Marketing automation has become increasingly popular in recent years. In 2010, it was a $225 million industry. As of 2015, that number spiked to $1.65 billion with nearly 150,000 companies using some sort of marketing automation software. It’s an important part of any digital marketing plan because it complements and informs every other tactic and leads to tremendous success for the companies that utilize it.
Whether you already have a robust, segmented, and successful marketing automation strategy in place or are considering implementing this tactic as part of your larger holistic strategy, the answers to this short list of frequently asked questions will help you improve your existing campaigns or develop effective campaigns moving forward.
What Is Marketing Automation?
As the name suggests, marketing automation includes a software program designed to automate repetitive marketing campaigns — such as email, social media, and paid advertising, among several others — helping to eliminate unnecessary resources and generate a strong return on investment. There are several marketing automation platforms to choose from varying in price and functionality.
The best marketing automation campaigns are consistent, sustainable, and scalable. They focus on a variety of audience segments and the ways in which those segments behave online and interact with your brand and materials. While email is the most popular and common form of automation, you should be gathering and reviewing the data each time a potential client interacts with your brand via social media, paid advertising, and content on your primary and secondary web properties (including landing pages and review sites).
For instance, a potential legal client viewing a social media post related to bankruptcy on a law firm’s Facebook page is an excellent behavioral input. It tells you exactly what the individual’s challenges are and what sort of material you need to put in front of them to showcase your value. Better yet, by placing a helpful form directly on that page, you can also utilize your social media channels as a platform for direct marketing.
Many companies are quick to purchase the shiniest software, but marketing automation is most powerful when it incorporates well-developed, user-specific content in the form of tailored emails, infographics, whitepapers, video, etc. So instead of buying expensive email lists, which provide false lead stability and result in high spam rates and wasted spend, take the necessary time to develop thoughtful content marketing with several primary audience segments in mind. This means creating client personas early in the process and crafting meaningful assets that align with your potential customers’ needs.
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What Are the Benefits of Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation provides several unique benefits, but perhaps the most useful aspect of this tactic is that it helps create resource efficiencies for marketers and businesses. Rather than having to develop dozens (or even hundreds) of unique campaigns from scratch, automation allows the user to collect and analyze data, derive insights about potential and existing customers, and then create content marketing strategies that can be delivered to segmented audiences with the click of the mouse.
Sound marketing automation campaigns not only save time, money, and brain power, but they also help identify clients and customers who are further along in the sales funnel or who are more inclined to purchase your product or service. In most instances, these prospects are first introduced to your company when they are still researching and gathering information, and automation helps identify exactly what they’re looking for and how you are in a unique position to help meet their needs.
When you determine what your prospects are looking for and how near or far they are to committing to your products or services, you know exactly how to communicate with them and which educational, promotional, or advertising assets to provide them with. Prospects near the top of the sales funnel should receive more general information about the history and benefits of your company. Prospects closer to the purchasing stage should receive more specific information about products or services.
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Why Do Some Marketing Automation Campaigns Fail?
The most common reason marketing automation campaigns fail is the lack of a top-funnel foundation. Businesses are attracted to the idea of marketing automation that they put the cart in front of the horse before even considering their route.
Marketing automation should support lead nurturing, not lead generation. Yet, time and time again, companies are enticed by the lure of buzz-words and purchase trendy automation software before they have content marketing plans in place. If your company isn’t generating inbound organic leads, you’re not quite ready to begin investing in marketing automation.
Another common reason for unsuccessful marketing automation campaigns is a lack of resources necessary for sustained growth. It takes time, money, and skill to create quality campaigns with a reasonable expectation of consistent success. If you’re not committed to doing it the right way, your spam rates, unsubscribe lists, and low engagement levels will increase quickly and sharply — defeating the purpose of marketing automation in the first place.
RELATED: Email Lists: Low-Hanging Fruit or Cream of the Crop?
