Some Marketing Automation tools are pretty nifty and easy to setup. The last few years this Martech category has been very much democratized, both from a financial as from a technical perspective. Which is great. But there's a downside to that. Pretty much of the times Marketing Automation deployments stay stuck in that first phase of setup and do not evolve to the level of maturity they deserve. In other words: you're missing out on revenue opportunity. Big time.
One of the primary use cases of Marketing Automation is often tech stack consolidation. Many of the components are available as a best of breed solution – and sometimes workflow automation and GAP’s are a way of bringing those components to work together to achieve some equivalent functional level. However, this will only bring you that far – and a certain given point in time, this approach will spin out of control. That is where you need to consolidate and rationalize.
A Marketing Automation platform has 12 core functionality categories to distinguish:
- Email Automation
- Tracking behavior
- Hosting marketing files
- Lead Management
- List management
- Social Media management
- Analytics and reporting
- SEO and digital advertising integration
- Forms and landing pages with progressive profiling
- Automated workflows
P.S.: These are the main categories – for the sakes of clarity we will not go into detail on mobile app capabilities – some platforms can go pretty deep in analyzing, engaging and monitoring mobile app usage from within an omnichannel context (typically in B2C environments). Neither are we going to go into detail on Account Based Marketing (ABM) - which is highly relevant for B2B use cases where you sell into complex accounts involving long sales cycles and touching multiple stake holders.
2) Email automation: Many times, Marketing Automation projects serve the purpose of fixing email marketing performance challenges. However, the unfortunate thing is that - while marketing automation goes way beyond basic email sending, and yes while you can A/B test content, email subject lines, test across SPAM filters, preview emails across various platforms and devices, create brand-consistent email templates – many times deployments get stuck at the level of pretty basic email automation. Some platforms are pretty rigid when it comes to customizing email templates (one of the downsides of a fancy WYSIWYG interface), and if you would require personalization on opening rather than when sending an email, this is functionality that gets often overlooked when selecting the right platform. One of the main reasons to transition from email automation platforms such as MailChimp towards more advanced capabilities of segmentation so that more enhanced levels of personalization based on behavior, product interest, location, frequency of store visits, purchase behavior, average basked sizes, etc. can be achieved. One of the critical questions to ask yourself is ‘what type of emails does my organization send out?’. Many times, a newsletter or blog subscription mail is the only mail type that goes out the door.
2) Tracking behavior: one of the other major building blocks of Marketing Automation is visitor tracking. Tracking how long they spend on each page, what content they engage with, have they been viewing your pricing page, your cancellation page – or even what part of the email have they clicked on – was it the detailed information, was it the picture, or the pricing? All this activity creates a wealth of intelligence that allows you to act upon.
3) Hosted and tracked Marketing files & dynamic content: marketing Automation allows you to organize your content and files while generating tracking URL’s so that you can monitor more in-depth what content resonates best.
4) Lead management (scoring, distribution & grading) and integrated sales alerts: Lead nurturing is a feature offered by most marketing automation software tools. Lead management capabilities allow you to segment, score, grade, track, and communicate with leads to they can be swiftly converted from prospect to paying customer.
5) List management: Marketing Automation typically works with different kind of lists:
Static lists: leads in this list have to manually be added or removed – for example, you need to run a list of all CMO’s that are currently in Belgium. Even when the data field of the country changes, the list is not updated
Dynamic lists: every single time this list is used in a campaign this list is re-run. This means if the country for a lead changes, they would be immediately be excluded for any campaign targeted at Belgium.
6) Social Media management tools: some Marketing Automation platforms offer equivalent or more advanced functionality on social media engagement as the likes of Buffer and Hootsuite do as a niche solution. Often MA software provides features such as social analytics that will allow you to track the conversations about your brand on social – but also allow you to track who shares your content and whom it gets shared with.
7) Analytics & reporting: a big underestimated and underutilized benefit of automating your marketing efforts is the wealth and breadth of analytics you can start playing around with. Often marketing automation tools touch the look and feel of business intelligence software and has dashboards that neatly visualize your predominant marketing KPI's.
8) Paid & digital advertising integration: there are many free or best of breed tools to manage SEO, paid, or digital advertising campaigns. For most SMB’s, these tools are adequate. However, where these tactics used to be a play at the top of the funnel, we are starting to notice that paying for attention is a play that spans the whole customer life cycle and should not be solely contributed to acquiring new customers at the top of the funnel. Economically it’s sometimes even more sane to spend more Euro per click to keep an existing customer than trying to acquire new ones. When integrating paid into your marketing automation, you will open up a profusion of benefits. More detail on these benefits in our book, Obsessed.
9) Forms & landing pages with progressive profiling: progressive profiling is an important function that allows you to shorten forms to only the most necessary data fields you require to move forward. The basic idea is that you don’t send prospects running for the hills the moment they come to your form, by asking a ton of personal irrelevant questions. The form will only display questions based on the data you do not yet have on your lead. Sometimes it will pop a question if a data field needs to be refreshed – for example, because you added a ‘date timestamp.’
10) Automated workflows: When talking about automated marketing, you cannot go around workflows. How does this work? When setting up workflow – thus, whenever you want anything to happen automatically based on a certain trigger – you need to ask yourself a couple of questions.
- When? Is the activity or action to happen a specific point in time, or should it be activity-based?
- Who? As in ‘who should qualify.’
- What needs to happen?
Determine if there are any further ‘if’ statements? Unless there is a hard bounce or an unsubscribe – the workflow should never end abruptly.
11) Personalization: the most exciting term around, but not enough looked at from the value it adds to the recipient. On a basic level, there are four categories of personalization, ranging from basic to individualized.
12) Integrations: 96% of marketers believe it’s critical for their vendors to be able to integrate third-party solutions into their existing technology. While there is great power in marketing automation technology and the potential value creation is substantial – this technology will not exist in isolation and will need to be integrated with other technologies to maximize the benefit and impact