We lead hectic lives, and often our day-to-day operations can be overwhelming. Remembering to send that internal email to the team or follow up with a lead sometimes doesn't happen. But if these tasks aren't executed at the right time and to the right people, they can be harmful to our businesses.

In the past, marketing automation has mostly referred to software actions that send information at a certain time and date to our contacts.

But 2017 is a brand new world for automation. Now, automation isn't just for marketing but also sales and internal task notifications. It feels like I just got my life back.

Automation has become an industry buzzword and a staple for many marketing and sales professionals. In the past, we discussed automation in reference to marketing actions, such as follow-up emails. Now, automation has jumped the barrier into the sales world. Businesses use automation to accomplish specific goals. This is a huge benefit to every marketer and sales professional because it allows for collaboration in all aspects

What is Marketing and Sales Automation?

Automation refers to the software that exists to help you automate your marketing and sales actions. Many businesses automate repetitive tasks, such as email follow-up, social media, and other website actions in order to nurture contacts through their lifecycle.

We also use automation to assist with deal creation and internal notifications.

In the HubSpot software, we call this automation process “workflows.” Workflows are a set of actions that automatically execute in the software based on a starting condition and rules set by you, the user.

But why are workflows important to your business? Are they just a time saver? Or are they something more?

In an article written by Kent C. Dodds titled, “An Argument for Automation,” he states, “Once you’ve finished automating your workflow, you can share the automation you’ve developed with others. This is one area where the math can totally blow up in favor of automation. If your automation is used by 100 other people, that’s 100x the time saved. It’s a no brainer.”

Wow. Remember at the beginning, when we talked about our hectic lives? That's a lot of time we just got back by using automation.

You may be thinking, “But don’t I need lots of content for workflows to work? I just started with inbound, and I don’t have this content library built up yet.” You don’t need a lot of content to start using workflows. You can use them for just about anything. You can even begin with operational workflows that support internal communication and transparency.

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Automation as a Tool

Automation software is a powerful tool, but all that power and flexibility can sometimes translate into complexity and less focus in your inbound efforts. To avoid this lack of focus, it’s crucial to understand how your leads are making their way through your workflows and set goals to help you get them there.

As inbound professionals, we know the truth: Our contacts aren't going through our lead nurturing campaigns in isolation. Successful automation relies on triggering relevant and timely actions based on context. This is what makes inbound special — the idea that how our contacts interact with our content matters.

In other words, our contacts aren’t just reading the emails we send them; they're also reading our blogs posts, visiting our website, and engaging with us on social media.

To make sure your workflows are working for your contacts, they must be closely aligned with your lead nurturing strategy.

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The above is an example of a HubSpot workflow.

Workflows allow you to use the data you have on your contacts' behavior to create personalized, relevant marketing with context. For example, the information you collect on a form submission or in your emails is perfect information to create personalized marketing with.

Workflows help you execute multiple actions at desired intervals throughout a contact’s lifecycle. You can also use branching logic to set specific actions based on how a contact has interacted with your content or website.

Not only are workflows powerful enough to automate your lead nurturing, they can help automate the work you do every day. Some examples of this might be notifying a sales rep when a contact submits a free trial form, or automatically setting an internal contact property, such as trial start date.

Inbound Automation

But workflows don’t do all the heavy lifting for you. Many businesses still use this tool as glorified email distribution, but the most successful inbound companies use their automation systems for a variety of different goals. This means doing the hard work outside of your automation and defining what your business’ lead nurturing and automation goals are. Just like anything in your inbound strategy, you need to set goals that define what you wish to accomplish with these tasks.

Like most things in life, communication is key with automation, and both the marketing and sales teams should understand the value of and the actions inside your workflows.

Understanding how automation works and the advantages it can bring to your business can help put you on the path to inbound success. 

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Originally published May 25, 2017 10:00:00 AM, updated February 15 2018