Plan

 

As part of your customer personas, you should identify where you can expect to find leads online. For each of these channels (organic search, PPC, email, social media, mobile, etc.), you need to determine what kind of content is likely to work best (including SEO keywords). For instance, you might promote a white paper to professionals in your LinkedIn community that wouldn’t be as appropriate elsewhere.

 

Content Maps

 

A content map plots where in the entire customer journey, but particularly along the purchase funnel, your MA program should trigger content. (Your MA platform may refer to it as a “workflow,” “sequence,” etc.) Depending upon the stage of the funnel or the stage of their purchase consideration, customers will need different types of content.

 

As part of your content marketing strategy, you have to determine when and why (e.g., website activity or time since an interaction) it is beneficial to present each type of reinforcing message.

 

Below, we look at the core elements of a marketing automation campaign, including A/B testing and measuring outcomes, which would also be a part of a content marketing strategy. Always test your ideas and measure how well your marketing content performs once it is implemented.

 

10 Core Elements of Marketing Automation

 

Once you set up your marketing automation program, executing various campaigns will require a repeated cycle that includes:

 

  • Developing an inbound content marketing strategy, as discussed above
  • Developing or re-purposing content in keeping with the content marketing strategy
  • Lead development and nurturing
  • Transferring responsibility for lead nurturing and follow up to Sales (depending on business type and sales cycle)
  • Studying analytics, or measuring each campaign element’s contribution to conversions and revenue.

 

Once you measure the results of one campaign, this information helps you hone your strategy for the next campaign, and so on.

 

Your MA campaigns will involve working with most of these core elements of a marketing automation program:

 

Customer Personas

 

We discussed customer personas above as part of developing a content marketing strategy. Personas are core elements to any marketing you do, and are part and parcel of segmenting your audience to create messages that are relevant to individual portions of your customer base.

 

Creating customer personas can be a time consuming process but is necessary. It requires collecting quantitative data from multiple sources, and qualitative data from interviewing and observing your customers.

 

Email

 

Marketing automation more or less began with email campaigns, and email still does the bulk of the work in many current MA programs. There’s not a better way to market directly to individual leads than through email. The better you know your leads (i.e., through customer personas), the more you can personalize email messages to answer their questions or take advantage of their interests and biases.

 

An email with a strong subject line and message can drive a prospect to any point on your website you choose.

 

Social Media

 

Social media run a close second to email for having a direct line to leads. If someone is a member of your social media community, it is by choice. You can expect them to welcome and pay attention to your posts. But social media give back, too.

 

Once you’re connected, you have access to information about your customers through their social media accounts. This is why many sites process their initial lead-capture by allowing prospects to sign in through Facebook, Twitter, etc. Monitoring social media for what customers do and don’t like, are or are not interested in, and where else they shop is smart marketing research.

 

Landing Pages

 

Landing pages serve as the gateway to the purchase funnel. Your SEO and PPC marketing will be keyed to landing page content. Most landing pages will include a call to action (CTA) that prompts submission of contact information, which converts a site visitor into a sales lead.

 

It is crucial that landing pages are immediately recognizable as relevant to the site visitor. Their content should be congruent with the premise of the search query, PPC ad, blog post, social media post, etc., that brought the visitor to the page. Then the page’s contents must clearly and quickly give visitors reason to remain interested enough to respond to the CTA.

 

Forms

 

Though social media has become another means of registering site visitors, for the most part, you will capture contact information with a form. Because most sites will use multiple forms for various purposes (e.g., checkout), it is best to use progressive forms, which many MA platforms provide.

 

Progressive forms store information already provided, and can be programmed to ask different questions according to the user’s activity. This keeps you from annoying a potential customer by requiring information they have already provided, and can instead allow you to obtain additional data about your leads.

 

Blog Posts

 

Blogging allows you to say many different things about your product – from announcements of new products to how-to explanations or explorations of new or unique uses, narratives about satisfied users, you name it. You can also write about your company, outstanding personnel, or anything else connected to your business or industry. Your MA program can alert leads and customers to new articles of interest to them, and the blog post can provide one or more links to landing pages or other relevant points in the funnel.

 

A very real bonus to blogging is its SEO value. Google loves to see new content on websites, and every time you blog you make your site look refreshed to the search engine giant.

 

Lead Nurturing

 

Blog posts and other inbound marketing content are also used to nurture sales leads. Lead nurturing guides prospective customers through the purchase funnel, and continues to market to them after a purchase.

 

At logical touchpoints of behavior on the site, or at certain intervals of time, the MA platform presents content to the lead or customer that is designed to answer questions or allay fears, and keep them interested and moving toward a purchase.

