Marketing Automation 101 – The fundamentals of Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation is a hot topic. Adoption keeps increasing. It seems that every company is looking for a solution to automate their marketing.

But you already know that, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Am I right?

We, as a company, and me as the marketer here at Route know that even when everyone is talking about a subject it doesn’t mean everyone understands how it works properly.

Talking to users we felt that we had to explain a lot of things over and over again. One of our latest post tried to approach this subject by sharing a list of 7 things you need to know about using Marketing Automation.

But we need something bigger than that. A content that would collect our opinion and ideas about different topics related do Marketing Automation.

That’s why we decided to create this article that will lead to other type of contents like a webinar and an ebook.

Marketing Automation 101, is our overview about the subject, not necessarly about Route itself.

I won’t spend the whole post writing about Marketing Automation in numbers like:

  • 75% of companies using marketing automation see ROI in just 12 months (Source: Focus Research, 2013);
  • Companies that excel in lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost per lead (Source: Forrester Research, 2014);
  • The 5 industries with the highest marketing automation adoption rates are: Software & Internet, Telecommunications, Computer & Electronics, Health & Pharma and Business Services (Source: Mintigo, 2014).

This jaw-dropping Marketing Automation statistics you’ll find all over the internet.

My goal here is make you understand our vision and opinion about this subject. Of course, our vision reflects on our product, but I’m pretty sure you can get the ideas you see here and contextualize if you decide to use other tools.

These are the subjects I’m going to talk about:

You can navigate the content the way you want to. Don’t need to follow the order I suggested. Just click on the topic and I’ll take you there.

Are you ready? Let’s start.

WTF is Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation can be a broad term. In a semantic perspective all the marketing efforts that you somehow automate, can be considered Marketing Automation.

If you automate your social media efforts: marketing automation.

If you automate keyword research: marketing automation.

If you automate your online ads, a/b tests and so on: marketing automation.

If you automate the leads distribution to other services: marketing automation.

But if you look for the definition by companies on the marketing automation providers landscape, it’s always related to automating email in order to start Lead Nurturing campaigns using Marketing Automation platforms.

Marketing Automation end up being the same as Marketing Automation platforms. It’s a technology, much more than an activity.

For us Marketing Automation is:

The effort of automating messages and tasks based on user behavior and characteristics using technology, a Marketing Automation platform.

It doesn’t necessarly mean that you’ll focus only on marketing messages and on the top and middle of the funnel. It includes your sales efforts too.

Marketing Automation platforms help business make their sales and marketing teams work together because you can’t be successful implementing a strategy without making your marketing and sales teams talk.

And if you don’t have marketing and sales teams, you’ll have to do the work of thinking about your marketing and sales process. Marketing Automation should be called Marketing and Sales automation, it would make things much clearer.

What type of business benefits from Marketing Automation?

This is a tricky question because virtually all type of business that generate leads could benefit from Marketing Automation. But this is not a good answer, because we know there aren’t one fit all solutions.

The market has more Marketing Automation solutions for B2B companies than for B2C companies. This can be explained because usually the B2B sales cycle is longer and requires more nurturing and engagement to help someone to make a purchase. Solutions for B2C companies usually focus on ecommerces to help them recover a visitor from a cart abandonment through automated messages.

We believe there are a few business characteristics that make those companies better fit for using Marketing Automation:

  • Longer sales cycles – companies with products and services that require more envolvement for a person to go from lead to client benefit from Marketing Automation platforms because it helps shorten the cycle through lead nurturing and lead management;
  • Sell online – ecommerces can benefit from it because sometimes a person leaves without buying a product and you can use automated messages to bring them back and also offer similar products based on their behavior and characteristics;
  • Has a lead generation process – if a company has a lead generation process it means it wants to take action using this information. Nothing better than using Marketing Automation to interact and engage with lead on a scalable way;
  • SaaS – startups or enterprises that has an applicantion can use Marketing Automation to engage with people during all their funnel: from visitors to leads, from leads to trial, from trial to customers and from customers to great customers. We strongly believe that all SaaS should use Marketing Automation;
  • Agencies – agencies can use Marketing Automation platforms as a technology they can use to add a new service to their portfolio.

Who can use and manage Marketing Automation platforms?

When a company decide to use a Marketing Automation platform it has to know that it needs someone responsible for the technology to be implemented. Unfortunately, if your company won’t put someone in charge, it will fail in getting results.

As any other tool a business wants to implement, there’s no miracle.

Some providers offer a product focusing on technical people and others focus on marketers and sales people. Even though companies position themselves targeting one public or another, usually all platforms will need both profiles to make the implementation work and to get results from it.

But what is really important in the first place is having someone responsible for the platform and its use.

