Marketing automation, or inbound marketing, started taking hold about a decade ago and brought about a paradigm shift in how companies approach their target markets. It leverages the power of digital tools and online communication, and consumers’ growing appetite for information. It respects consumers’ greater control over the selling-buying process. And, rather than the traditional broadcast methods of pushing your message out to a general audience, inbound strategy attracts a receptive audience, nurtures a trusting relationship, and secures a loyal client. Here’s a brief marketing automation overview to help put it in perspective for you.
What started quite simply with the notion of attract traffic, nurture interest, convert leads has become more comprehensive and complex. Dynamic-based content allows you to create customized emails, web pages and forms for targeted market segments (personas) and even individuals. Tracking, reporting and analytics now play an important role in testing, measuring and improving deployment of the tactics. And the tools used to manage the process have become more sophisticated and powerful.
This greater complexity speaks to the larger role that marketing automation now plays and great potential that comes with it. It underlines the importance of developing a strategy and detailed planning to ensure your budget and efforts are directly wisely.
The Marketing Automation Process
The basic premise behind marketing automation is much like dating — make yourself known and attractive to those who are looking for what you have to offer. Once you have their attention, you work at proving your value with information and insight via content on your website and downloads. A progression of content and engagement keeps your prospect interested until you successfully build the case that they should purchase form you.
The starting point is to create an informative and inviting online environment, and downloadable content, that serves as a resource for those seeking your service or product. (Content generation is an important component, read Does Your Content Go the Distance? for some helpful tips) When their online searches (often aided by AdWords, social media and email campaigns) bring them to your website, the wealth of strategically written and presented information, calls-to-action (CTAs), landing pages, forms and automated workflows lead them through your marketing funnel, and hopefully to a purchase. The process can take months with many visits, email campaigns, information downloads and even phone calls.
A bonus is that these same tactics are then used to nurture an ongoing relationship. The intention is not simply to make the initial sale, but to cultivate an ongoing loyal customer. The marketing and sales processes can more easily be aligned and integrated to work seamlessly together forming a continuum of customer care.
Tactics Used in Marketing Automation
The primary objective is to convince your prospects that they should choose your organization. Educating your target market helps them appreciate your knowledge and understanding of their needs. Tools, tips and tidbits of information, either as blog articles, whitepapers, branded information pieces, apps, etc. provide evidence to your knowledge and understanding.
Marketing automation tactics include developing strategic content, social media promotion, focused SEO, targeted paid advertising (AdWords and online banners), creation of engaging, customized landing pages and emails, special offers promoted by effective CTAs, scheduled phone calls, chats or online presentations, and a structured plan that integrates all components to work together in an automated workflow. Tracking and analysis enables measurement at several different stages so that tactics and campaigns can be measured and tweaked for ongoing improvement.
If some of these tasks and terms are new to you, download the Ultimate Guide to Marketing Automation Terminology. A comprehensive PDF that explains all the lexicon.
You don’t need to employ all these tactics, but like any campaign with many moving parts, they are complementary and often prove to be more effective when used together. Whatever tactics you chose to implement, they need to be coordinated properly and consistent.
Marketing automation is a process. It takes time to create the content and components, and typically requires several months of applied and integrated effort before you start to see results. Once you have the system working, ongoing effort, trial and tweaking is necessary for ongoing success. Marketing automation improves sales and customer satisfaction, but it’s not a magic formula for instant success.
The Evolution of Smart Marketing
Developing a personalized dialogue to strengthen and maintain a feedback loop, repeat purchases and referrals is smart. Marketing automation simply uses modern tools and best practices to do what good businesses have always done: work strategically to attract prospects, demonstrate your knowledge for your product/service, listen to and look after your consumers.