Every five years or so, we see the emergence and maturity of something really significant in the ever-changing world of marketing. From search marketing to social media, these are business game changers that open new opportunities and avenues to achieve a competitive edge.
Although marketing automation isn't really that new, it's evolution is deserving of far more attention. In essence, marketing automation is software that helps streamline (and automate) a number of important marketing tasks.
For example, these tasks might include the automation of sending email, split testing landing pages, segmenting leads, and upselling to existing customers. The software also helps ensure the right tasks are executed, optimized, and measured over time.
- Saving time and money.
- Measuring and optimizing marketing investments.
- Faster revenue growth.
The ultimate goal with marketing automation is to increase efficiencies and revenue growth. More specifically, companies frequently expect the ability to:
- Send relevant, time-released (drip-campaign) emails to segmented audiences.
- Easily create and test landing pages for multiple campaigns.
- Filter leads and prioritize actions based on levels of content engagement, roles and likelihood to buy.
- Measure revenue attribution from multiple components or touch points within a campaign.
To appreciate the full impact this "next big thing" is bringing, and even before getting to the core elements that make marketing automation valuable – it's helpful to understand the relevant business history leading up to it.
The Missing Platform
In 1990, the Gartner Group coined the acronym, ERP, for Enterprise Resource Planning – which essentially became the umbrella term for big-business software platforms that automated efficiencies in areas of supply chain and vendor management, accounting, human resources and sales, to name a few.
The Internet accelerated these platforms even further, fueling multi-billion dollar businesses like SAP, IBM and Oracle. By 2000, an emerging focus was CRM (customer relationship management) platforms that were web-based, as opposed to software that had to be installed on local servers and computers within a company ("the cloud" is over twenty years old).
But in the last three decades of this development, there's one important business function that's been relatively absent of a platform that could stay current and integrate well with others being developed. That function was marketing.
Why? Because marketing has been the most ever-changing practice there is in business. The fact that marketing has changed so quickly and often is part of what's kept companies constantly seeking solutions from people like us.
And although many of us have done a fair job of positioning ourselves as marketing integrators, our "integration" has often been a labor-intensive cobbling together of tactics under disparate processes, tools and strategies.
Among the growing number of marketing agencies and "experts" who produce such varied results under such varied budgets – it's no wonder why marketing is frequently perceived by business owners as a cost center instead of a profit center.
Marketing automation helps fix this – and although there are many marketing automation platform providers (Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, etc.), the platform as a concept is now also emerging as a popular investment for numerous companies worldwide.
The Elements of Marketing Automation
The 10 primary elements of marketing automation include:
- Email Marketing: Initial and scheduled delivery based on buyer interests, roles, personas and actions.
- Landing Pages and Forms: For each campaign.
- Campaign Management: Includes development or repurposing of content (creative, video, short and long-form.
- Marketing Programs: Associated offers and content to support sales.
- Lead Generation: Associated advertising, social media, word of mouth and search engine visibility to drive participation in the system.
- Lead Nurturing / Lead Scoring/ Lifecycle Management: Includes prioritization of customer types based on fit and likelihood to buy, in addition to the filtering of leads by engagement and interest. Assumes existing customers are always leads, and keeps them in a system that continuously delivers relevant content.
- CRM Integration: Transfer of leads to sales opportunities and follow-up. This includes technical integration of platforms like Salesforce.com.
- Social Marketing Capabilities: Includes integration of social media platforms such as Hootsuite to achieve better tracking and attribution of social to sales.
- Resource management: Includes consultative services.
- Marketing Analytics: Includes measurement of the revenue contribution of each campaign and associated program element.
One of the common misconceptions of marketing automation is that it's strictly for B2B, and is essentially an email system pre-loaded with time-released messages (or even spam). Although it's true B2B companies have predominantly taken advantage of marketing automation, the success of it has B2C companies following their lead.
This is sophisticated marketing. No matter how easy the platform providers tell you it is, all you have to do is talk to a few companies who have made the investment to realize they aren't using the tools to their potential. That spells opportunity for those willing to invest in, and learn how these platforms work.
Note: As always, the magic is never in any tool or platform. The content and execution is what will ultimately drive the success.
The opportunities are numerous. For any successful organization that relies on the Internet for leads and sales, marketing automation stands to increase efficiencies and revenues. And for successful marketers, this is yet another thing you should be paying attention to.