The term “marketing automation" may make you a bit nervous.
I mean, just that term -- marketing automation -- it sounds so cold, so mechanical, so impersonal. Are the robots taking over? Is Arnold Schwarzenegger going to be knocking on my front door informing me that all of the human marketing positions have been terminated and replaced by armies of marketing automatons?
Good news on the robot marketing apocalypse front: It’s not gonna happen. Marketing automation, as it turns out, isn’t about letting some type of artificial intelligence take over your marketing for you. In reality, it’s you, the human -- not the technology -- who provides the actual intelligence.
While anyone can push a button and fire off a thousand emails, the marketers who find the most success with marketing automation are those who understand their audience and who tailor messaging and content to meet the needs and expectations of specific audience segments.
To help you get off to the best start possible, we’ve also pulled together some tips from real, live, human marketers, all of whom use marketing automation successfully as part of their overall inbound marketing strategies.
Getting Started With Marketing Automation: 10 Tips to Use It Like a Human
1) Build (Don't Buy) an Amazing List
Your campaigns are only as good as your list. Don't buy lists -- generate your own list of qualified leads and constantly replenish it to combat database decay.
When you first sit down to think about all the possible ways you could potentially segment your nurturing campaigns, it's easy to come up with a long list of possible dimensions. If you're just getting started, it's best to keep it simple to start. Identify a few important stages in your funnel, and 1-2 personas. Over time, as you see what is and isn't working, you can experiment with adding additional stages or persona segments. If you start with too much structure from the start, you may be investing your time in the wrong places.
3) Keep Your Eye on the Prize: Nurturing Relationships
Don't lose sight of the main objective of marketing automation -- to initiate and maintain a valuable relationship with your audience that will ultimately increase the quantity and quality of leads for your sales team. Deliver high value content to your audience; collaborate with Sales to identify and define lead stages, conversion criteria and hand-off SLAs; and integrate marketing and automation systems for a closed-loop system.
Marketing automation started with email, but your customers are interacting with your company across all sorts of channels. Find a marketing automation system and develop a strategy that serves up relevant content across all the channels your customers use, from email to the website to more informed, relevant sales calls. Oh and by the way ... have I introduced you to my friend Workflows?
- Meghan Keaney Anderson (Product Marketing Director, HubSpot)
5) Coordinate With Your Sales Team
One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make when using automation is not communicating their efforts to their sales teams. This lack of coordination often results in your prospects and leads getting nurtured by both your marketing team and your sales team at the same time -- leaving them unhappy and overwhelmed with many emails and phone calls from different folks asking them to take different actions.
Decide when is the appropriate time to hand off the nurturing to the sales team, and when is the appropriate time for Sales to hand the nurturing back to Marketing. Whatever you decide, just remember that you and your sales reps are both representing your company, and make sure your communication to your leads and prospects represents that.
- Sarah Goliger (Head of Paid Marketing, HubSpot)
6) Don't Forget the Human Touch
Marketing automation at its best is really an extension of the human touch. It's pure service at its core: anticipating the needs of your audience during their journey and then providing the right information at the right time in the right context.
The best way to get started is to focus on one journey. You can pick something as simple as registering for a webinar and map out all of the possible decisions someone could make, as well as your ideal responses. Imagine how you would respond if you were trying to help a friend through the process. Once you map it out, you can scale it, which is where the magic happens. Instead of just being able to hand-hold a few people with your personal touch, with automation you can help thousands or tens of thousands.
- Seth Price (Director of Sales & Marketing, Placester)
7) Use Automation to Move People Down the Funnel
Think about your persona, where in the buyer's journey they are at the beginning of automation, and where you want them to be at the end. Maybe you want them to go from being aware of inbound marketing to being aware of inbound marketing software solutions. Not all automation will be a beginning-to-end solution: Use automation to methodically move someone further down the funnel, and realize that multiple workflows will be needed to accomplish your ultimate goal of nurturing a lead into a customer.
- Niti Shah (Head of Email Marketing, HubSpot)
8) Organize Your Segmentation
The single most important part of planning marketing automation is the segmentation. Sending people the right content at the right time is essential. For me, it helps to use a pen and paper to organize the path that leads will take down the funnel.*
Momentum will take time, but once you get the ball rolling, the dividends are high. By continually creating quality content that appeals to the different segments of your audience, you can ensure that your marketing automation strategy will deliver.
Marketing automation isn't just about sending people email -- it's also about how you interact with your audience on your website. Showing different content to different segments of your audience on your website will help cater your site to their unique interests, and help them take the right next step in their buyers' journey. Make sure whatever marketing automation platform you choose gives you the ability not just to send email, but to make your website content smarter.
- Diana Urban (Head of Conversion Marketing, HubSpot)
Have any tips for getting started with marketing automation that you'd like to share? Add them to the comments section below!
Originally published May 6, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017