What is Marketing Automation, and Why is it Useful?

Underline Communications works with many marketing organizations that have an abundance of information, channels and tools with which to reach potential customers. But thriving in today’s customer-centric market takes more than just a cache of technology. It requires that you deeply understand your customers and deliver a personalized and relevant experience to them. To accomplish this, some of our larger clients are beginning to explore marketing automation platforms. Since our readers might not yet be familiar with what sort of marketing that is, how it works, and how it can help improve your customer experience, we put together a brief overview.

WHAT IS MARKETING AUTOMATION?

Marketing automation solutions automate traditional marketing activities across a range of functions, allowing a team to massively scale its operations and target larger audiences in a personalized, and coordinated, approach. Marketing automation is driven by a series of if>then rule sets based on what marketers would normally do themselves in the course of a campaign as they build brand or product awareness, share relevant content, send drip or trigger emails, or remind a prospect of products they’ve previously looked at or left in their cart—all tasks that don’t scale well manually in today’s digital marketplace.

HOW DOES MARKETING AUTOMATION ADD VALUE?

Here are three areas where marketing automation can bring value to a marketing team.

Optimizing Marketing Resources

Digital marketing organizations have no shortage of information resources and tools at their disposal, including customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, social engagement systems, email marketing suites, custom landing pages, digital monitoring, and social/web analytics.

Marketing Automation is most valuable when managing major or multiple campaigns targeting diverse audiences across a range of mediums and channels.

While individually valuable, marketing automation solutions can serve as a controller for these resources, improving how and when information is shared between them and when actions in one system trigger an action in another. This is where real value is realized—better orchestrated, large-scale campaigns and prospect touch points that are meaningful, appropriate, and reinforce the lead nurturing process across multiple technologies and channels.

Managing The Omni-Channel Journey

Marketing automation solutions can improve our ability to track consumer behavior and the progression (and scoring) of a lead in an omni-channel environment. By coordinating information about individual leads as they engage on multiple channels, our understanding of the customer journey is expanded (ex: understanding the path from initial awareness to conversion, including intermediate steps that may not be obvious, such as between a drip email that leads to a series of social network “likes”, or social sharing that leads to a survey being completed, or a focused message highlighting a special promotion that indirectly reinforces a message on a different channel where they ultimately fill their cart and check out).

Marketers must engage where consumers engage, across multiple channels as consumers select their own “right time, right channel” approach.

Marketing automation can also help us better understand when and where prospects are most likely to either stumble or take the next step in their purchase process, allowing us to predict or anticipate interactions (and content requirements) with consumers in one channel based on their interactions and behavior in another channel. This enables a greater level of personalization.

Increasing Personalization

Personalization is often the difference between a trashed email and one that leads to a sale—the difference between a generic drip campaign and a series of engagements that leverage a prospect’s recent social interactions and purchases to deliver content and options that resonate.

With the right digital information and coordination between systems, the content, options and overall experiences we offer a prospect can shift from the relatively generic to the highly personalized, taking into account not only demographic and past information from our CRM, but also near-real-time social and behavioral data, such as how and when they arrived at our site, what they did during previous visits, and products they’ve viewed and added—or removed—from their cart. It’s about offering a fresh, relevant and contextual experience with a path to conversion.

Marketing automation can enable mass personalization at scale—the ability to offer a personalized experience to all users without incurring significant incremental overhead.

SUMMING IT UP

As with any process or technology implementation, there are risks and overhead. In the case of marketing automation, success is just as much a factor of the marketing and engagement rules that drive automated actions, as it is a result of a well-designed message and campaign strategy. Ultimately, the right marketing automation solution and implementation can increase the value of other resources, enable greater lead and channel visibility, and significantly improve the perceived personalization of marketing campaigns—all “must have” items in today’s digital marketing environment.