Marketing automation is an area of customer relationship management that has evolved over the last few years as systems become smarter and easier to use. The term “marketing automation” is often used vaguely, so we want to simplify the topic by covering these basic areas:
1. What is driving this topic?
2. What is marketing automation?
3. What is a basic requirement for success?
4. Why does this matter?
5. Is this a silver bullet?
What is driving this topic?
The concept of customer relationship management (CRM) has been around for many years. However, there are some key drivers that have made it a marketing priority over the last few years. The first driver is that people interact with brands differently today. The average American spends almost six hours per day consuming digital media, and 2015 marked the first year during which the majority of internet traffic was mobile. Therefore, marketers now have an opportunity to engage in relationship-building dialogue with consumers anytime and anywhere.
All this time spent online also means consumers are more informed. Approximately 70 percent of the buying process is complete before a prospect engages with a sales representative. And because consumers are more in charge of the media they consume, its increasingly important to improve relevancy. Today’s consumers want brands to “know them,” and they have higher expectations of personalized content as they form relationships with brands.
The second driver is that big data has become usable. Many companies have invested in consolidating once fragmented data and customer relationship management platforms have helped enable the consolidation. More and more data is being captured and integrated into a single customer record for improved profiling, segmentation and targeting of communications.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation is the process of utilizing existing technology to automate marketing communications to a database of existing and prospective customers. However, simply having a CRM system does not provide all the requirements to implement true marketing automation.
Campaigns and individual communications are set up to “trigger” based on customer actions. This allows marketers to orchestrate a wide variety of personalized communications across touch points along the customer journey. These communications are managed by a master road map and calendar that can be optimized in real time based on data-driven results.
There are three basic layers that need to work together to implement marketing automation:
• Central database (CRM) — where the customer data is located (e.g., Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics)
• Marketing engine — where the marketing logic and campaign rules are managed (Salesforce Pardot, HubSpot, Marketo)
• Analytics — customer data collected through multiple sources and analyzed to improve sales, marketing and customer support
What is a basic requirement for success?
It’s important to recognize that marketing automation is not simply a function of the marketing department. It is an operational commitment to a customer-centric approach that must come from the highest levels of the company on down. For example,
• Executives need to fund the development of systems and the hiring of analysts and other staff to build, manage and inform the programs.
• Sales and customer service need to maintain detailed records of customer interaction so accurate profiles can inform the lead scoring and segmentation that enable marketers to send relevant communications.
• Distributors and retailers need to connect to corporate systems to integrate inventory and point-of-sale data.
• Marketing needs to work with all stakeholders to map out communications, establish key performance metrics and develop impactful content.
If these stakeholders do not fully embrace the concept of CRM and automation, it will be difficult to be successful. Automation is driven by customer data and actions, so it is vital that the data be complete and accurate.
Why does this matter?
As noted above, today’s consumer demands that brands respond faster and with more relevant content. The brands that can leverage marketing automation to meet these demands reap several benefits, including improved lead generation, lead qualification and sales conversion. Additionally, marketing automation allows brands to become more efficient and productive. Marketing automation can reduce costly human errors and take repetitive tasks out of marketers’ hands. This frees up marketers to focus on projects that provide increased value to the organization.
No silver bullet
Investing in a CRM or software marketing engine — or both — is not the silver bullet to an organization’s marketing and lead quandary. Marketing automation requires significant planning and content strategy to optimize the effectiveness of a brand’s communications to various customer segments. Automation supplements, but does not replace, the human interactions that are required to successfully market and sell products. Marketing automation is intended to support the sales process and help nurture customers along the path that they choose to take when exploring brands and making purchase decisions.
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