Marketing automation largely depends on contact information. What you know about your prospects and customers, the actions they take on your website, or how they interact with your marketing emails and social posts. Each time someone visits your website, subscribes to your newsletter, downloads one of your ebooks, sign-ups for a free trial, or clicks in one of your ads, they're providing you with valuable data.
Such wealth of behavioral data is incredibly valuable. Marketers use it to create workflows—a series of pre-defined actions that automate sales and marketing efforts based on certain triggers. In other words, a workflow is the answer to this question: if this happens, what’s next? For example, if a prospects downloads an eBook, what would you want to happen next?
Marketing automation workflows are the answer to this question: if this happens, what’s next?
That sounds like a sweet setup for targeted marketing campaigns, doesn’t it? The more you know your contacts, the more complex workflows you can set up. And since you’re collecting data every time your users interact with your website, the limits of marketing automation are just your imagination and the scenarios you can create.
Hold on. There’s one caveat.
Yes, the limits of marketing automation could be your imagination… if you have proper contact data with multiple data points that construct a rich profile of your each of your contacts beyond behavioral data.
Marketing automation excels at collecting behavioral data, but this data alone can't tell if a particular lead is a good fit for your business. Any visitor to your website that shows some level of interest in your products and services is a potential lead, but not all leads are created the same. Consider Julia. Her lead score is high. She's downloaded all your ebooks and even attended one of your webinars. She finds your content very valuable for the school paper she must write. But, no, she has no intention of becoming your customer.
Passing this lead to sales would be a waste of time. Blog content, ebooks, and free trial are excellent ways to attract people who might be interested in your offering, and get their contact information—that is, generate leads. But you also need to find out if those leads are a good match for your business.
There's no easy way around it. You need to build and maintain a contact database and feed high-quality data into your marketing automation platform. No matter how smart or sophisticated the software is, without a neat and tidy database, you won't be able to segment your audience to a very high degree so you can deliver tailor-made messages to very specific types of people—remember, that's the key tactic that drives marketing automation.
To overcome this obstacle, marketers have usually added several questions to the forms that unlock the most valuable content. For example, asking the industry a person works in, the company name, or the number of employees. However, you can only request a limited amount of information before turning away potential leads with long, cumbersome forms. Before, marketers needed to strike a balance. How much information they can ask before turning a lead away.
Forms, therefore, will only get you so far. What if you could create drip campaigns based on other company characteristics like growth stage or expansion? Enter sales intelligence.
Company information from a sales intelligence tool provides an alternative, enriching your contact database with additional data from multiple sources. Once this information is integrated correctly, you can construct more accurate lead scoring and account scoring mechanisms that reveal best-fit prospects. You not only will know if a lead is highly engaged with your contact but also if such a lead is a fitting prospect, for instance, if it falls within your ideal customer profile. The process that enhances marketing is data enrichment.
This way, data supports different parts of marketing automation:
Marketing automation is often associated with email marketing, but in reality, it is much more than sending out pre-defined messages automatically. One of the most exciting parts of marketing automation is that there are almost as many uses as a smart marketer can imagine. The power of workflows and automations reaches anything from lead scoring to internal notifications.
Given that marketing automation is a significant investment for any business make sure you're really taking advantage of what the technology has to offer. Let's dive right into the essential uses of marketing automation.
Capturing a lead is the first step of marketing to someone online. This often means collecting an email address from a variety of sources. A marketing automation tool is the hub where all the avenues to generate leads come together. With company information feeding into your own tool, you can reduce lead capture forms to the bare minimum.
With a pool of leads ready to move down the funnel, you can create and distribute it across channels more efficiently. The data that populates your CRM and your marketing automation will allow you to move your leads from one sales stage to another based upon their activity and interactions. The more data points you have, the more tailor-made and timely your campaigns will be.
Marketing automation gives you the opportunity to do extremely powerful customer segmentation. When you gather enough contact data, you can group your leads based on a myriad of properties and behaviors. This allows you to target your messaging and nurturing process to groups with very specific interests and needs. As a result, you can, for example, send a series of emails to leads from companies with more than X employees and that have downloaded a certain ebook from your website.
