Marketing processes have evolved and become much more complex as technology has opened many new online opportunities to target, screen and acquire customers. Managing these new marketing processes has become a major focus of business management that requires an unprecedented level of technology sophistication and marketing resource development.
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is the use of specialized software, web-based platforms and online tactics to manage and automate marketing tasks and processes. The goal is to take processes that would normally be performed manually and to make those processes much more efficient through purpose-driven software and applications to streamline customer relationship management.
Among other purposes, many companies use this type of technology to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media and other online interactions. The actual process brings together many components of online and conventional marketing to provide very personalized and specific content and services that convert prospects into new customers and existing customers into happy customers. Automation allows companies to market in a way that provides an excellent return on investment through generating meaningful new sales revenue.
One of the objectives of automating marketing is to nurture customers over the long term. This process results in focusing on goals beyond just direct sales. The inbound marketing and sales software development company, HubSpot, indicates that this type of automation empowers organizations to:
- Add dynamic content based on an individual's specific user profile
- Categorize customers and prospects by common behaviors, interests and demographic details
- Develop optimal marketing patterns like subject headings, email send times and other ideas for personalization
- Integrate marketing channels to deliver a comprehensive, cross-platform user experience for optimal customer conversion
The computer security company McAfee is a good case study of the marketing automation concept in practice. In 2013, McAfee began using automation software to address the poor quality of leads it was securing from its marketing efforts. Using technology in this way allowed McAfee to implement a lead scoring system and create a segmented nurturing program that gave prospects the right information at the right time in the buying process. This procedure greatly improved the quality of the leads for the sales team.
As a result of this new automated system:
- The number of leads was reduced, but overall lead quality improved.
- The lead-to-opportunity conversion rate increased four-fold.
- Alignment between sales and marketing divisions of the company greatly improved.
- The company saving marketing dollars.
Marketing Automation Software
Good software is an essential component of any marketing automation initiative. Automation can be accomplished through traditional software applications or through web-based platforms.
HubSpot develops and sells marketing automation software with two separate platforms (one for marketing and one for sales). HubSpot markets itself as an "all in one marketing software" solution that provides tools that can help your company with blogging, SEO, social media, email, landing pages, marketing automation, and web analytics. You can choose to integrate the software into your current website, or build the company's entire website on HubSpot. The software also acts as a content management system (CMS).
HubSpot has three pricing packages. Their basic package is $200 per month; the professional package is $600 per month; and the enterprise is $1,000 per month. This software is a good option for smaller businesses.
SharpSpring is a fully integrated cloud-based marketing tool that offers customer relationship management, marketing automation, mobile and social marketing, sales team automation, customer service and more, all within one solution. It can be utilized by both small and large businesses in a variety of industries including advertising, insurance, engineering, telecommunications and more.
SharpSpring can interface with any CMS on the market, so users don't have to change platforms or worry about losing information. The system's lead nurturing and scoring tools can track an individual lead's page visits, demographics, and engagement. Its VisitorID feature helps identify anonymous site visitors by looking up their IP addresses, allowing users to see who is viewing their site, including their name and contact information. The system also includes landing page and blog builders, as well as a library of designs and templates.
Billing for the application is on a month-to-month basis and there is no long term contract. Pricing is based upon the number of contacts generated by the software. Fees range from $400 a month to several thousand dollars a month.
Pardot is designed for organizations that primarily focus on business-to-business (B2B) marketing and sales automation. The software is an email marketing system that offers automated support for the longer time span and multi-step decisions associated with B2B sales.
The Pardot suite of products include lead management, batch email marketing, automated drip marketing and real-time sales alerts. The system has particularly been recognized for its lead scoring capability. The Enterprise edition offers advanced capabilities such as custom security controls, increased storage space and a dedicated IP address.
Built on the Force.com platform, Pardot integrates with Salesforce as well as Microsoft CRM, SugarCRM and Netsuite. When combined with Salesforce Engage, reps can connect in real-time to deliver campaigns, receive alerts, report on trends, track Gmail emails and more, all via mobile devices.
It is priced in tiered packages raging form $1,000 per month to $6,000 per month for a cloud-based platform.
The automation segment of the marketing industry has exploded in the last decade. According to the ChiefMartec blog, "from 2016 to 2017, the marketing automation category of the marketing technology landscape grew yet again, by 36%, from 156 vendors to 212." Astute business owners should consider the many advantages of automation. It has proven to be a cost-effective marketing solution that will boost sales and streamline costly and time consuming marketing processes.