According to HubSpot, "At its best, marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon -- that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for companies, and provides an excellent return on the investment required."
This sounds great! Everyone should be using marketing automation, right?
Not exactly. Marketing automation can be a powerful, revenue generating machine when used in the right organizations at the right time. But it's not always a good fit.
When Marketing Automation Works
Marketing automation works well when you have a solid foundation established.
- You have clearly identified your target customer.
- Your website is generating some, if not a lot of, leads.
- You update your blog and social media accounts regularly.
- You're using Google Analytics or other tracking tools to measure traffic and conversions.
These activities lie in the top of the marketing funnel, where your objective is to generate awareness and attract leads to your organization.
"When there’s no top-of-the-funnel foundation put in place to support middle of the funnel marketing automation. Many marketers invest in marketing automation before they have fertile ground for advanced lead nurturing campaigns to blossom. Marketers won’t have the ingredients they need for effective marketing automation until they have both a steady flow of organic leads coming through the funnel. Too many marketers without inbound lead generation strategies spend their time figuring out how to take the tiny fraction of the market they already have in their database as leads and squeeze more out of them. While they’re doing that, their competition is figuring out how to get more out of the 99.99% of the market that’s still out there. Do you have all the existing leads needed to hit your revenue goals in your database already? Are you getting your fair share of the available market?"
Most marketing automation tools help with the middle of the funnel, after the lead has indicated interest in your product or service. The tool automates email communications and schedules tasks for marketing and sales staff to follow up. This works great if you have a lot of leads, but is not helpful if you're struggling to get leads to begin with.
Marketing Automation + Inbound Marketing = Recipe for Success
Over the last ten years, there has been a fundamental shift in marketing. Before, companies focused on old outbound marketing methods like buying ads, cold calling, participating in trade shows, and praying for leads. Eventually, business owners and marketers realized that these methods were becoming less effective, and a new wave of marketing was born.
Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close and delight over time.
When you use an inbound marketing strategy along with marketing automation, magic happens. You will attract the right visitors to your company, and you can automate follow ups to create a seamless and delightful experience for your prospects.
How to Know When You're Ready for Marketing Automation
You may be ready for marketing automation if you have a steady lead flow and you have a solid top of the funnel foundation with some of the items listed above. However you must understand that using marketing automation does not mean you won't have to put in any effort; it will just help you scale your efforts to achieve greater ROI on marketing spend. You should be prepared to devote 10-15 hours a week (or hire someone to do so) on your inbound marketing and marketing automation initiatives.
When WE Knew It Was Time to Start Using Marketing Automation
We launched a new website and content strategy in March and have seen a steady increase in leads ever since. I attribute this increase to a mobile friendly design and a steady stream of new content offerings. I was using 5 or 6 tools to manage email marketing, website management, landing pages and social media marketing. None of these tools "talked" to each other, so I couldn't get a clear picture of how everything fit together. We knew we needed a smarter solution, so we looked into marketing automation tools. No surprise here, but we chose HubSpot. HubSpot is ranked highest in customer satisfaction among all of the marketing automation tools, and it offers a truly all-in-one solution that combines your website, email marketing, social media, SEO, CRM into a single platform and provides reporting on how all of these things are working together.
Some examples of other marketing automation tools are: