What is marketing automation?

13.07.18

by Thomas Emmerson

what is marketing automation

Marketing Automation looks to hand repetitive, and low-skill jobs to computer software rather than suck up the time of your marketing personnel. 

Countless hours of labour are lost to low-value tasks that need to be done, but don't necessarily need to be done by a human.  But why is it often so poorly implemented?

The tasks automation handles are often very regular, repeatable and mundane, which required human attention because few alternatives existed.  Until marketing automation came along.  And yet very few businesses deploy automation in a way the benefits their business, instead using it in ways that could harm their ability to acquire new customers.

The dream

Marketing automation is heralded as a way for businesses to achieve more with the resources they have.  It's fundamentally a piece of software that is told what to do by a controller and it then applies those rules over and over again.  The more frequently those tasks are repeated the more valuable automation becomes.

Amazon, for example, uses automation to recommend other products to buyers based on similar purchases made by other users.  The automation has received a set of rules (if the visitor is looking at X then suggest Y) and is applying this logic for each visitor.

Further automation may be that when you order a product the system sends you an email with your receipt and tracking number automatically.  After a few days it may then send you an email asking you to review your experience with Amazon.  You may also receive a gift card for your next purchase.

The reality

Few automation programmes below an Enterprise level work so seamlessly.  Amazon has the benefit of teams of people purely employed to make the automation better and better, most SME style businesses do not have this luxury!

In many cases automation isn't used by brands to make the customer's life easier, instead automation is used to make the business's life easier.  This often means spamming you with email after email once you've downloaded a guide, or by pestering you for a chat when you're not really keen on what they're selling.

In these cases automation actually reduces the chance of getting new business, rather than streamline it.

Rather than using automation to remove laborious tasks and speed up the experience a prospect receives it's used to do work that might be better handled by a human.  As you can see the application is not as straight forward as one would hope.

User case

Here's an example of how marketing automation can work for a business, without bugging clients and disrupting the sales process.

marketing automation example

Most sales teams have a qualification set that is used to identify a good-fit client.  For some businesses this is a BANT score.

  • Budget
  • Authority
  • Need
  • Timeframe

The workflow in the image assesses the prospects BANT score against criteria outlined by the sales team.  If the prospect meets the standards outlined by sales then the prospect is pushed through various branches of the workflow and, at the end, a task is automatically created for a sales rep to reach out to them and an opportunity is automatically created in the sales funnel.

If the contact doesn't meet the requirements for, say, budget then the system will send them a recommended alternative product that is in their price bracket.

Here the automation is:

  • Vetting a client's suitability
  • Sending the client a quote
  • Suggesting an alternative product if their budget doesn't match
  • Creating a task for a sales person to follow-up (only if they're a good lead)
  • Creating an opportunity in the sales pipeline (if they are a good fit)

The client may only receive one email from this system and that's the quote they've requested from the website.  The automation sits in the background, 24/7, filtering between the good quality leads, and the ones that aren't quite ready to be dealt with by a sales person.

Before this system was put in place this business had a sales support role that was assessing whether the prospect should be dealt with by sales.  This automation didn't make their role redundant when it was launched, but did mean that they could be given a more challenging task, more suited to someone with the ability to handle complex tasks.

 

Marketing automation explained

 

What marketing automation solutions are there?

There are a few main platforms to consider if you are considering marketing automation.  One of the main things to consider when assessing your options, is where the automation is getting the data from that feeds into the automation process, and what the automation is doing for you.

In our example we relied on using information about people in the database in our automated workflow, and we also needed to know their actions on the website.  This meant our platform needed to be linked to the client's CRM database and be able to receive information from the website.

For us this was possible because the platform we use, HubSpot, also hosts this client's website and their database.  So the automation could easily pull in information from both places and we could use these inputs to filter the prospects.

There are 3 main marketing automation platforms in the marketing today.  HubSpot, Marketo and Salesforce's Pardot.  Our article HubSpot vs Marketo vs Pardot explores the key differences between all three platforms but you have to really consider what tasks you're hoping for automation to take over to really know which one will suite you.

If you really don't know where to start and you fancy a chat about how automation could be applied to your business, especially if you use HubSpot already or are considering it, then feel free to book in a chat with myself and I'll talk you through how we've applied it to some businesses.

To do so simply click on the link below.

Book a meeting with Thomas here

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