As more businesses and customers joined the digital world, marketers began looking for new ways to improve, automate, and streamline their marketing workflows. One of the most effective and popular ways to do that is to use marketing automation software. These tools play a critical part in determining how we approach our digital marketing strategies, social media management, lead management, and email campaigns.

In this guide to marketing automation, we’re going to:

  • Take a brief look at what marketing automation is.
  • Note a few of the top advantages of marketing automation.
  • Compare the ideal goals and reality of automation.
  • Explain how to use marketing automation tools in the right way.
  • Good vs bad types of marketing automation.

If you want to find out how to use these tools to benefit your business, keep reading. Our guide will cover everything you need to know.

Table of contents

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation refers to the use of software to automate marketing tasks. Most of these tools help marketers automate marketing activities like:

It’s also useful for automating other repetitive tasks across multiple channels. In fact, 91% of marketing teams consider it a vital part of successful marketing campaigns.

Additionally, these tools were created to help marketers provide customers with a personalised experience.

The Benefits

There have been several studies on marketing automation and if it genuinely improves marketing efforts and streamlines processes. Here are a few interesting statistics that show how marketing automation software benefits sales and marketing teams:

  • 14.5% average increase in sales team productivity.
  • 20% average improvement in overall productivity.
  • Four out of five users saw an increase in lead generation.
  • 77% more conversions on average.
  • 451% increase in quality, qualified leads.

In short, marketing automation software makes teams more effective and productive while providing better leads and more conversions.

What about the costs? It’s well-known that the best marketing automation tools don’t come cheap. However, a small business can’t afford to spend a small fortune on a marketing automation platform. Is it worth the price tag? According to the statistics:

  • 76% of businesses claim that they saw an ROI within the first year of implementing marketing automation software.
  • Marketing departments that use automation see a 12.2% average reduction in overhead.

Yes, it’s not going to be the cheapest investment you’ll ever make in your business. However, the statistics show that this type of marketing strategy is a worthwhile investment with many advantages, including a solid ROI.

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The Ideal vs. the Reality of Marketing Automation

The road to disaster can be paved with good intentions, and, unfortunately, marketing automation is no exception to that rule. While the technology and tools exist to help teams improve their processes and campaign results, things don’t always go as planned.

Marketing Automation
Taken from Pexels

MA at Its Best

At its best, marketing automation is one of the most robust tools of any marketing team’s arsenal. The entire concept behind it was to help businesses communicate with consumers faster and on a far more personalised level.

Marketing automation software is supposed to help with:

  • Lead nurturing and lead scoring.
  • Sharing highly personalised content through social media marketing.
  • Improving overall customer experience.
  • Streamlining the sales process.
  • Automating activities like email marketing, social media sharing, and content marketing.

In an ideal world, customers would be at the centre of all your marketing automation activities. They shouldn’t be the reward at the end of a traditional sales funnel but the very core of your marketing strategy. The goal should always be to build strong, lasting customer relationships rather than finding ways to sell faster.

Marketing automation
Taken from Pixahive

MA in Reality

There’s no denying that marketing automation is capable of many things. Unfortunately, it’s led to the tools and systems being used for tasks they weren’t designed for. In a way, its platforms have become a sort of “cure-all” in most marketers’ minds. Is there a problem with your marketing strategy? A chokepoint in your sales funnel? A lack of lead generation? Well, the marketing automation system is there to save the day!

Not really.

Those misconceptions have led marketers to automate their sales cycles with sophisticated tools. Unfortunately, they don’t have a consistent influx of new leads to feed their campaigns. Many turn to buying email and contact lists rather than generating leads through inbound marketing. However, it’s almost impossible to build long, meaningful relationships this way. Additionally, with customer data and privacy concerns reaching a high point, you’re more likely to alienate potential clients using these methods.

Automation marketing tools aren’t supposed to be a way to pass prospects from marketing to sales with little to no interaction. Unfortunately, that’s how marketers are using these tools, typically with arbitrary touchpoints and irrelevant content.

The result is disjointed and unpleasant customer journeys that don’t offer long-term successful results.

