Marketing Automation Explained

Posted: July 26, 2012

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, it’s advantageous to manage your customers and prospects in one of the many customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This obviously allows you to match your customers with sales transactions, but more importantly for marketers it allows you the option of layering on a marketing automation system that can deliver targeted messages at the right time without continuous management by additional personnel.

If you’re like many companies, you employ a marketing individual or team to collect your contacts information and execute campaigns in somewhat of a batch and blast situation. You may even be sophisticated enough to break down your list by sales group, product, region, or industry. What you probably don’t do is automatically trigger your selective content to send out when a customer is on your website, when a prospect has downloaded your sales whitepaper, or when the system has identified a customer within their annual buying period.

Marketing automation, what is it?

Marketing automation combines technology, typically hosted, with business processes that score leads based on fixed criteria like title and size of company, as well as dynamic criteria, such as which web pages the person viewed, whether the individual attended a webinar or clicked through to an offer. Ultimately this information allows the marketer to better target messages and promotions to individuals based on their stated and implied interests. That process is generally called “lead nurturing,” which is a popular buzzword in the industry. – Joe Chernov, Eloqua (in an interview with Venturebeat.com)

3 reasons you need marketing automation:

  1. You can “set it and forget it”. Once you do the work up front to create your content and your set of rules, your program will run with little oversight. Your programs will also be able to run outside of your companies work hours. With the expansion of mobile devices and tablets many people continue to work after they get home or into late hours. Turn your marketing into a 24/7 sales generating machine.
  2. You can scale your processes. It’s very demanding to send a personalized “Thank you” note to every one of your customers on the same day they make a sale. This business requirement would require monitoring, notification, editing, proofing, and executing for every item. Automate processes like these and scale the number of touch points, leads generated, and sales routed.
  3. You can eliminate human errors. How many of you have seen those “sorry, our mistake” emails from well-intended marketing teams who mixed up their data or their content? Probably everyone. This type of thing happens all the time because human touches are heavily involved. Errors and mistakes can be eliminated, or at least mitigated, by creating a rigid step-by-step program or process. Do the work up front to build, test, and approve then let the computer do the thinking.

10 best practices that utilize marketing automation:

  1. Contact Registration – Capture your customer or prospect’s information at every chance you get. Offer them something of value in exchange. Can you solve a quick problem of theirs with a whitepaper demonstrating your expertise?
  2. Welcome Email – Trigger and email that expresses gratitude that your customer or prospect has taken the time to interact with your brand. This is a great opportunity to provide additional resources or guide them to your call-to-action. Also, this eliminates the confusion when they get an email from you later and ask “Why am I receiving this?”
  3. Identify Customer Intent – Some marketing automation solutions can integrate with analytics tools so you can see exactly what content they care about. It sounds a bit Big Brother, but your sales team would love to know if one of their top customers just browsed the new product page and downloaded the demo video. Great way to identify a potential easy cross-sell.
  4. Lead Scoring – Not all prospects or customers are the same so they certainly shouldn’t be treated the same. Identify your triggers for contacts with the highest propensity to buy and jump on them first. You only have a limited number of resources in a day so prioritize accordingly. Segment customers by title, location, sales history, advertising referral source, website content browsed, or any other data point that is important to you.
  5. Assign to Sales Representative – Automatically notify one of your sales reps to take action and update your CRM reflecting it. Build rules that remind them via email or text message after a certain number of days of no activity. Create a backup rule in case a sales rep is on vacation or out of the office. A list of 1,000 leads in Excel handed over to a sales team seems like a “job well done” from a marketing perspective, but is overwhelming if you’re the one making the calls. Instead, trickle the leads automatically as they come in. Much more manageable.
  6. Nurture Email – You’re spending all this time and money to get valuable information into your system. Make sure you don’t forget to continuously communicate with them on a regular basis. Send a newsletter, product updates, and thought leadership material on a schedule that your customers feel is appropriate. Measure how effective you are with engagement metrics such as open rate, click thru rate, and additional actions on your website.
  7. Engaged / Unengaged Survey – Segment your audience by how engaged they are with your website, content, and emails. Similar to lead scoring except you’re looking at their actions, not their demographics or company information. Take the time to craft a short survey and get a feel for how you’re doing. Ask them “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?” and begin measuring your Net Promoter Score.
  8. Upcoming Renewal Date Email – If you’re a B2B company, you’ll sometimes have annual renewals or a period of time when your customer is evaluating their options. Use this date field as a trigger to get out and front of their questions and concerns. Emphasis your additional value and why they went with you in the first place. This is also a great trigger to ping sales reps or customer relationships managers. You have a mass communication solution, might as well use it for internal messages as well.
  9. SMS Communication – There has been a boom of success stories relating to SMS marketing campaigns. It’s a very personal medium that consumers tend to guard unless they initiate the opt-in. Once you get that opt-in permission however,  you’ll get their full attention as 98% of all SMS are read. This is a great way to get timely and promotional messages directly into your customers hands. Use your marketing automation system to trigger alerts when they’ve reached a certain threshold or when their eligible for a special deal.
  10. Social Media – Not really in the same bucket of a usual marketing automation solutions, but I still put it in the same category because some of it can be automated. Utilize tools such as TwitterFeed.com or Ifttt.comto automatically tweet or share your latest blog post. Although I like to screen who I follow, you can automate following someone that follows you or unfollowing someone that unfollows you on Twitter. Again, I like to make my responses personal but if you don’t have time for it you can automatically thank a person that mentions you.

Have you looked into how marketing automation can help you?

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