Marketing automation: what is it and how it works

calendar Oct 19, 2022
author Written by Marco Biondi

The common challenge for marketers, entrepreneurs, and businesses in general, is trying to stay on top of daily tasks and responsibilities or industry developments. It can feel like a juggling act when we’re switching our focus from making sure our customers are being attended to properly, to generating leads and creating new campaigns

Thankfully, these tasks don’t require manual handling all of the time. There is a better way to save time, effort and still deliver world-class results. The way of automation. 

What is marketing automation? 

To simplify it down to the bare minimum: marketing automation refers to software that automates repetitive activities and streamlines workflows. This ranges from customer-focused tasks like sending welcome emails to behind-the-scenes processes like scheduling social media posts

Marketing automation helps to reduce stress by speeding things up and freeing up more time that can be spent growing the business. Bottom-line, for any business with an online presence, automation has become essential. 

The benefits of marketing automation

The foundational benefit of marketing automation is how it collects and uses data to deliver better customer experiences and drive business strategies. Marketing automation software is built on CRM (customer relationship management) systems that store all of the data on contacts and their activity. 

People generally relate automation to email marketing practices, where businesses implement automated communications at predetermined touch-points in the customer journey, but this isn’t its sole application.

Here are a few leading examples of how marketing automation can benefit your business: 

Customer personalisation & targeting 

Your CRM software collects customer data that can be used to personalise messages and offer relevant content/ promotions based on their interactions with your business. 

For example, a customer visits your landing page offering a free 7-day trial and they sign-up. 

On the 5th day of the trial, they receive a personalised email citing the customer’s name (personal) and the body of the email talks about the customer’s most-used features (relevant) in an effort to upsell the post-trial subscription. 

Let’s say the customer doesn’t buy immediately but the CRM software can see that they opened and read the email. They also clicked through to the pricing plan page and this is where the customer backed out. 

On the 6th day, another email goes out, again with the customer’s name and relevant copy but knowing that they’re hesitant to commit, the email also includes a timed offer for the paid subscription (targeted). 

In a perfect world, this is usually enough to convert that customer at this stage. On the other hand, if they don’t buy, the software has collected enough data for retargeting with ads and other forms of marketing. 

Segmenting customer databases

Automation can separate and categorise customer data for more effective targeting. This helps you form marketing strategies around the most relevant customer types. 

Data, such as page visits, link clicks, location and buying preferences is organised and segmented so you know who to target with the most relevant marketing. 

From the customer’s perspective, they’re receiving marketing that appeals to them, making them feel valued and improving the overall experience. 

Streamline processes and workflows

Marketing automation improves the cross-functionality between teams. Running around the office, pinging out countless emails or jumping on Zoom calls three times a day does nothing for productivity. 

Automation removes the data silos between marketing, design and sales teams.  

With all of the team’s data saved to central storage, tasks can be assigned more quickly and hand-offs are instantaneous. More agile, more productive, more successful. 

Navigate complex marketing strategies 

If we think about the customer journey again for a moment and imagine all the different stages they have to pass through, it can be a complex web.

The image above shows an example of a drip campaign. A drip campaign allows you to send out pre-written emails based on either timing, how the customer responds or a change in status. 

In the example above, we trigger the start of the journey shown here as a welcome notification. Depending on whether the customer opens this email, it prompts the next email and what content will be included. 

We can then follow this process through to the end, it’s pretty straightforward but even in this simplified example, imagine having to do this manually with thousands of customers.It would simply take too much time. 

Now let’s go one further and include some more common marketing communications:

And so on. 

When you factor in all of the different types of customer communications and map it out, it gets pretty intense! 

Marketing automation takes the headache out of complex strategies and delivers the right content, at the right time. /p>

Better customer experience means higher conversions 

Using marketing automation elicits numerous benefits but ultimately what this translates to for the business, is more sales and higher revenues. To break this down further, let’s look at the factors that contribute to increased conversions:

Reduce lead response times 

Customers are demanding, let’s just say it outright. They want to be treated with priority and in truth, they have every right to feel this way. With so many options and competitors vying for attention and business, customers need to feel valued before departing with their hard-earned cash! 

Harvard Business Review concluded that customers are 7 times more likely to buy if they get a response within an hour. But what about out of hours? What about weekends? How on earth can you respond promptly when you’re not in the office?!  This is where automation steps in to give timely responses to customers. 

So if a lead is generated at 9 pm on a Saturday, the customer will receive a response within minutes, pushing them further along the sales funnel. 

Lead nurturing 

This builds on what we mentioned in the previous section about drip campaigns. According to HubSpot, 70% of companies say that better-targeted customer communication is the most important benefit of marketing automation. 

This outcry for targeted communication highlights this value-driven demand from customers. With automation, leads can be nurtured anywhere between one week to one year. Tactfully weaving targeted messaging throughout the customer journey nudges them closer and closer to making a purchase. 

Lead scoring 

Marketing automation software lets you set parameters for scoring a customer's likelihood to purchase. Rather than sorting the data manually, it will rank your best prospects depending on what actions they take. This could be opening an email, downloading an ebook, making an enquiry and so on. 

Lead scoring removes the guesswork and human error by prioritising your most valuable leads. Businesses use this data to determine which leads are warmest and who they need to focus on. 

Real-time visitor tracking 

The only thing better than knowing that a customer looked at your website, is knowing exactly when. And every time after. 

Visitor tracking is a fantastic tool for marketers as it measures the intent of their customers. If you know when a person has visited your website, or more specifically which page, you can tailor ads and other marketing communications to their needs.  

This added level of insight means more personalisation and better targeting. Which again, leads to improved customer experiences and higher conversions as a business. 

Other examples of marketing automation 

So let’s recap what we know so far. Marketing automation is great for: 

And it helps to boost revenues by delivering better customer experiences by: 

But what are some other examples of marketing automation? 

Social media marketing automation 

Social media marketing is a time-intensive task. Companies are pretty much expected to have daily, if not multiple posts per day. Creating, scheduling and publishing continual content can quickly eat away at your day. Fortunately, social media automation is here to help. 

From scheduling to posting on multiple social media platforms, to setting responses to queries and/or comments, a lot can be achieved with automation. 

Building a loyal, engaged audience on social media still requires that human element so don’t think of automation as a replacement but it certainly helps free up time that can be spent engaging with your followers and promoting brand strength. 

Mobile marketing automation 

This does for mobile, what automation does for email. With mobile marketing automation, businesses can:

  • Segment customers for increased personalisation and ad targeting
  • Gain deeper analytical insights 
  • Run A/B tests 
  • Real-time engagement and automation triggers 

Automation is a marketer’s best friend 

Marketers have plenty to do and even more to keep on top of. To-do lists run amuck across marketing departments and utilising software to facilitate your goals is a very good thing indeed! 

Automation helps to reduce stress, streamline processes and make light work of complicated data-driven strategies but it also helps the most important person in the equation, the customer. Marketing automation allows teams to place the customer experience at the centre of their attention and deliver value-driven, targeted communications that enable growth.

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