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Could marketing automation benefit your business?

Could marketing automation benefit your business

Published by Mark Brennan,
Head of Digital; Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Freshfield

Marketing automation (also known as lead nurturing and inbound marketing) is one of the hottest topics in the marketing industry today. Hubspot, one of the leading suppliers of marketing automation software, has seen turnover growth of 51 per cent and 49 per cent in the last two years and shows no sign of slowing.

What is marketing automation?

If you’ve ever bought anything online you’ll no doubt be on that company’s e-mail newsletter distribution list. In its simplest form, marketing automation may be used to put your name on the e-newsletter and send it out to you. But, have a look at the products on there – as there’s a good chance that they’ve been tailored based on your interests and personal history.

For example, if you buy things from an online pet store for your dog, then chances are they won’t e-mail you about offers for cat products, as you’re unlikely to buy.

Other examples of marketing automation in action include reminders that you’ve added something to your online shopping cart but haven’t bought it yet, discount vouchers ‘because you haven’t shopped with us for a while’ or special offers for your birthday.

Essentially marketing automation is about bringing together your marketing channels, customer relationship management (CRM) system and other sources of intelligence to automatically run marketing campaigns – saving time and delivering a more personal service to the customer. It closes the gap between sales and marketing as marketing activity becomes more targeted towards the individual customer than the mass market or a segment of it.

So what type of businesses can benefit?

It isn’t just about online retailers trying to prompt impulse purchases. If you sell anything to business customers that is an involved purchase, requiring a reasonably long decision-making process, with multiple parties either making or influencing the decision – then marketing automation could be a key tool in your armoury.

The sales process is often defined as a ‘funnel’ which tapers down as you get closer to a sale – as you can’t win them all. The stages of this process have lots of different names but one tried and tested model is AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. The aim of marketing automation is to nurture leads and guide them through the stages of this process until they are ready to buy.

Consider an accountant specialising in tax advice for manufacturers. The accountant wants to adopt marketing automation, so sets up a campaign which starts with a report on its website ‘Ten ways UK manufacturers can save tax’. To download the report, a manufacturer has to provide their contact details on the site.

Once the details are inputted, an e-mail is sent out with the report. Two weeks later an e-mail automatically goes out with some more information about the tax saving measures and links to online calculators so the business can see what they could save. In a further two weeks an e-mail is sent with testimonials from other manufacturers who saved on their tax bill with links to case studies on the website.

This goes on for two or three further e-mails, with the CRM system working in tandem with key sources of data like Google Analytics to log how many people open each e-mail, click through to the site, use the calculators and read the case studies. Over time, the accountant builds a list of warm prospects who it is worth making contact with personally, to try and make a sale.

What do you need to make it work?

There are three key elements required to implement a marketing automation programme:

  • Strategy – building a multi-part campaign that will hold the interest of your audience, and attracting the audience to take the first step and provide their details. This requires a lot of effort in getting to understand your target audience, and defining a suitable engagement strategy.
  • Technology – this process is reliant on integrating a number of technology packages (CRM system, e-mail system, Google Analytics, the website content management system, etc). As a result, the business needs robust up-to-date systems and a savvy IT function.
  • Content – traditional marketing tends to rely on producing a relatively steady stream of content over a defined period – with content needing to be regularly replaced as “everyone has seen this now.” Marketing automation requires you to get all your content in place at the outset of the campaign – but once the stages in the campaign are set up you can use it for years and years, as the content will be brand new to each user who adds their contact details at stage one.

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