Recently someone asked me what makes a good marketer. I thought for a while and replied, “A good marketer is someone who can efficiently use every channel and back it up by measuring the channel’s effectiveness.”
I have been handling B2B marketing for a long time now, long enough to witness the evolution of Marketing Automation from just Email Automation to automation of the entire process right from lead captures to nurturing, tracking, qualification, & analysis — with the more recent infusion of AI technologies like deep learning, predictive analytics and sentiment analysis driving marketing efforts.
What Is Marketing Automation?
Marketing is the way a company communicates the value of its products and services with the world. The communication can happen through multiple ways and multiple channels. Like in every other field, marketing too has some tasks that are repetitive, manual and error-prone. These tasks that occur on a regular basis can be stsereamlined & automated to reduce time and errors, and this process is defined as Marketing Automation.
Evolution of Automation in Marketing
During 1990, a computer scientist named Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web. It was soon followed by internet service providers and free web-based emails like Hotmail. This was the just the beginning of the endless possibilities of digital use in marketing. Before the advent of internet, marketing was restricted to magazines, TVs, radios, billboards, flyers etc.
With the emergence of search engines like Yahoo and Google, the battle of search result optimization began, and that’s when SEO was introduced. Smartphones arrived soon after, and internet became ubiquitous. There was now a lot simpler way of getting the messaging across to millions of people at a time, with a caveat that it also led to the rise of spam content.
With internet and its numerous channels to reach a wide audience, it became hard to keep track of the messaging, sources, lead information, reporting and ROI calculation. Thus, came about the evolution of automation in marketing.
The basic intent of automation was to create customer experience amazing enough to turn them into brand ambassadors, helping the business flourish. Marketing execution since then has evolved from using stand-alone tools to integrated automation platforms, involving even the cloud. The new generation marketing technology platform integrates all these features along with utilization of AI and machine learning in terms of chat-bots, predictive analytics etc.
What The Tools Do
Gartner Research has predicted that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationships without talking to a human. Customers expect a seamless experience, and that’s where the brands introduce themselves and provide them all the knowledge through AI and automation, delivering messages that are personalized enough to understand their needs and cater to them at the right time. MA tools make all of that happen. The automation tools are all about optimization. They optimize all the company’s processes such as marketing, sales and services with bots, triggers, personalizations and integrations.
Marketing is not just about getting customers on-board but also retaining them and thus it’s imperative that a tool comes with CRM integration. The role of marketing has changed from just operating at the base of the purchase funnel involving just lead generation, to maintaining communication throughout the funnel. Here are a few things that MA tools can do while combining both Marketing and Sales into a single revenue generating function.
- Web content management
- Conversational bots that help in lead acquisition
- Lead source tracking
- Measure lead quality & ROI
- Optimal use of marketing channels
- Lead nurturing through messaging triggers at each stage
- A/B testing
- Account-based Marketing
- Improve the process of handing over leads to sales
- Content strategy & campaign execution
- Analytics that drive business decisions
- Lead scoring
- CRM database
- Alerts that let you know when to follow up and how
- Automatic & scheduling follow-ups
- Easy quotation & document signing
- Tracking revenues
- Reporting & analytics
What Skills Are Needed
Finding someone with sound knowledge of the below skills is becoming increasingly difficult making the profile of a marketing automation and analytics expert a very sought after one. Especially for a growing company to find someone who can bring about a digital transformation is like finding gold in a haystack. Trust me, it is that difficult. Here are the skills that may be needed if you’re looking for someone:
- Analytics & data-driven insights
- Mobile Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Marketing automation process and workflows
- Lead Generation
- Content management systems
- Digital advertising
- Content and Social Media Marketing
- Project management
- Finally, the most important skill of bringing together important teams, team members and processes under one roof.
MA Tools In The Market
When I wanted to research on a Marketing Automation tool, I did extensive research on most of the ones that are listed in the below chart. Hubspot, Marketo, Infusionsoft, Lead Squared and Ontraport are some of the good ones. We finally went with Hubspot, although it is pricier than most of them only because of the support and and the ease while getting onboarded.
Market share analysis by Datanyze
How To Get Started With Marketing Automation
Once you have selected your platform for automation, make sure the provider gives you a good implementation and training support. You could also go with partners who can provide the service. This allows your company to save time and human resources — this is particularly ideal for companies with fewer employees and smaller marketing teams.
