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Mastering Marketing Automation

Posted on 7.31.2013

Digital Hole in One!

When it comes to online marketing, it can be difficult to stay on par with the competition. Digital marketers are bogged down with an abundance of data that must be connected to the “right” customers (those with the best chance of taking positive actions) and paired with relevant campaigns in order to increase conversions or engagement.

Just as the right putter can make all the difference in your golf game, the correct technology can do the same for digital marketers. Marketing automation software, for example, has made it easier for ‘Net professionals to track important customer information and campaign data. This data provides insights that can be leveraged to help marketers develop more profitable relationships with customers and measure campaign performance in ways that are more efficient.

Automating Email

Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, believes one of the key benefits of automation software is that it simply makes marketing efforts more effective. These platforms can assist marketers in segmenting their prospects and delivering more relevant content with the hopes that, over time, their content will drive prospects through the sales funnel faster.

“It used to be that marketers had no idea which portion of their marketing efforts was working; marketing technology has changed that for the better,” said Volpe.

Many marketers leverage automation technology to launch drip email campaigns, which help brands gradually introduce their products or services to prospects. Marketers can set these campaigns to run automatically, sending specific content to a prospect based on the actions that they have previously taken, such as viewing a product, downloading a whitepaper or entering their name into a promotional contest.

Search Engine Marketing Manager of One Call Now, Jacob Baldwin, explains that the whole premise behind this strategy hinges on whether or not a brand has effectively segmented its audience, discovered content categories that the audience segments are interested in and identified the thought process that goes into making purchasing decisions.

“For instance, if someone downloads Whitepaper A, then it’s likely that they’re going to be interested in Blog Post Q, Article C and How-To Guide G,” said Baldwin. “Arrange these pieces to be marketed to the individual person and one piece every 5-7 business days via automated email. Once you set up this workflow on the front-end, it’ll free up resources down the road to do some really strategic initiatives.”

Connecting with Social

Even though email makes up a huge part of marketing automation, HupSpot’s Volpe warns that marketers shouldn’t limit their automation initiatives to this single channel.

“What’s most important is how your marketing automation solution supports your broader marketing objectives, growing your database and expanding your reach over time, in addition to converting leads using automation,” said Volpe. “Most marketers need a tool that allows them to take an integrated approach to generating new leads with tools like social media, blogging, calls-to-action and landing pages versus recycling and spamming the same leads over and over again (a phenomenon I like to call ‘death by marketing automation’).”

HubSpot’s software, for example, enables marketers to connect with prospects via social networks. Marketers can monitor social activity with a variety of segments, including by customers or leads, among others. Plus, the platform’s integrated tools allow marketers to view prospects’ entire interaction history, such as what pages they visit, how often and whether or not they are customers.

Another automation platform that offers robust social features is Pardot, which was acquired by ExactTarget in 2012, which then itself was acquired in June of 2013 by powerhouse CRM and cloud computing provider Salesforce. In addition to email automation, Pardot can work as a social media management platform, as it allows marketers to schedule social postings across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Plus, users can look up customers’ social profiles, as well as gain visibility into which prospects are interacting with social content and at what point of the sales cycle. With this social data, marketers can better personalize their communication efforts with leads and prospects, in order to turn them into loyal customers.

Attracting Not Detracting

Although Volpe believes that marketing automation platforms have helped marketers become more efficient and effective, he also warns these platforms can hurt customer relationships when used incorrectly.

“Marketing automation encourages people to do just that — automate their marketing approach, and that’s bad news for marketers and consumers alike,” said Volpe. “No one likes impersonal emails that aren’t tailored to their needs or interests, so automating ineffective emails is actually the fastest way to diminish your database versus bolstering it.”

For instance, just because you can email people doesn’t mean you should. Instead, ask yourself if your message is providing value to its recipients and if it is worth their time to open and read it.

“Send high-quality content and offers and be concise in your approach,” said Volpe. “Create and deliver emails your customers actually love and build on what has worked for you in the past. Welcome emails are a great example. How many times have you received a ‘Welcome to X Company’ email that has no additional content or context around it? You’ve just wasted your first email interaction with that customer. Don’t waste your time and theirs.”

Business development manager at East West Manufacturing, Andy Reese, uses LoopFuse for his company’s marketing automation campaigns. Reese claims that this platform has helped for many top-ofthe funnel activities, but he cautions against pushing customers too quickly through the sales cycle. “Don’t think that sending one great email through a marketing automation solution will win business,” said Reese. “It’s all about touches. You need to create leadflow campaigns that touch a prospect with interesting content a few times before you peak their interest. Don’t fail because you did not take enough good shots.”

Learning Curve

It is important to remember that, just like any other technology, you cannot master marketing automation overnight. This is why it is imperative to outline your business goals and the best path to obtain them before launching an automated campaign.

By simply exploring the opportunity and establishing an end goal, you can identify how to acquire more leads and how to push those leads through the sales cycle without alienating customers along the way. And, remember content is still king. Regardless of how many features your automation platform may offer, your campaign can only be as successful as your content allows it to be. As always, the way to achieve the best results is by testing, this also means that you should seek out a platform that allows you to do so.

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