As a marketer, the idea of ‘Marketing Automation’ – via a software that is able to automate repetitive tasks of sending emails, newsletters, social messages and campaigns; able to generate and nurture leads at various stages of buyers’ journey; and to ultimately help convert these prospects into loyal customers – is simply an ‘irresistible’ one!
With the arrival of these software or ‘Marketing Automation’ machines just over a decade ago, it has enticed the entire digital marketing world and proved its worth as an effective, scientific tool, which enables you to automate your marketing actions much quicker and achieve business growth at scale.
But along the way, it has also gathered quite a bit of criticism (all due to lack of understanding of its functionality), and I kid you not, it is not a magic bullet – not exactly something you plug into your system and miraculously expect it to reel in leads and customers in droves…
Marketing Automation is here to ‘augment’ your capabilities to better engage, nurture and serve your prospects and customers, and provide a much valued and personalised ‘Customer Experience’- It’s not a stand-alone ‘plug and play’ software (as ‘misconceptualised’ by many earlier), that automates every marketing tasks for you, while you sit back, detach yourself and watch the show.
Copyblogger defines it as: Marketing automation refers to software used by people and companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing workflows by automating repetitive marketing tasks. In other words, it performs certain manual marketing tasks for you. Night and day. Rain or shine.
Today, over 83,000 companies worldwide are using these various platforms offering Marketing Automation; such as: Infusionsoft, Hubspot, Eloqua, iContact, Marketo, IBM Marketing Cloud, Teradata, Pardot, SharpSpring, etc.
What are the BARRIERS to Marketing Automation Success?
Though the popularity for Marketing Automation as a tool is rising amongst the marketers, it does come with some challenges. The challenges are mostly related to integration and data quality; challenges related to poor marketing processes; content creation under reasonable cost; to lack of skilled staffs.
Below is an infographic from R2i, based on the research by Ascend2 after surveying 50,000 professionals, which illustrates the findings on top challenges the professionals faced, when it comes to Marketing Automation:
As it turns out, the most significant barrier to success when using marketing automation tools, is the ‘Lack of an effective Strategy’ (52%). The need for appropriate training for the employees is also 'key' in implementing the tools successfully, as ‘Lack of Employee skills’ stands as a barrier at 32%.
The result from a survey conducted by Ascend2 and Marketo; discovers ‘increase sales revenue’ to be the highest objective for marketers, clocking at 52%, followed by ‘improve lead nurturing’ (43%) and ‘improve customer engagement’ (37%):
Automation in marketing clearly concerns both sides of the relationship – automation for the ‘customer experience’ and ‘buyer’s journey’ for the prospect/customer; and automation for the marketing operations within the organisation, for the busy, repetitive, and manual sales-marketing tasks, so that marketers can free themselves up to focus more on delivering a better experience.
However, as stated above, if you lack the appropriate knowledge and skills to run the process, or are jumping on the ‘automation bandwagon’ without a clear and effective strategy, things can get quite complicated and you will be just drifting along without realising its full potential or generating the targeted ROIs.
Prerequisites for realizing the potential of Marketing Automation1. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
If you’re new to ‘marketing automation’, or you or your team members haven’t got the appropriate skills, then dabbling with the software could be a waste of time, and surely a recipe for disaster.
Thorough knowledge of your chosen marketing automation software, how that fits with your sales process, the integration with your CRM systems and understanding how it all reflects your overall marketing strategy is crucial, before you go ahead and purchase one.
However, you can also get support from professionals in the field, who can guide and train your teams in every step of the process. Hiring a partner or an agency to implement can help assure your goals and speed the process.
Most of the top providers have approved implementation partners who can help you implement the tools. If you’re looking for an all-round solution, you can always go for major platform like Hubspot, as they come with a complete Inbound Marketing Stack inclusive of CRM, Marketing and Sales systems, and can guide and train you in every step of the way.2. BUILD A ROBUST TEAM
To successfully implement and automate a marketing automation system, a team with a minimum of five core roles is needed even for a small and medium sized business. However, depending on the size and the workload, a single person can also juggle more than one of these roles.
A Marketing Automation Expert, CRM Software Admin, Sales Leader, Marketing Leader and a Content Developer are the essential five roles to start with, if you are to start off on a decent footing.
A coordinated workflow within the team members will ensure - the emails, campaigns and lead magnets are created and sent at appropriate stages of the buyer’s journey; smooth running and interplay between CRM and automation software; analysis and translation of user data into effective Sales and Marketing Strategies and creation of variety of content assets to suit various stages of the buyer’s journey.3. MAP YOUR BUYER’S JOURNEY
A buyer’s journey map is the trajectory your ‘user personas’ are likely to take in the process of being your customer.
A good understanding of what these paths look like will help you ascertain appropriate stages in the journey, where you can insert valuable content via automation tools, to provide value and meaningful experience to your prospects - who will then be further nurtured into the deeper end of the Sales funnel, until they become your customers.
The example below shows a buyer’s journey map for a purchasing decision of a doctor visit in case of an illness:
At the Awareness Stage, the buyer acknowledges that he has a problem. Then the buyer defines the problem and looks for options to solve it in the Consideration Stage, and finally in the Decision Stage, the buyer chooses a solution, i.e. makes the purchase decision.4. CONTENT DEVELOPMENT PLAN
Automation is all about triggering the right message, or content at the right time; so that the lead/customer is nurtured and moved along farther. The content varies as per your user personas, and their stages in the buyer’s journey.
As you can see in the illustration above, the content type differs in relation to the user behaviour and stages the buyer is in; in his ‘buyer’s journey’.
Initially at the awareness stage, the automated content comprises of blogs, white paper and lead magnets like eBooks and eguides; as this content encourages the users to move further down the sales funnel by hopefully converting them into leads or subscribers to your blogposts and other content assets.
For the next stage in the buyers journey (consideration stage), you need to build content that provides comparison on products; you could create expert guides, run a webcast/podcast to provide a deeper understanding and offer insights into the choices at hand.
For the final ‘decision stage’, the content to be offered is vendor comparisons, demo or trial offer, social proof and case studies etc. – as the user has already done the required research defined their solution strategy or approach, and is now looking to make the final decision, which can be triggered through such contents that add more gravity and clarity about your USP or your value proposition.
Over To You…
Marketing Automation is all about expanding and nurturing your relationships with your prospects and customers. However, the prerequisite is to build a fertile ground (Teams/Strategy/Knowledge base) for your seeds (Leads) to take root and then only with consistent, timely and appropriate supply of nutrients (content) will it bear the sweet fruits (Customers) you’re after!
If you'd like further assistance or would like to discuss anything covered today, we'd love to hear from you.
Call Andy Fox (me) on (03) 5249 5570 or email email@example.com
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