Digital marketing has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. With so much information being shared and so many platforms to choose from, it’s a wonder anyone can keep up with the trends. Marketing automation tools have become a necessity for any digital marketer looking to stay competitive. In this post we’ll explore what marketing automation is, why you should use it, and some of the best example tools available today.

Defining Marketing Automation

First, what is marketing automation? To put it simply, marketing automation refers to software that streamlines communication between businesses and their customers. Email, social media, newsletters are all good examples. When someone signs up for your newsletter or follows you on Twitter they are what’s called a “lead”. That person then becomes what is known as your “customer”. Marketing automation takes what is normally a one-way communication channel (e.g., you publish, your customer receives) and makes it two-way. Using marketing automation, businesses can send offers to customers based on their behaviors or preferences known as “customer engagement”.

Why use marketing automation?

The reasons are endless. Here are just a few:

·      Reduce the number of missed opportunities by sending relevant offers to your customers. For example, if someone signs up for your newsletter, they may also be interested in your webinar or free trial offer. Sending that person only what is relevant to their interests will improve “open rates” and “click-through rates”, essentially making a huge difference to your business.

·      Personalize your messages by segmenting them according to what worked best for each customer type. For example, if someone opts-in for a trial offer but never converts, you may want to send another trial offer several months later. With marketing automation, you can easily set up a segment of people who fit this profile and target them with what they are most likely to respond to.

·      Save time by automating repetitive or tedious tasks such as direct mail campaigns or newsletters. Marketing automation takes what would be a one-time manual effort and makes what is known as a “campaign”. A campaign can be set up to repeat over and over, each time with different content or offers based on what your customer responds to. Setting up a campaign in this way saves hours of time every week.

·      Improve relationships between you and your customers. Marketing automation tools allow you to keep track of what customers have done in the past, what they are doing now, what they have purchased, and what else you can offer them. The more personalized your outreach, the better.

·      Let customers do some of the heavy liftings by allowing them to engage with your messaging themselves instead of you initiating contact.

·      Track what is most effective with your messaging, what is not working, and what content to use in the future.

What are some example tools to use for Marketing Automation?

Some of my favorite marketing automation tools include:

Hubspot Marketing

a high-end but very powerful platform that offers features like email integration, lead scoring, lead nurturing, and what is known as a “customer journey” map.

Pardot

Another powerful marketing automation software that offers a “drip campaign” – essentially sending personalized messages over time to customers according to what they do or don’t do.

Marketo

Sophisticated “landing page” management – what you would use to create a special landing page for an offer or promotion using a “static” landing page.

Many marketing automation tools don’t offer “email marketing” but instead “message-based workflows”. These are what you would use to email customers directly from a “stream or an activity stream” in the software.

Benefits of using marketing automation tools

  • Increase in “open rates” and click-through rates.
  • Increased revenue and conversions by sending what is relevant to each customer.
  •     Save time and automate what would otherwise be a tedious, manual task such as direct mail campaigns.

Are there any drawbacks in Marketing Automation?

The biggest drawback of marketing automation tools is called “ROI” or what marketers call “return on investment.” What this means is that it takes some time for what you can do with marketing automation to pay off – sometimes months or even years before the cost is justified by what you get back from it. Keep in mind that many of these tools require  “integration” with what you can use to manage your email marketing. This means that you’ll need to pay for both marketing automation tool and an email marketing service, which can get pretty expensive.

How to get started with Market Automation

The first step to getting what you can, out of marketing automation tools is called an “account signup.” This will give you access to  a “dashboard” or what marketers call the “control panel.” This is where you’ll be able to start creating your content and sending messages, either one at a time or in what is called drip campaigns. Keep in mind that this requires some information about who your customers are – what’s known as their email addresses. You might need a business data license for this process but it varies based on what country you’re in and which company provides your marketing automation tool. You’ll also need a “website” to store what you create for your “landing pages” and “dynamic landing pages.”

While marketing automation saves time, it does require “campaign management” – essentially creating what’s called an “automation campaign.” This will integrate what you create with email marketing services, important if you want to send messages directly from within the software. What this requires varies depending on what country you’re in but generally includes signup with an email provider like Gmail or Windows Live Mail. You’ll also need a “form” that you can add to your website from the “dashboard.”

You’ll find that many of marketers’ automation tools come with a “crash course,” which they use to teach you what you can do with their tools in creating emails and how they work related to creating landing pages and drip campaigns. This usually isn’t found with free marketing automation tools but most companies offer what is called a free trial or what’s known as a 30-day money-back guarantee in case it doesn’t meet your needs.

Common mistakes marketers make when first getting started with Marketing Automation tools

1. What marketers make when first getting started with marketing automation tools is not having a “unique value proposition.” This means that what marketing automation does for you is to attract new customers, keep them happy, and get what they want no matter what their preferences are. This goes back to the fact that marketing automation saves time but takes some time before it becomes cost-effective. It’s also common for marketers to try too many different things at once because there are so many platforms available today compared to even 10 years ago when marketing automation really took off. While this can seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be if you only focus on what works best for your business or what one calls, “a small percentage of what you can do.”

2. The biggest mistake that marketers make when first starting out is  “shiny object syndrome,” or what marketers call “feature-creep on software tools.” This means that what they try to do is get every single feature possible on what they purchase which isn’t cost-effective in the long run. Think about it this way: If what you buy doesn’t help your business save money on hiring new employees or outsourcing work, then what does it matter? Not only that but it’ll take some time to learn what you need to know for even basic tasks and if you’re not learning anything new then there’s no reason for what you’re buying.

3. Finally what marketers often do wrong, in the beginning, is what they call “manual labor” what this means is that marketers don’t realize what it takes to run a successful marketing campaign and what happens when they don’t automate it. This can include what’s known as “data entry,” or manually creating each contact in your email service provider which is hard for most people to keep track of especially if you manage multiple accounts like what you’ll find with Gmail and Twitter. Other examples include “data cleansing,” or removing contacts from your list who either unsubscribed or were otherwise removed from your database for one reason or another; and finally, “data processing, ” what this means is what you do with what’s known as your “autoresponder series.” This includes what you send to people who subscribe or enter into a lead capture form on your website, which can include opt-in offers, newsletters, and what are commonly referred to as “drip campaigns.

 Marketing automation is a powerful tool for marketers. It can allow you to automate repetitive tasks, free up time to focus on higher-level work and increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts by using data from past campaigns to inform future decisions. If you want more information about how it works or would like help putting together an automated strategy for your business, reach out! We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and give advice based on our years of experience in this ever-changing industry.

 

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