 

Lead Scoring

 

Many MA programs include a lead scoring matrix, which helps to determine which leads are worthy of a concentrated marketing effort or, depending on the company, should be turned over to Sales to close a deal. Leads are assigned scores based primarily on actions taken on your website, like completing a form or visiting a certain number of pages. Points may also be assigned for other attributes, such as position or job title (e.g., more points for a purchasing director than an operations analyst).

 

Once a system is set, it is automated and the MA platform identifies sales qualified leads (SQLs), who may be deserving of contact to set up a meeting. Such a scoring program can separate strong prospects from weak ones, and raise the efficiency of a sales department that has more leads than resources available to serve them.

 

A/B Testing

 

Any real effort to optimize a marketing program or website requires A/B testing, and many marketing automation tools have A/B testing components built in. A/B, or “split,” tests run two iterations of the same feature, such as an email subject line, to see which one is more successful, leading to more opened emails in this case.

 

Done correctly, A/B tests are more complex than they sound. An MA platform that can run valid tests will provide insight that leads to more user engagement, conversions and sales.

 

nsd-ebook-marketing-automation-and-lead-generation-google-docs-2016-09-14-16-22-53(Image from Optimizely)

 

Life Cycle Management

 

Once a customer has bought from you, you have a good opportunity to sell to them again. The post-purchase stages of a customer life cycle include being a product user, a loyal customer and, in the best circumstances, an advocate for the product and/or company. With an MA program, you can continue to nurture buyers throughout their expected customer life cycle. And with analytics data, you can measure how long such efforts are worthwhile for all or segments of your customers, and adjust accordingly.

 

Are You Ready for Marketing Automation?

 

Marketing automation (MA) does the legwork of dispersing your message across the myriad online channels to attract site visitors and turn them into leads. MA software also compiles data about prospective customers’ engagement with your marketing content and their activity on your website, and calculates ROI for your inbound marketing program.

 

The marketing automation software you choose might also integrate with your existing CRM system, providing even more efficiency.

 

That is a great tool if you need it and are ready to use it correctly.

 

The thing is, many marketing teams don’t need MA and aren’t ready to run such a program.

 

Many marketing teams have adopted MA and been dissatisfied, or have quickly found that higher-ups were dissatisfied. It is not uncommon to have unrealistic expectations for what MA can do, and what it costs to get it done.

 

One West Coast marketing firm says just under half of all businesses in the U.S. don’t use a marketing automation tool, and half of those that do find they need more than one tool to get the results they need.

 

Marketing teams also need to be realistic about the costs of an MA program. This includes not only the price of the tool, but the cost of people to run it. There’s also the time (which is money) required to learn to use the tool, as well as to develop content that, while beneficial to the marketing effort, is likely to be more than you’d create otherwise.

 

Vantive Media CEO and blogger Chuck Schaeffer says the most common challenges and frustrations with adopting marketing software that he has identified in his research include setups that took longer and cost more than expected, software that required more technical skills and resources than anticipated, and software that required more people to operate than anticipated.

 

In addition, according to Schaeffer:

 

Marketing automation software needs remarkable content to advance leads through a buy-cycle funnel of awareness to consideration (and) to purchase. But feeding the content beast is a full-time job, creating remarkable content is rare, and few marketers apply a solid content strategy to their content marketing program.

 

The Ascend2 Marketing Automation Trends Survey from February 2016 says the most significant barriers to marketing automation success are:

  • Lack of an effective strategy (52%)
  • Complexity of the system (42%)
  • Inadequate contact data quality (38%)
  • Lack of employee skills (32%)
  • Lack of relevant content (31%)
  • Marketing and sales alignment (30%)
  • Budget constraints (27%).

 

Marketing automation helps marketing teams manage large lead generation and nurturing workloads. If you aren’t having trouble generating and reaching out to sales leads, you may not need marketing automation.

 

Is a CRM Tool What You Really Need?

 

Managing and analyze customer interactions throughout the customer lifecycle to drive sales and customer retention has traditionally been the role of customer relations management (CRM).

 

Whereas marketing automation is about generating new leads who become customers, CRM focuses more on existing customers,

 

As CRM, like everything else, has moved to software and then to the cloud, automated CRM tools have increasingly provided more data collection and analysis capability.

 

CRM tools crunch the numbers and alert users to the need for follow-up action, such as sending an email or making a phone call to schedule a meeting. In a B2B environment, for example, a CRM tool might use purchase history and other data about a customer to determine that they should be running low on some kind of disposable product you sell them. It would alert you to touch base.

 

As you can see, CRM is more about traditional sales than it is about marketing. But there is always some overlap between marketing and sales, which is in part why CRM modules are often a part of MA platforms.

 

Especially in companies where marketing and sales are integrated and/or share resources, the consideration of a marketing automation platform should include the value of its CRM module, if it has one. As suggested above, you might be better off with separate tools for CRM and MA.

