One of the keys to Amazon’s success is that the company hasn’t forgotten that the people buying products on their website are not only customers, but also human beings.
Customers and potential customers each have their own desires, preferences, and habits. As a business, your goal is to understand these preferences and behaviors as precisely as you can in order to convert potential customers into paying customers, and on top of that, make sure that your paying customers are happy.
Amazon does this to great effect with its highly-targeted promotions, personalized around the desires of the user.
So why use marketing automation?
By employing marketing automation software, it’s possible to convert prospects into customers, and leads into high quality leads, by personalizing what they’re seeing in terms of your content and communication. Marketing automation is all about getting the right offer at the right time to the right prospect or customer.
One of the major benefits of implementing a marketing automation app is that it takes the manual work away from your marketing team (although implementing this type of software does bring some extra work, which we’ll talk about later). Marketing automation software offers you an environment to automatically handle marketing processes like lead generation, relationship marketing, retention, and marketing ROI measurement.
Marketing automation software can also help you analyze the performance of your campaigns to help you get an idea of what’s working and where you’re falling flat, helping you refine your strategy to avoid wasted time and resources. It allows you to track the value of all of your campaigns to help you shorten the sales cycle.
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How to choose a marketing automation app
Choosing a marketing automation app for your small business is all about considering your goals. Your desired business objectives and the fit of an application towards these goals should be paramount in your mind. In fact, addressing this is arguably more important than the features of an application itself.
You shouldn’t be drawn in too much by an app just because you see a dazzling array of features when you’re doing your research. The fact is that many of the features of a marketing automation software rarely get used.
Email and online marketing will no doubt be the main functions you use in an app, so when choosing, be sure that you’re comfortable with the way this is handled through the software. Features to look out for include email management, triggered emails (personalizing mailouts based on specific customer actions), forms, and dynamic content. These types of features are pretty standard in apps like Marketo, HubSpot, Infusionsoft, and Act-On.
Aside from email marketing and management, other features that you’ll see when researching marketing automation apps will center around landing page creation and customization, lead management and lead scoring, and reporting and analysis.
One important thing to consider when looking for a marketing automation solution is how it will integrate with your existing tools and services. Some of these apps come with an integrated CRM, but it probably won’t give you the same level of functionality as your existing CRM, so make sure there’s integration.
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Is marketing automation right for your business?
Used in the right circumstances, marketing automation software can lead to new revenue for your business, but it isn’t right for everyone, and there are risks involved in taking the plunge and adopting such an application. According to research from marketing and technology consultant and analyst, David M. Raab, around 30 percent of businesses who adopt marketing automation find no improvement, or even a decline in the quality and quantity of leads generated.
“Marketing automation can be great but it does require a fair amount of work,” David says. “Companies considering moving from simple email to marketing automation need to have a clear idea of what they’re going to do differently, in terms of more segmented email programs, more content marketing to drive traffic, lead scoring, tighter sales integration, or other changes.”
David continues: “This may require investment in staff training, new content, paid advertising, or internal process change. [Companies] need to determine whether the costs of those investments are worth the potential gain, which is usually measured in increased lead quantity or quality or higher sales to the leads they already generate.”
“It’s rarely possible to estimate the costs or gains precisely, but marketers should at least be confident that the rough balance between the two is favorable. Once companies have made that judgement, they need to build a plan for deploying marketing automation, ensuring that the new programs are consistent with their business and marketing strategies. Then they need to execute on the plan and continue evolving their marketing automation deployment after the initial plan is fulfilled.”
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Hubspot, a company that offers marketing automation is also keen to highlight that there are reasons why marketing automation can fall short. According to Hubspot, there are some concrete questions you should be asking yourself before making the decision to go automated. Some of the things to ask yourself include:
- Does your team have the marketing skills necessary to take true advantage of it? - As mentioned before, the pre-conception is often that marketing automation software will reduce the impact on the marketing team, and help free up time for them. In fact, the reverse can often be true, as a lot of time and effort is needed to make it work.
- Do you have enough leads that could feed into the marketing automation processes? - If you aren’t generating a steady flow of new leads, automating your marketing processes makes no sense. Commenting on a failed marketing automation software implementation in his previous company, Joby Blume, Managing Consultant at BrightCarbon said: “Marketing automation could help qualify leads, and nurture leads – but not when sales were desperate (and willing) to jump on any phone number that might connect them with a warm body.”
- Do you have a marketing process that needs automating in the first place? - It sounds simple, but if you don’t have a well-defined marketing process in the first place, marketing automation will only complicate matters. Likewise, if there is no structure between the sales and marketing teams over where customer conversations should happen, it’s not the time for implementing marketing automation.
If you do decide to plump for a marketing automation solution, be prepared for a lot of work in the implementation and on-boarding stage. However, perseverance pays off and you and your customers will be better off for it.