The first thing you will need to do is connect your corporate website to the MA tool. This is usually done by placing a script from the tool onto your site. It allows the automation tool to start tracking all the users that land on the site, where they come from, and send you notifications if they sign up.
2. Form Creation
In case you do not have forms on the website, then you get to easily create them on the MA tool and add the scripts to your site through a web developer’s help. You can also create good pop up forms that can really push your inbound marketing strategy. If you have the forms already in place, I advise you to go with the forms provided by these tools. They are quite powerful and allow you to customize when needed, without a developer’s support.
3. Website Customization
Powerful MA tools such as HubSpot provide features like creating and editing new web pages and URLs without the need to log in to your actual WordPress or Drupal CMS. In my opinion, this is a killer feature and something that a marketer would enjoy. After all,usua who would not want to easily create URLs and pages that help in SEO, making your site rank higher and generate more business.
4. Conversational Bots
Get a tool that allows you to install a chatbot on your website. I personally love the bot feature; it helps those customers who are looking for an immediate resolution and understands their need so your sales team can get a competitive advantage. Prior to moving to HubSpot, drift was my go-to chat bot. But with HubSpot, it gives me an all-in-one tool. Which means it comes integrated with a chatbot. Using this integration ensured that all my leads are captured on a single tool.
5, Add all your email contacts
Pre-existing emails can be imported via excel or copy pasted. Set up workflows for every source of email id generation, like your ad forms, your website forms etc. All these email IDs flow into your contact list and can be easily filtered based on different tags like country, company name, company size, source etc. This let’s easy assigning of leads to sales and personalizing the follow up messaging.
6. Create Ads
Usually, most MA tools allow you to create posts and ads on almost all channels like google ads & Social media accounts. All you would have to do is integrate these accounts to the tool. Once you have automated the ad process you can set triggers for the leads that flow in through these ads.
7. Create Workflows
Now that you have your website integration, your forms, your contacts in place, next step is to create a personalized workflow for each customer. Create a journey based on different triggers like newsletter subscription, form signup, lead nurturing, event workflows etc. It takes time to build the content for the emails but once done it just saves that much more time and effort and yields great results by ensuring an effective buyer journey.
8. UTM Tracking
UTM tracking is a relatively new feature in analytics. It is almost never utilized to its potential. Every effective marketer knows how to convert marketing from a cost-center to a revenue generator. And to ensure this, one must be able to measure and track all the campaigns. Hello! UTM tracking. This little feature is so powerful, it allows you to create a unique tracking code based on your campaign, content, source, medium etc.
Suppose you want to do a guest post, create a unique link and add it to the site and this feature allows you to identify just how many have landed on your website through this post, and best yet, how many converted and WHO actually converted. Isn’t that an amazing information if you’re planning a marketing strategy?
9. Use the Analytics
Although Google Analytics gives a comprehensive report on all the traffic and just about everything related to your website, MA tools such as HubSpot give you easier to read data that is concentrated on helping you drive more leads and traffic.
Overall, a Marketing Automation tool is just a platform. The way you utilize it solely depends on your end goal. Do you want to just use it because you can, or do you want to use it as a revenue generator?
Future Of Marketing Automation
Delivering marketing campaigns in real-time
Creating new interactive experiences and engagement of all our senses using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will be a norm. The market size for AR VR technologies is predicted to grow to $209 billion by 2022. Marketers will have to gradually learn new approaches to data research to understand this need of the customers.
Use of geolocation and IoT in mobile marketing
Imagine you are a customer planning to buy a laptop. If one were to design an effective marketing campaign, it would use your mobile GPS and tracking to give you the best offers and recommendations on different laptops as you approach them or even while approaching a competitor. You know the buying intent is there and such micro-targeted marketing efforts can be the right switch to power your revenue.
Using big data to identify future trends
Understanding customer sentiments, consumer psychology and business trends can yield some very good insights that can allow marketers to personalize customer experience, budget allocations, effective pricing and value-based marketing.
Innovation from ML and AI companies
There will be a big boom of AI and ML companies that will provide targeted solutions to each function including Marketing and Sales. Currently, marketers spend at least one day in a week trying to make sense of and improve data processes. AI is supposed to boost profitability by 38% and generate $14 trillion of additional revenue by 2035. No doubt that marketing will be one of the most impacted functions.
Marketing Automation is continuously blurring the lines between sales and marketing. Their focus on integrations give the whole organization transparency over lead and customer data which places the company in a much better position to make effective decisions.