 

Meanwhile, mature companies that derive a greater part of their revenue from servicing existing customers might focus on a CRM tool instead of marketing automation.

 

Do Your Marketing and Sales Teams Communicate?

 

There was a comment made in a podcast in the summer of 2015 that has stuck with us. Claudine Bianchi, now chief marketing officer of ClickSoftware, was speaking with Greg Alexander of Sales Benchmark Index. She said:

 

I gave a talk a couple of months ago. I asked the marketers at the room, when was the last time that they talked to their VP of sales or to a sales rep. Everyone was looking at me like I had two heads.

I said, ‘Therein lies the problem. You guys don’t even know who your VP of sales are.’ You have to have that engagement with the sales guys. They’re in the front lines every day, and I think by having those conversations, you can be much more in line, and lined not only with them and the messages that they’re giving, but really what your prospects and those personas want to be hearing.

 

Would you have been nodding your head along with Bianchi or looking at her with bemusement?

 

Marketing automation and lead generation is as much about sales as it is marketing.

 

Every day, the sales department interacts with the people who the marketing department is trying to reach. Your sales reps know which parts of the purchase funnel they regularly have to answer questions about, or which step in the checkout process they have to defend as necessary. They know what attracts leads, delights customers and makes it easier or harder to close sales.

 

Developing customer personas, content marketing strategy and content maps that follow and assist with the customer journey relies in part on sales information.

 

Your company’s sales personnel should be involved in every discussion, consideration and plan made in preparation for adopting marketing automation and the associated inbound marketing program. By not including them you are unnecessarily disregarding a valuable in-house resource.

 

Marketing Automation – This is The End

 

Nothing said above is meant to dissuade you from adopting a marketing automation program if you believe it can be beneficial to your organization. Used correctly, marketing automation increases efficiency and ensures more stable sales lead and customer management.

 

But your MA program is the end of the process of lead generation and nurturing, not the beginning. The true start of the marketing automation portion of your overall marketing effort is creating inbound marketing content.

 

You have to have something to go in those emails, blogs, social media posts, videos, etc.

 

You also need to have a reason for that content to exist, as we discussed in the Content Marketing Strategy chapter above.

 

Even HubSpot says, “marketing automation does not do marketing and lead generation for you.” It’s only a tool.

 

Further, according to HubSpot:

 

The first step is building a pipeline of good-fit leads by generating relevant, optimized content that speaks to your prospect’s needs and challenges. This is where inbound marketing becomes the building blocks of your marketing funnel.

 

You have to have a content marketing strategy, a message, and inbound marketing content to spread your message before a marketing automation program can help you. To know what your message should be, you need to understand your product’s unique value proposition and your customer personas.

 

You also need to have evidence that your inbound marketing content and strategy do in fact generate leads at a volume that supports further investment in how sales leads are managed.

 

Don’t dive into marketing automation until the rest of your marketing program will allow you to take advantage of all that this powerful tool can provide.

 

nsd-ebook-marketing-automation-and-lead-generation-google-docs-2016-09-14-16-23-12(Image from Bannersnack)

 

Strengthen Your Program with the Flexibility of MA Tools

 

In addition to lead generation and nurturing, marketing automation programs can assist with other chores that require executing certain tasks on a timely basis. For instance, an MA program can be used to increase renewal rates, such as for SaaS applications.

 

Drip campaigns managed with MA can keep you in contact with customers throughout the life cycle of onboarding, continued engagement, and renewal. Onboarding emails to multiple users of a newly purchased program could include links to downloadable operations manuals and training videos or webinars.

 

Continued engagement could include automated content updates (ebooks, webinars, etc.), needs surveys (add-on products, refresher training, etc.), and periodic follow-ups to see whether the customers are satisfied with how well the product is performing. The campaign for each cycle would culminate with notices to decision makers of approaching renewal dates.

 

At renewal time, the MA platform could also automatically determine whether the client had already renewed, and not send additional notices that are unnecessary – and unappreciated.

 

The additional benefit of using an MA platform vs. a CRM is the level of detail MA gives you about marketing with these types of drip campaigns.

 

MA tools provide tracking data to tell you which emails are opened and read, which content engages users best, which surveys are completed more often, etc. CRM programs lack this depth.

 

Marketing automation can provide insight into prospects’ interests, behaviors, and intentions that marketing and sales professionals have never had before, and which can enable teams to really hone their processes.

 

Marketing automation is also a relatively young and evolving field. MA platforms will grow and change, with innovations coming from their users as well as their providers. Like any tool, it is those who use it day in and day out who will realize its full potential.

 

So what is Marketing Automation? We hope you’ve enjoyed our Marketing Automation Book. Look above if you wanted to save the PDF version of our Marketing Automation Ebook.