What Are Marketing Automation Best Practices?
We’ve already touched on several best practices, but we all like concise lists grouped in one easy-to-find location. Here is a brief list of the most effective marketing automation processes and protocols.
Install Lead Management Before Marketing Automation:
Marketing automation can be a powerful tool, but it is entirely dependent upon lead generation. This means that companies need to map out their lead flow prior to implementing any automation campaigns. According to Mairi Burns, VP Client Services at Dunthorpe Marketing Group, “You can’t automate a process that doesn’t exist.”
Create Accurate Personas:
Before developing or facilitating prospect interaction, businesses must understand who they want to communicate with and what sort of content they want to develop to foster those relationships. Creating personas (fictionalized versions of a company’s ideal client) takes a substantial commitment, but it’s a necessary practice if you want to generate maximum ROI.
Right Time; Right Place:
The basic premise behind marketing automation is to deliver relevant, purposeful, and useful content to the right person at the opportune time in the ideal setting. So before launching any outbound campaigns, make sure you understand the data you’ve collected and leverage it to the best of your ability.
Score Your Leads With Purpose:
Developing an effective lead scoring system takes time and patience, but the result is worth the effort. Lead scoring helps your team understand where prospects are within the sales funnel and how likely they are to purchase your product or service. Focus on objective data and keep it simple — diversify your system over time based on thoughtful analysis of the information you receive from each prospect.
Maintain Your Email Reputation:
Even if you’ve crafted amazing content with engaging email copy, you can’t deliver your message if you routinely send to bad email addresses. Understand your audience, write for that audience, provide clear and prominent unsubscribe options, and scrub your lists regularly. This will ensure your emails arrive in welcoming inboxes rather than filtered as spam.
RELATED: How to Effectively Manage Your Email Marketing List
Is Marketing Automation Right for Your Company?
Most companies can benefit from marketing automation to varying degrees depending on your product and service lines, the amount of resources at your disposal, and the behaviors and interests of your ideal client base.
Smaller companies offering simple services should keep their automation practices simple and focus on areas they are most likely to succeed. Don’t spread yourself too thin and utilize your staff and other resources wisely.
Larger businesses that offer more diversified products and services should also optimize their resources, but likely have a bit more margin for error. A large budget and talented staff doesn’t justify a free-wheeling approach. Consider your audience, segment accordingly, and take the time to curate an organic list of interested customers.
Regardless of your business’ size or industry, marketing automation can work if you follow the best practices mentioned above, make a concerted effort to develop and distribute usable content, and rely on the data rather than your intuition or opinion.
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Get Your Automation in Motion With LaFleur!
Marketing automation is central to what we are trying to accomplish on behalf of our clients here at LaFleur. We believe it is an integral component of a larger holistic strategy and recommend it for all our clients (although to varying degrees based on their unique circumstances).
If you’re considering marketing automation or any other digital marketing solutions, please contact us today by calling (888) 222-1512 or completing this brief form. We specialize in legal and healthcare marketing but also have achieved excellent success for numerous general business clients across the United States.
Our marketing experts are familiar and proficient with several automation platforms and have developed proprietary lead scoring systems for internal and client use. Additionally, our content team is staffed with professors, former journalists, and educated and experienced writers from all walks of life who can deliver your company’s story to multiple audience segments.
Getting started with automated email marketing. (2018). Kissmetrics. Retrieved from https://blog.kissmetrics.com/automated-email-marketing/
Hemani, M. (2016, December 27). How marketing automation is changing the game in 2017. HuffPost. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/moosa-hemani/how-marketing-automation_b_13863584.html
Rimmer, A. (2017, February 1). What is marketing automation? A beginner’s guide. Hubspot. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/insiders/what-is-marketing-automation-a-beginners-guide
Sukhraj, R. (2017, July 8). A quick history of marketing automation (& why you need it). Impact. Retrieved from https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/history-of-marketing-automation