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November 7, 2013 // 10:00 AM

What is Marketing Automation? A Beginner's Guide

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marketing-automationWouldn’t it be nice to just sit back one day and have your marketing be done for you? We’ve all had those days where we have back-to-back meetings from 9 until 5, yet still have a huge to do list (like sending out a bunch of emails to our prospects and getting new blog posts up), and we know there is just no way that we can ever get it all done.

You know the days I’m talking about, right? They’re stressful, they’re exhausting and they can really start to burn you out if you have too many of them.

Luckily, there’s a solution. A solution that can not only do a little of the work for us, but can make our marketing process more efficient, without feeling like it’s coming from some robot out in cyberland.

The solution? Marketing automation.

Download our complete guide to marketing automation here to learn how to master marketing automation.

What Is Marketing Automation?

In a nutshell, marketing automation refers to software that automates your marketing for you. The software is designed to help you prioritize and execute your marketing tasks in a more streamlined and efficient way. But what does that mean for you as a marketer?

Unlike automating manufacturing processes, implementing a marketing automation system won’t make your job irrelevant, it will just make you more effective. It will free up some of your time, while not compromising the authenticity of the content you’re producing. And it will help you reach your goals faster.

The ultimate goal with your marketing is to generate more revenue for your company. To accomplish this, we need to drive traffic to our website, convert that traffic into leads and close those leads into customers. Where marketing automation really makes an impact is the conversion and closure stages of this process.

How to use Marketing Automation

Thousands of marketers today rely on email marketing to generate results. They send blast email after blast email to their entire list of prospects and customers, hoping the message resonates with some of them and gets them to purchase. But does it work? Hard to tell.

Perhaps it works for you sometimes, but the reality of the situation is this:

  1. You’re wasting your valuable time and money marketing to someone who may not be interested in what you’re sharing
  2. you could be burning your list (i.e. annoying your contacts and causing them to jump ship leaving you with no opportunity to market to them in the future)

From my standpoint, that doesn’t sound like an effective marketing program. Or at least not one that I want to use. This is why we leverage a marketing automation system. Marketing automation allows you to nurture your leads through the entire buying process, delivering highly-targeted, personalized messages that address their specific barriers to purchase.

As an example, here is what a basic automated email workflow could look like:

Step 1: You send an email invitation to download your latest ebook to a targeted list of contacts

Step 2: You send a thank you note to all the people that downloaded the offer

Step 3: A few days later, you send a follow up email to the list of people who downloaded the ebook, offering them a case study relating to that topic

Step 4: Finally, when someone downloads that case study, your sales team will get a notification so they can follow up with them (this person is now much more qualified and is likely farther down the buying process)

Now, put yourself in your prospect’s shoes for a moment. If this was you, receiving information from a company about their products / services, wouldn’t you prefer to get emails like the ones above over blasts you can tell they’re sending to thousands of other people? It feels personalized. It feels tailored to you and how you are interacting with that company. It makes you much more likely to trust that company. And ultimately, more likely to buy, doesn’t it?

There you go! Driving revenue for your company with an automated system.

This is the foundation of marketing automation. To provide you, as a marketer, with the ability to target your contacts and send them content that is based on their behavior. You’re giving them the information they need when they want it. You’re easing their buying decision. And as a result, your conversion rates (and revenue) will increase.

The Dos and Don’ts of Marketing Automation

Now that we’ve detailed out what marketing automation is, we want to give you a few tips as you think about implementing a new platform into your process. This will outline what you should and should not be doing with your marketing automation.

Don’t just automate your current process without revisiting your goals

Because marketing automation can make our lives easier as marketers, for many of us, the first step when integrating this into our strategy is to just automate everything we already do. While this very well might be the right way to go, take a moment to revisit your goals before you get started.

The point here is that we don’t want to let marketing automation lead us to execute strategies that we know don’t make sense for our customers or prospects. We don’t want to slide back into our bad habits and stop listening to what our customers need or are asking us for.

DO integrate marketing automation with you inbound marketing strategy

Inbound is about providing valuable content that aligns with your customers needs and interests. This should not change if you start using marketing automation. In fact, it should enhance the communication, as you can provide the content they need at the exact time that they need it.

DON'T just blast or broadcast general messages

With marketing automation, there is no need to send a general, broad message to your entire contact list that will end up getting deleted or marked as spam because it’s not relevant.

DO send highly-targeted and specific content to a narrowed audience

Provide the content that people are looking for. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a moment. Say that you’ve engaged with a company; maybe you’ve downloaded a piece of their content and really loved what you read. The next email you get is for a completely different topic that has nothing to do with what you just read. Wouldn’t it be more impactful if you received an email that continued to dive further into the topic that you are interested in? You’d be much more likely to buy from that company since they’re answering your questions, wouldn’t you? With marketing automation, you can do exactly this.

DON'T forget about your customers

Selling new business and closing contracts is hard work. So many companies are focused on generating new revenue, that they forget about their current customers: The group of people that already have an affinity for what they are selling, and most likely want to buy more.

DO set up customer engagement campaigns to keep your current customers happy and coming back for more

I don’t want to make it all about money here, but one thing is true: it’s much easier to sell to someone that has purchased from you before. Keeping your customers engaged with content marketing is an essential piece of growing your company. Nurture those relationships by sending segmented, customer-only content, that will educate and encourage them to continue to come back to your company for thought leadership and expertise.

Let’s bring it all together

Okay, so now that we’ve got the basics nailed down, let’s bring it all back together. Marketing automation is all about nurturing not selling. We avoid the hard-sell approach in favor of content that is personalized, relevant and aligns with what our customers and prospects are looking for. And what’s even better, by implementing a marketing automation software, this process gets a whole lot easier. We are able to quickly map the entire process back to our marketing goals.

Remember the attract, convert, close stages that we talked about earlier? We mentioned that marketing automation plays a key role in the convert and close stages, but what about the attract phase? We won’t dig into the details here (we’ll save that for another post), but marketing automation plays well into a larger inbound marketing strategy.

As an inbound marketer, it is one of my goals to generate high-quality leads for my sales team to successfully close into customers. Marketing automation has helped me streamline my own process and gives me greater visibility into what my visitors and leads are actually doing. I can quickly find what content they’re downloading, how they are responding to my emails, and how they are moving through the sales funnel. Each step of the way, I can monitor and measure how the marketing automation system I have in place is performing, and shows me where I might need to make tweaks to get better results.

Ultimately, and I feel like many of us will agree, we want to see our companies succeed. And for me, by leveraging marketing automation in the last year, I have seen incredible results. I encourage you to explore your options and find a platform that gives you flexibility, and a proven track record to help you reach your marketing goals.

Alyssa Rimmer is the Director of Marketing at New Breed Marketing, an inbound marketing agency and HubSpot partner. Alyssa is an inbound enthusiast who lives in New York City and enjoys cooking in her free time. You can read more articles by Alyssa and her team over at the New Breed Blog or download New Breed Marketing's ultimate guide to inbound marketing here.

free marketing automation ebook

Topics: Lead Nurturing Marketing Automation Lead Generation

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