Marketing automation
Taken from Pexels

How to Use Marketing Automation Tools the Right Way

Is there a “right” way to use marketing automation software? Maybe not in the strictest sense, but there are certainly a few flawed methods out there. Ask yourself if the customer is at the centre of your strategy. If not, are you looking for a way to delegate most of the lead nurturing and customer journey to an automated system? If it’s the latter, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Marketing automation has a high failure rate, but it has nothing to do with the system itself. Instead, it depends on how marketers use it. These tools are not meant for lead generation; that’s what your inbound lead generation strategies are for.

For this strategy to be effective, you need an extensive database of contacts to nurture and cultivate into customers through the system. However, these lists should be ones generated by your online and offline lead generation activities. Buying the data is considered a spammy tactic that typically results in a much lower ROI. Remember, people don’t want to receive unsolicited emails.

In short:

Good marketing automation means having an inbound marketing strategy that results in fertile, qualified contact data. These types of lists will offer much better opportunities for conversions and a far better ROI.

Bad marketing automation means relying on bought data to generate generic, spammy emails and social content that’s not focused on your clients at all. Instead, you’re taking a shot in the dark and hoping someone decides to read your unsolicited email and finds it interesting.

The Top Four Marketing Automation Software Platforms

There are several fantastic tools available for general and email marketing automation. We can’t name them all, so we’re going to share our top four choices with you:

Marketing automation
Taken from ActiveCampaign
  • Top Email Automation and Flow Management: ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign is simple to use and has an amazingly intuitive sequence builder. It’s capable of building complex flows with integrated a/b testing capabilities. The platform is continuously adding new features, and the whole package is wrapped in a very affordable bow compared to most other systems. It even has a built-in CRM.

Marketing automation
Taken from HubSpot
  • The Beast of All-In-One Platforms: HubSpot

We all know HubSpot. You’ve either read one of their articles, encountered one of their tools, or heard of them from one of many recommendation sites. The platform is one of the most advanced and long-standing automation tools available with a plethora of capabilities. Unfortunately, it has a price tag to match. If you can afford to fork out a few thousand dollars every month, you can’t go wrong with HubSpot.

Marketing automation
Taken from MailChimp
  • The Underdog: MailChimp

Everyone knows Mailchimp as that free email campaign automation tool, and most people forget that the platform is capable of so much more. The standard and premium service options are quite affordable than most others, and the feature list is extensive. It’s grown into a capable marketing automation tool, with a built-in CRM, workflows, multivariate testing, landing pages, social posting capabilities, and even customer journey builders.

Omnisend
Taken from Omnisend
  • For E-commerce Sites: Omnisend

Omnisend is a relatively new tool, but it’s specifically geared towards e-commerce users. The platform includes segmentation, list building, refined targeting, and lead management. It also integrates easily with almost every e-commerce platform, making it an excellent choice for any online sales business.

The Future of Marketing Automation and Third-Party Cookies

Cookies
Taken from Pixabay

In 2020, Google announced that it planned to phase out third-party cookies by 2022. While it was a big blow for advertisers and publishers, few marketing teams consider how it’ll impact their online activities. Many marketing automation tools use these cookies to work. Without them, departments will need to start developing alternative strategies.

Web analytics, ad revenue, strategic targeting, and several other features will not only become obsolete but fall away. Marketing departments will need to look for new ways to manage their social media, ads, and email campaigns. At the same time, they need to maintain their ROI.

There is some good news.

Browsers aren’t doing away with third-party cookies to punish advertisers or publishers. Instead, it’s to help users feel more secure online. Marketers will be forced to turn back to first-party data for their relationship marketing efforts. Your email and contact lists will become a lot more valuable. Additionally, segmentation, lead nurturing, and personalised interaction will be a vital component of the marketing and sales cycle again.

The Final Word

Marketing automation is a way to help streamline marketing activities. It assists in nurturing and converting leads into long-lasting and rewarding customer relationships. As long as you put your audience at the heart of your automation strategy, you have the opportunity to increase your ROI and customer relationships.  If you feel like you need some help setting up an optimal marketing automation strategy, don’t hesitate to look at our e-mail marketing agencies