Marketing Automation is hot right now, finding a place on all the trend charts, and its a buzzword used at all the conferences. Yet with all the coverage, many still look at Marketing Automation as just a fancy name for email marketing. While email is a major component of marketing automation, it is more than just a tool to manage newsletters. Marketing Automation is all about managing the ever-increasing complexity of a marketing funnel or sales cycle. It’s about creating a path of least resistance for the prospect to find out about your company, do the appropriate research needed to make a buying decision, and then ultimately convert to a customer.
The goal of marketing automation is to map and manage the paths that customers could take as part of this journey and automate steps that normally would add resistance to the buying process, or that wouldn’t be feasible if they had to be done manually. Marketing Automation is built to help a marketing department get as close to one:one marketing as possible. Sure everyone would like to customize every step and message for every customer and their unique situation but scaling that to the masses is often impossible.
Understanding marketing automation starts with thinking about the goals of marketing. In very general terms marketing is about generating awareness for your brand, eliciting consideration and interest from prospects, delivering materials to help them make the appropriate decision, and then ultimately propel a prospect to covert into a customer. Once a prospect becomes a customer, marketing should start over and working on retaining the customer and generate future purchases through the marketing loop.
How marketing automation fits in at each of these stages depends on your company and how you plan your marketing, but let’s look at some of the key areas where marketing automation can be leveraged.
From branding ads, events, social media, and search marketing, the main goal of this stage is to get your brand in front of prospects and hopefully getting them to pay attention long enough so that you can get permission to continue marketing to them on a personal level. Marketing automation tools at this stage are all about capturing information from the potentially fleeting prospect and getting them into your marketing funnel.
For example, events are a great way to get in front of a large amount of people, but too often the list of prospects generated gets put into excel and left to sit. Marketing automation tools, on the other hand, force a more structured follow-up. Imagine a prospect comes to your booth or brand experience at an event and signs up for a contest and opts in for messages from your company. Setup properly, the marketing automation system will capture that lead, tag the event as the source, send an immediate thank you email for signing up. If its a multi day event, the system may send a follow-up email reminding people to stop by your booth for the big drawing, or showcasing other things going on at the event. Following the event, the system sends out an email with more information about your company and a couple paths that the customer can take. Using this concept, you can use lead scoring to help you determine their level of interest and their potential buying stage.
What about all those people who aren’t at the actual event, but might be following along on social media? As part of your campaign, you also post to appropriate social channels and offer a way for prospects to enter the same drawing or contest. These prospects are captured and tagged as part of the larger campaign, but also as non-attendees, so your can track their source. They get a slightly different set of follow-up emails because they weren’t at the event.
Now that all these prospects are in your funnel you can leverage marketing automation to move them through each stage. We’ll dive into this in part 2 of this article.