Digging through our users database we found that:

  • SMBs with no Marketer usually have the CEO responsible for the platform;
  • SMBs with a Marketer usually have this professional responsible to implement and use the tool;
  • Bigger companies usually have a Marketing Team responsible with people in different roles;
  • Agencies usually have someone from a higher role to start the process and than Marketers to use the tool.

Once again, tech and non-tech people can use Marketing Automation platforms. What is important is having someone or an agency responsible for using and managing it.

Marketing Automation vs. Email Marketing

There’s a common idea that Marketing Automation means email automation.

Yes, you’ll be using a lot of email automation and some email marketing platforms offer automated campaigns.

But Marketing Automation is much more than that.

As I explained before, Marketing Automation is more of a technology than simply automating marketing tasks, such as sending emails. On a previous post we wrote we explained with more details how different is Marketing Automation and Email Marketing but this table sums it up perfectly:

Feature Email Marketing Marketing Automation
List management Yes Yes
Facility to segment contacts manually using filters No Yes
Lead nurturing No Yes
Event based marketing campaigns No Yes
Tracking visitor behavior through website events No Yes
Capturing visitor info through tracking forms without extra code No Yes
CRM, API, 3rd party integrations Yes Yes
Campaigns sending info to 3rd party services No Yes
Reporting and analytics Yes Yes
Mobile optimization Yes Yes

Don’t think only about email, think about a whole marketing and sales ecosystem that you can automate:

  • Send SMS;
  • Send contact information to other tools;
  • Collect user data and track user behavior;
  • Segment leads based on their behavior and characteristics;
  • Colect event and contact attributes in order to manage your leads more deeply, going beyond name and email only;
  • Help your sales team to only contact leads that are close to buy by sending them alerts;
  • Always have a dynamic list of contacts that you can engage in a lot of different ways. Static lists are so last year.

Marketing Automation vs. CRMs

As with Email Marketing, some people get it wrong when they compare CRMs to Marketing Automation platforms.

Yes, both display information about contacts on an organized way so the user can explore the data. But, once again, Marketing Automation is much more than that.

Some CRMs have the option to send targeted emails and try to put some segmentation into play, but they lack the complexity of queries you can use to send really target messages based on contact and event data.

And you can’t forget that with Marketing Automation you won’t me stuck only in automating emails and this is what some CRMs that add a feature to automate messages only do.

We think that it’s important to connect your automation software of choice to a CRM so you can get the best of both words in order to accelerate the sales cycle.

Core Features

There are some core features you’d expect to find on a Marketing Automation platform:

  • Message Automation (e.g. Behavioral Emails and SMS);
  • Broadcast messages (e.g. Newsletters Emails);
  • Integrations with 3rd party applications;
  • Small CRM;
  • Event tracking (e.g JavaScript/API tracking);
  • Form integration (e.g. Form builder, Form mapping, JavaScript/API);
  • Import .csv files;
  • Lead Management (e.g dynamic segmentation, lead scoring, sales funnel stages);
  • Lead distribution (e.g. for sales people, customer success agents, support team);
  • Custom contact and event attributes.

If you just want to tackle one part of the solution, like, building Forms and Landing pages you’re better off looking for services that specialize on it.

If you just want to send regular newsletters there are services that will do only that without the whole commitment you’ll have if you decide to use a Marketing Automation platform.

What Marketing Automation won’t do?

It won’t do any miracle.

It’s not like you’ll subsribe, pay for it and out of the blue you’ll see your results triple in one month.

You have to put together a marketing strategy, define your goals, assign someone to take care of your marketing automation strategy and than work hard, everyday, to get results from it.

Things you need to be good (or even great) at:

  • Lead Generation – attract the right people to your website and convert them as a lead. The wrong people won’t respond to your automations;
  • Email Marketing – even though you’ll deal with other type of automations, you’ll be sending a lot of emails and you need to be good at it;
  • Content Marketing – well, if your content is not good enough to educate and engage your leads, they won’t care about you;
  • Product Marketing – if you’re a SaaS you must understand how people use your tool in order to create the best automated flows to help them learn to use and convert into paying customers. If you can’t market and sell your product without a Marketing Automation platform, you’ll hardly sell it using one;
  • Lead Management – checking your leads, who they are, what they’ve being doing and what are their expectations is an important step before creating automated flows. No one likes to receive a message out of context.

If you can, by yourself or delegating to others, be good at these topics, I’m sure the amount of money spent every month (or yearly) in a Marketing Automation platform will pay itself quickly duw to the fact that you’ll see financial results.

We talked about it on the post “How will Marketing Automation help boost your ROI?“.

Anyways, there’s is no miracle solution for your problems. There’s hard work.

And if, after reading this post, you think you get what it takes to start using a Marketing Automation platform… go ahead.

You can start by registering and checking what Route can do for you.

What you think about that?