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    November 2, 2011 // 12:00 PM

    A Guide to Marketing Automation

    Written by Meghan Keaney Anderson | @

    gearsMarketing automation tends to be one of those amorphous terms that gets reshaped with every re-telling. One reason the definition is so elusive is that there has been a tendency to inflate marketing automation to a conceptual level rather than focusing simply on the set of tools that comprise it. Hopefully, this post will help get rid of a few layers of fog.

    What Is Marketing Automation?

    At its most basic level, marketing automation is any technology that helps companies easily segment leads and scale personalized communications. Marketing automation typically works in connection with CRM systems like Salesforce and, when most effective, it is integrated with a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy. Let's take a look at the two parts of the technology.

    Segmenting Leads

    Marketing automation tools help marketers segment through lead scoring. Working in conjunction with a CRM system, marketing automation tools enable you to assign a value system to your leads. Lead scoring helps your sales team determine which leads are most likely to buy. For example, a B2B company would likely weigh a vice president-level lead more heavily than a coordinator-level lead because the vice president is more likely to be in a position to make budgetary decisions. Or perhaps history has shown that people who look at your pricing page are more likely to convert than leads who do not. A marketing automation tool would automatically allocate a score to these leads so you know who is more likely to buy.

    Scaling Personalized Communications

    Marketing automation tools also enable you to trigger communications based on actions taken by your leads. For example, say a lead downloads a whitepaper on a specific topic or product. Marketing automation would then trigger an email or series of communications that reflect that action. By triggering communications based on the behavior of your website visitors or leads, marketing automation can enable you to send information that is much more relevant and tailored to each leads' interests and experiences.

    How Can Marketing Automation Help my Inbound Marketing Strategy?

    Inbound marketing starts with creating valuable and search-friendly content that will attract leads to your company, but your job as an inbound marketer isn't done until those leads have successfully navigated their decision process and become happy, loyal customers. Marketing automation tools can help you guide your potential customers through the decision-making process with targeted communications that address their specific needs and timeline. 

    What's the Downside of Marketing Automation?

    Marketing automation has a tremendous amount of potential as a way to scale personal attention, but you also have to be careful with it. Any time you are relying on technology to scale communications, you need to be certain that (1) those communications do in fact reflect the interests of your leads, and (2) they are genuinely helpful and not just spam in sheep's clothing. We'll get into these more in a future post, but there are also a few technical limitations that have held many marketing automation tools back -- making them an imprecise technology. HubSpot's version of marketing automation attempts to break through these limitations and provide a more accurate form of segmentation and personalized communications.

    However, at the end of the day, it comes down to the marketers. Marketers have to know how and when to leverage marketing automation tools as part of their inbound strategies. Stay tuned this month as HubSpot will be taking a look at some of the other key questions behind marketing automation.

    Image Credit: Ralph Bijker

    marketing-automation-ebook

    Topics: Marketing Automation

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