Not really. I love it when people freak out about this. “It’s SkyNet! We’re all going to die!” Just remember that it is, indeed, a person’s job to make that robot (or in this case, automated process). We just need to shift our expectations about what these new jobs are going to be as new technology emerges and evolves. Robots certainly will take all of our jobs if we just stand still and watch them. But, if we’re smart, we’ll figure out ways to get on board and keep ourselves ahead (or on par) of emerging technology trends. I mean, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are both afraid of a hostile robot takeover, but just remember: that stupid security robot drowned last week.
One of the ways that the evil robot overlords are trying to take jobs from marketers is through Marketing Automation… not really. Marketing Automation is an awesome tool that all marketers should be using in their own ways, but I find that so many people don’t really have a solid handle on it. I’ve tried to break it down in its simplest form and give a little 101 for those who still aren’t sure. As you read this, know that it can get much more sophisticated, but hopefully this will lay the groundwork for those who need an intro.
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing Automation is way more than just a lead generation tool. It is a strategy that helps you streamline your marketing efforts, drive revenue growth, target your communications, and better measure impact. It can also be really annoying for a consumer if you do it wrong.
It’s pretty common knowledge that audiences engage more with messages that are targeted toward their interests and behaviors (see more about personas, ya’ll). Yet so many organizations seem to forget that and resort to blasting mass emails out to their entire list, trying to rack up the number of the always-important “touch point” or “impression.” The more messages you send that are not relevant to your customers, the less they pay attention to your brand as a whole. Thus, the less they read those specific messages that might actually resonate with their interests. By the way, those are the ones you want them to read most.
The key is segmenting your customers and targeting content that aligns with each segment’s interests. It’s all about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. It sounds simple, but few organizations take the time or have the expertise to truly pull it off with impact.
The more messages you send that are not relevant to your customers, the less they pay attention to your brand as a whole. -Me (I said that)
What Marketing Automation Looks Like
Marketing Automation is an extremely versatile tool that can be leveraged to serve any industry in a variety of ways. From driving donations and membership in the non-profit sector to delivering an educational content marketing strategy to insurance subscribers, Marketing Automation is a flexible platform that supports your marketing goals with a tactical, targeted approach.
As you might have guessed, Marketing Automation is largely based on email campaigns and websites, but ideally includes multiple other tactics (landing pages, web banners, social media, etc.) depending on the behavior of your target audiences and needs of the campaign. Additionally, it relies heavily on analytics and data to measure impact and drive systematic changes to increase effectiveness. This is one of the biggest benefits of digital communications on the whole, and a big focus of Marketing Automation.
The Benefits of Marketing Automation
What can you get out of using it? Your organization can:
- Generate and qualify new leads
- Nurture existing relationships
- Capture behaviors indicating what key audiences care most about
- Engage customers at a key moment of influence
- Drive sales, adoption or donations
- Reconnect with less engaged customers
- Increase measurement of overall marketing strategy and impact
- And lots of other stuff
What Marketing Automation Can Tell You
Email, as with most digital channels, is a great way to get hard-and-fast metrics. Although critical to an integrated marketing strategy, other channels like direct mail, earned media, and advertising make it more difficult to know exactly who is interacting with your message and how. With email and Marketing Automation you can not only see who and how, but you can track an individual’s or group’s engagement with your brand over time. Whether you are generating new leads or simply nurturing your relationships, these metrics can help you be more effective throughout your engagement with a potential lead or help you know the right things to say to your customer base.
Not only can you get your standard email metrics (deliverability, open rates, click-through rates, opt-out rates, etc.), but Marketing Automation helps your learn so much more about the behaviors of your audience. Also, with proper tracking and applied analytics, you can very concretely determine your program ROI.
You can create a more predictable revenue cycle by ensuring you use customer-preferred tactics and channels which result in higher conversions, and strongly support relationship nurturing which accelerates the sales process. Additionally, for future campaigns, you should have a much better idea of what will resonate with your target audiences. With this powerful information, you can more accurately calculate potential ROI to make your business case, or make revenue and profit projections.
