“Automation” is the buzzword of the day in many businesses, and marketing shops are no exception. Over the next several weeks, we’ll take a look at the “Five W’s of Marketing Automation” to help get your team up to speed on the technology trend that’s here to stay.
First, let’s take a look at what “marketing automation” really is.
“Marketing Automation” refers to a type of marketing strategy, and a class of software systems that enable that strategy. It is considered to be the most sophisticated, final evolutionary step for a marketing team.
General hallmarks of marketing automation include:
- Tracking prospects’ web activity
- Refined and flexible segmentation of prospects
- A content delivery plan that is:
- Pre-planned (“set it and forget it”)
- Selective, analytics-based prospect engagement – for sales purposes
Due to the technical complexity and relative youth of systems that can handle these functions, there are really only a few major players in the B2B marketing automation software arena today. All of them represent a significant financial and personnel investment to fully leverage, and there are pros and cons to each – particularly in terms of third party integration options and ease-of-use.
Where does all this marketing automation stuff actually “live”?
Marketing automation platforms are cloud-based SaaS systems, meaning there is no software for you to install or maintain. Most large companies have already moved, or are planning to migrate, toward SaaS models for many of their “software” needs, meaning that more and more consumers are already familiar and comfortable with this model.
For those new to cloud-based systems, they relieve a significant security and maintenance burden previously shouldered by companies’ in-house IT teams. SaaS vendors themselves provide all the infrastructure needed to run their system, and customers’ IT and end-users alike simply log on to a website to access their data from any computer at any time – frequently across mobile devices as well. Upgrades and maintenance are all managed by the vendor, and are delivered to all clients on a fixed schedule.
Why bother making the move to marketing automation?
The overarching purpose of marketing automation can be summed up as:
more information –> more efficient use of resources –> more revenue
- The first goal of any marketing automation implementation is to warm prospects to your offerings more effectively. Better insights allow you to know more about the prospect, in order to give them the right information at the right time.
- The second goal of marketing automation is to better arm your Sales team. Giving them clear, actionable prospect information helps Sales focus on the best prospects with their valuable time.
Making the move to a marketing automation system is time and resource intensive, but can be an important next step if you’re looking to improve lead quality and revenue. Research shows that companies using marketing automation have over 50% higher lead conversion rates, a 25% reduction in sales cycle time, and a 40% increase in marketing productivity, among other impressive metrics.