What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is among the top martech solutions that help businesses operate more efficiently and effectively. With the right marketing automation tools and strategies, you can save time, gain deeper customer insights, and streamline all of your marketing efforts. The best approach, however, depends on your business’s unique needs and challenges. 

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What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is a category of tools and strategies that help businesses streamline their marketing efforts. It eliminates the need to do some repetitive tasks manually, like sending welcome emails to new customers or assigning a lead to a sales representative. With marketing automation, you only need to create workflows that initiate actions based on specified triggers. Everything else happens automatically.

On top of added efficiency, marketing automation enhances existing marketing strategies by leveraging data from a wide range of channels. These channels include email, social media, browser cookies, web traffic, and SMS. When all of this data is combined, it’s easier to create interactions that are tailored to each customer’s unique interests and needs. Personalized customer experiences are more likely to generate conversions, so marketing automation also helps businesses achieve revenue goals.

What are the benefits of marketing automation?

Although marketing automation can take some time and effort to get up and running, it can bring numerous long-term benefits to your business.

Marketing automation helps you understand your customers

All of the data that marketing automation tools collect serves to help deepen your understanding of your customers—who they are, their habits, what they love, and what they don’t like. You might learn that they prefer email communications that have more graphics than text, or vice-versa. You might discover that a large portion of your customers leave items sitting in their ecommerce shopping cart for a few days before they complete their purchase. Successes and opportunities like these give you a better idea of what motivates your customers to engage with your business.

Marketing automation helps with conversions

When you understand your customers on a deeper level, you can optimize your marketing strategy for conversions. One way marketing automation helps with this is by identifying the customers who are most likely to interact with your business and tailoring each interaction to their unique needs and priorities. In turn, each interaction is more likely to lead to conversion. For example, you can connect a marketing automation tool like Mailchimp to your ecommerce site and use the cross-functional data to build personalized emails that match the buyer’s activity on your site.

Marketing automation helps you focus on the big picture

Perhaps the biggest benefit of marketing automation that you might notice on a day-to-day basis is how much time and energy it saves. Most small businesses manage marketing efforts with very limited time and staff; in fact, Fundera’s Small Business Marketing Statistics and Trends report found that 47 percent of small business owners run marketing entirely on their own. With marketing automation, you can focus your time and energy on broader strategies and business decisions rather than manual, repetitive marketing tasks. Plus, you’ll have data-backed insights that will inform those decisions and steer you in the right direction.

Marketing automation extends past marketing

It seems counterintuitive, but marketing automation’s benefits aren’t limited to just marketing. On the contrary, marketing automation can deliver results for your sales department as well. Sales teams are able to use lead nurturing and scoring tools to prioritize the prospective customers who are ready to buy. Similarly, lead routing features like those that Pardot offers ensure no leads slip through the cracks regardless of where they are in the sales pipeline. To get the most out of your marketing automation tools, ensure your strategy is aligned across both marketing and sales.

Marketing automation best practices

There are a few best practices to keep in mind when creating an effective marketing automation strategy.

Set specific goals

When implementing marketing automation, it’s important to have specific goals in mind that make sense for your business. That way, you can track the performance of each campaign and evaluate what’s working and where you need to make adjustments. It’s also important that your goals are realistic—don’t bite off more than you can chew when you’re starting out. Instead, it’s better to start small and set higher goals as you grow. 

Segment your audience strategically

Marketing automation tools provide lots of rich data, but that data is basically worthless unless you put it to good use. Consider your target customer for each product or service you offer and look for patterns or trends that intersect with those targets. For example, one of your products might be more popular among customers in a particular geographic area or customers within a limited age range might be more likely to purchase a product from a social media ad. 

The segments you identify can change over time, and new segments might appear as your business grows. Make a point to evaluate your audience segments periodically to stay privy to any changes. 

Create effective workflows

Workflows are like the pistons of the marketing automation engine. To keep the whole machine running smoothly, it’s important to create workflows that support the goals you want to achieve. Think about all of the touchpoints you have with your customers—this is where your customer journey starts. Then think about where you want your customers to go according to the actions they take. 

For example, you might use a tool like SendinBlue to welcome new email subscribers with a special discount on a future order. With the right workflow in place, SendinBlue will send that email automatically then add them to a list depending on what action they take. The exact parameters can vary, but they should enhance every stage of the customer journey.

Screenshot of marketing automation workflow from SendinBlue.

Source: SendinBlue

Monitor and adjust your campaigns

Once you have your marketing automation campaigns up and running, it’s important to monitor their performance. If you can identify individual elements that contribute to a campaign’s success, it may be worthwhile to mimic those across other campaigns. On the other hand, if something isn’t quite performing as well as you think it should, you can make small adjustments until you find the right solution. In either case, identifying successes and opportunities will help you with business planning.

How to choose the right marketing automation tools

Your marketing automation strategy depends on having the right tools in place. To find the best fit, start by making a list of all the marketing channels you use for your business as well as your primary business goals. Then, look for a tool that fits that list and works with your budget. You can narrow down your list by reading customer reviews or signing up for a free trial.

Read next: Can Marketing Automation Software Help Your Business?

Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is the editor of Small Business Computing. She is passionate about creating relatable, research-based content that helps small businesses thrive.

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