Examples of How To Start with Marketing Automation
As I said before, Marketing Automation can be used in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes. It’s a highly sophisticated strategy, but don’t fear! If you are just getting started with it, Below are a few examples of how you could use it with your organization:
- Try a new customer welcome series – You may have a new customer sign up for a service or a membership, and you need a way to deliver critical information about their new status. Ditch the paper-based welcome folder stuffed with brochures, and set up an automated welcome series with convenient links to the information your customers need. You not only deliver relevant information at the most opportune time, but you save tons on printing costs.
- Support your content marketing strategy – You have content and you need a way to get it out to your audience. Marketing Automation is a great tool to deliver key pieces of content to your customer base and to target to your most relevant segments.
- Get the word out for event campaigns – If you are hosting a fund-raising event or an online webinar, you can use an automated campaign to drive sign-ups, capture sign-up information via forms on landing pages, and send reminders and thank-you messages.
- Hit visitors with a behavioral follow-up – If a customer interacts with an email or a call-to-action in a certain way, you can track that behavior and provide a follow-up specific to that customer’s interest. It’s also a great way to thank your customers for interacting with you.
Launching Pads for a Test Campaign
You can use almost anything as a jumping off point for a Marketing Automation campaign. It’s important that you use an already popular channel in order to maximize your reach and impact. Below are a few examples of good places to start:
- Digital launch points are the easiest – Start from an email link, newsletter article, web banner ad, or a landing page action / form.
- From your email list – You don’t need a launch point from another tactic. If you have an existing email list, you can launch your campaign just like you would any other email.
- Even launch from paper-based marketing (direct mail, letters, etc.) – Drive customers to a digital tactic (landing pages work best in this situation) from a mailer or signage, and launch the campaign from there. You’ll have a smaller list, but due to the effort it takes on the customer’s behalf, you have already identified your most heavily engaged leads.
When to Gracefully Bow Out
Multiple touch points with customers are important; when you get your brand in front of them you stay top-of-mind and increase the chances that they’ll interact with your message. But, there’s going to be a saturation point where you need to gracefully let your customers ignore you, if they so choose. It’s in their best interest, but it’s also in yours. If you’re annoying, good luck getting your customers to care about you when they really need to. If things aren’t going the way you hoped with your Marketing Automation, remember these things:
- Don’t pester your audience – If a customer has ignored your emails thus far, it’s likely that a standard email communication is not going to engage them and they’ll likely start perceiving your brand as annoying. Try something different: a direct mail campaign, a social media effort, even a new approach with a creative email campaign optimized through testing.
- Find new ways to target – It’s alright that some of your customers won’t engage with your email. While email is one of the most preferred channels of communication voiced by consumers, not everyone prefers it. Segment your list by behaviors and preferences and approach people by their preferred channels. If it’s not email, try something else.
- Monitor your online reputation – Everyone has different definitions of spam. While nothing you or I would ever send to your customers would fall into the spam category in the legal sense of the word, some contacts are more likely to report your messages as spam if you continue to send to them after they have indicated they are not interested in hearing from you. I also always recommend that people avoid purchased email lists as much as possible. Mailing to purchased lists is typically not as effective and can potentially destroy your sender reputation.
- Save money – Keep list maintenance a top priority in any type of digital marketing campaign, particularly with email. Removing non-engagers will keep your deployment costs down.
What Marketing Automation Is Not
Marketing Automation is not a comprehensive marketing strategy. So many people have trouble drawing the line between what it is, what it isn’t, what it replaces, what it adds, etc. Remember, it’s just part of your marketing plan and is largely a tactical approach. It can be used as a strategic fulcrum to deliver your content marketing program, to grow your sales leads, or to simply drive engagement through a targeted campaign. While it does provide your marketing group with extra arms and legs, it will not replace your internal marketing staff or eliminate your need for agency partners. It is also not a spam platform. It is a dynamic tactic that can help drive your marketing strategies for years to come with data-driven insights and behavioral segmentation.
Who uses it effectively or creatively? What are your recommendations on a successful program?