Account-based marketing relies on data to allow marketers focus on acquiring specific high-value customers with highly targeted, personalized campaigns. Data-driven insights from company data directly influence which accounts receive what content and when, so the sales efforts are transformed into a time-based and need-based process.
Building a robust lead scoring (or account scoring) model is a critical component of an effective marketing automation system. You want to qualify, or score, your leads by analyzing the information you collect on them, so you can determine which leads you should spend your time nurturing. A marketing automation solution lets you define lead scoring rules (e.g. number of clicked emails, visits to a specific page). This way, you can monitor the level engagement of each lead and yield those more likely to become a customer. By adding a lead enrichment process to the mix, you’ll improve your lead scoring models through more data points.
Marketing automation largely depends on contact information. What you know about your prospects and customers, the actions they take on your website, or how they interact with your marketing emails and social posts. Each time someone visits your website, subscribes to your newsletter, downloads one of your ebooks, sign-ups for a free trial, or clicks in one of your ads, they're providing you with valuable behavioral data.
Automation tools collect and process such information. But once it's in your database, how do you nurture your hard-earned leads using such information?
Workflows, of course!
Let's take a look.
A marketing automation workflow is an answer to this question: if this happens, what's next? For example, if one of your prospects downloads an eBook, what would you want to happen next?
A workflow is a series of pre-defined actions that automate your sales and marketing efforts based on specific triggers. In other words, a workflow is an answer to this question: if this happens, what's next? For example, if one of your prospects downloads an eBook, what would you want to happen next?
Setting up workflows enables you to organize your audience into numerous segments and automate communication streams to deliver tailored messages.
Part of automating your marketing tactics relies on thinking ahead and creating situations based on the criteria you set for what happens when something else does. Some workflows will be internal actions (notifying a salesperson of a new hot lead), and some other external (emailing a prospect your latest content).
As an example, here is what a basic automated email workflow could look like:
After executing this workflow, a lead is now much more qualified and is likely farther down the buying process. As a potential buyer, this person gets more relevant information, personalized, and tailored to their needs. Ultimately, this person is more likely to trust your company, and eventually, more likely to buy.
When these workflows are up and running, you can tick many tasks off your day-to-day to-do list. Don't book your next holiday just yet, though. Marketing automation is not "sit-back-and-forget-about-it" as you want to optimize and tweak key steps or even essential details like a subject line to achieve better results at scale.
Beyond behavioral data
Typically, user interactions with your content will trigger a workflow (e.g., a new webinar registration). But triggers go beyond behavioral data. Enriching your contact database with company information will enable you to build limitless workflows. The more you know your contacts, the more complex workflows you can set up. The limits of marketing automation are just your imagination and the scenarios you can create.
While a CRM platform is often the first sales technology investment, marketing automation is a close second. It's a significant investment, too. Once you commit to a specific tool or platform, you're likely to stick to it for years.
When shopping for a marketing automation tool, you want to at least two essential factors. One is the provision of analytics features to measure the impact of an entire campaign across segments and channels. These features measure the impact of campaigns on marketing team KPIs and company revenue. Secondly, you want to make sure your marketing automation platform seamlessly integrates with other pieces of your sales and marketing stack.
A word of warning, marketing automation is not a solution you can "set and forget." As exciting as the technology is, remember the real humans behind each of the workflows and automation you build. Create an experience for people—not robots. The technology is about scaling communication and processes to build relationships and enhance your personal productivity or the productivity of your team. But it's also about building a reliable customer experience that increases their confidence in your products and services. Consistently monitoring workflow automation is imperative to keep your messaging up to date. Don't fall into the common pitfalls of "over- automating."
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In today’s data-driven world, it is difficult to think a company that would not benefit from marketing automation. Suddenly, managing large contact databases becomes feasible, and even smaller teams can scale their activities much more effectively. When you’re able to automate much of the grunt work, you can focus on other activities that robots are not as good at. For example, you’ll be able to spend more time writing epic content and awesome copy that converts.
However, as powerful as marketing automation technology is these day, it’s only one part of the big sales and marketing tech stack puzzle. To get the most out of your marketing automation platform, you need to ensure a tightly integration with other tools in your stack, and more important, build a a strong data foundation.