Think about the growth potential for your business if your salespeople could spend the majority of their time focusing on only the hottest prospects. What if leads could automatically be engaged and nurtured through the buyer’s journey, eventually becoming “buy-ready” and being turned over to the sales team waiting to close the deal?
What used to be a sought-after dream is now a reality. The evolution of technology has made a tremendous impact on the way companies do business, and one of the innovations that has taken off over the last decade is marketing automation.
Broadly defined, marketing automation is a software platform that helps companies automate marketing and sales engagement to generate more leads, close more deals and better measure marketing success. Marketing automation promotes efficiency by optimizing leads as they make their way through their individual buyer’s journeys.
History of Marketing Automation
Marketing automation came about in 1992 when Unica was founded. It was a very basic system, however, because the internet was relatively new and very few businesses had an online presence. As internet speeds increased and the capabilities of computer networks increased, doors opened to innovation.
Eloqua was established in 1999, and the company’s success prompted a number of competitors to enter the market including Pardot, Infusionsoft, Marketo and Hubspot. Marketing automation soon boomed in popularity and became a highly competitive arena. From 2010 to 2014, $5.5 billion worth of acquisitions were made by corporate giants like Salesforce, Oracle, IBM and Adobe.
Marketing Automation Insider created the below graphic to show the growth of marketing automation and has a more detailed history of the platform on its website.
The Future is Now
Today, marketing automation has become a do-it-all system that encompasses a variety of marketing tools and channels. It saves companies time and resources by managing all programs in a single solution. Here is a sampling of what marketing automation can help you do:
- Generate Leads – Because marketing automation is digital, it helps to include calls to action on your inbound and outbound marketing programs that direct prospects to a landing page/form. A promotion or offer can get them to sign up or opt in, which provides contact information for leads on which the platform can act.
- Qualify & Prioritize Leads – Some leads are hotter than others and progress through the sales cycle at a faster rate. Marketing automation tracks digital behaviors like email opens, clicks and form submissions and provides lead scores based on criteria you specify so that you’ll always know how close prospects are to being buy-ready. The closer they are to purchasing, the higher their lead score.
- Nurture Leads Until They are Buy-Ready – Leads need to be nurtured before they become buyers. Marketing automation continually engages prospects with content until they are ready to do business with you. There are numerous possibilities, including programs for:
- Top-of-Mind Awareness
- Triggering Conversation
- Promoting an Event
- Accelerating a New Customer
In addition, marketing automation’s reporting functions make it easy to:
- Get a detailed snapshot of where leads are in the buyer’s journey
- Get ROI on each program
- Act on warm leads and get them to salespeople to close deals
Drip Marketing Explained
Marketing automation utilizes drip marketing strategies, which means prospects receive predetermined “drips” (communications) based on their digital behaviors as they act on marketing materials. The goal of drip marketing is to get prospects to progress through the “marketing funnel” until they become customers. The process is illustrated in the graphic shown.
A common misconception with marketing automation is that everyone receives the same content at the same time. That is not true. Prospects join the funnel at different times and progress at different speeds so marketing automation puts each prospect on his or her own path, and they progress at their own pace. For example, thousands of different emails could be going out to thousands of different people at different times on the same day. It’s communication catered to the prospects’ needs.
Fully Connected Marketing
How do your salespeople follow up with leads? Are they able to keep up with them all, or do they have to prioritize and chase just the big fish? Marketing automation is like a salesperson that never sleeps. It continually stays in touch with all prospects, hot or cold. And because of lead scoring, it makes your salespeople more efficient by feeding them the best leads and preventing them from chasing dead leads.
If you are operating without a marketing automation platform, you are pretty much left in the dark once your programs are launched. You don’t really know what prospects are doing. But if you use marketing automation, the platform will track behaviors and alert salespeople so that they’ll be in the loop.
Marketing automation is designed to assist the sales department, and feedback from businesses using it has been positive
Marketing automation platforms can be extremely effective, but they can also be incredibly difficult to implement. Companies sometimes don’t have the manpower, resources or knowledge to learn and implement programs. With that in mind, it pays to partner with someone who understands your business processes, goals & objectives and can set up and implement programs based on your company. For a faster and smoother start-up, seek assistance from a proven marketing agency.