What is marketing automation and why do you need it?

By Christopher Ratcliff

It’s as easy as switching on your computer, sitting back, relaxing and letting the software do all your work for you while you secretly read Viz behind a copy of Marketing Week.

Right? Right???

As a relative newcomer to digital marketing I’ve been making a point to explore the various different tools, trends and jargon we face every day, that perhaps some of us don’t necessarily understand all that well, and explaining the principles as plainly and simply as I possibly can.

I’ve been putting off marketing automation for some time now, as it seems like quite a complicated, multi-faceted beast, however if we break it up piece-by-piece and start slowly, it is in fact quite a straight-forward subject matter.

I may just be trying to persuade myself there.

Lets take a look at marketing automation…

What is marketing automation?

Let’s take a brief look back at the recent past. Marketing automation has actually been around since the 1980s.

The use of software to automatically insert names and addresses from your database onto the letters and envelopes you wish to send to consumers by mail has been a mainstay of direct marketers for decades.

The difference between then and now is the concept of ‘real-time’ and the vast amount of data available to companies on their customers via various digital (and occasionally offline) channels.

There’s a perfect example of this in our report on Marketing Automation Best Practices, which as the digital savvy, ecommerce users we all are, you’ll be perfectly aware of already.

When you visit Amazon while logged in (which you will remain until you physically log out again), you will find your name has been dynamically inserted around the page and based on your browsing history, past purchases and ‘wish list’, brand new products are presented to you thanks to a predictive algorithm.

After leaving the site, I am routinely sent emails highlighting products I’ve viewed. Although I’m surprised that the email marketing team have decided against personalizing the email with my name, unlike the site itself.

All of this ‘dynamic personalization’ and email communication is possible with marketing automation.

Marketing automation for all!

Marketing automation was once the preserve of only the most financially successful businesses. Technology needed to create the systems required heavy investment and was built ‘in-house’. Regularly the cost of building the software outweighed the cost-savings.

However thanks to a proliferation of third-party suppliers, sophisticated automation software is now much more readily available to B2C and B2B companies both large and id-size.

In fact B2B companies are taking great advantage of marketing automation software by integrating it with their existing CRM system.

This helps combine and streamline both marketing and sales efforts, and creates better visibility for both teams. (For a clearer explanation of CRM, read the beginner’s guide What is CRM and why do you need it?)

Marketing automation for you (and only you)

There has been no bigger aid towards the democratisation of marketing automation than social media.

Now it’s not just the postal service, email and ad retargeting that can be used to broadcast messaging to consumers, social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are fast becoming an important marketing channel, with more consumers using the channel to not only receive your messaging but also to communicate with you directly too.

As it’s a two-way channel, and the most successful companies are the ones that engage directly in real-time with users, successful social media management requires a great deal of time, resources, energy and skills.

However you may just not have the right tool. Here’s a list of 16 social media management tools as recommended by our own team and highly esteemed Twitter followers.

Benefits of marketing automation

These are some of the reasons why a company will adopt marketing automation:

  • Save time – multiple campaigns can be scheduled way ahead of time and released as per your own settings, therefore working hours can be utilised for other activities.
  • Efficiency – it provides a streamlined automatic alternative to traditionally manual processes. Time and labour can be reduced, therefore costs can be reduced too.
  • CRM integration – it can help to make sure that leads don’t disappear off the radar after a couple of unsuccessful contacts.
  • Data collection – automatic marketing offers a touch-point to clients or customers that isn’t necessarily sales-driven. It can help provide better insight and be used to collect specific data to improve future campaigns or communication.
  • Multi-channel management – whereas it was possibly easy enough to manage a single email channel, now thanks to the multiple channels that consumers can be found on, it’s getting harder and harder to keep track of them all. Marketing automation can help you keep tabs on any channel.
  • Consistency – Incorporating all your marketing efforts in one process can help keep a unified brand tone-of-voice.
  • Personalisation – automation helps tailor the experience to the user, creating a unique and more inviting experience that’s entirely relevant and will more likely lead to conversion.

For lots more on marketing automation, download our report on Marketing Automation Best Practices.

Source: https://econsultancy.com/blog/65212-what-is-marketing-automation-and-why-do-you-need-it?utm_medium=feeds&utm_source=blog