Marketing automation has its origins in the early 1990s. It all started when Unica created the first marketing automation software, which was acquired by IBM (International Business Machine) and later sold to HCL software. As the internet became ubiquitous towards the end of the 1990s, cloud-based marketing automation became available to businesses across the globe. The affordable pricing, flexibility, and scalability of cloud-based marketing automation platforms led to its increased adoption among businesses of all sizes.
As social media and mobile commerce gained popularity during 2007-2010, marketing automation evolved into an integrated platform to meet the diverse marketing needs of businesses. As marketing automation gained momentum, the industry grew through acquisitions during 2010-2014. Salesforce acquired ExactTarget, while other industry-leading vendors such as Oracle and IBM acquired marketing automation companies. The interest in marketing automation continued to grow, and by 2019, more than three-fourths of businesses were using marketing automation tools. As businesses moved online during the pandemic, marketing automation became imperative.
Now, marketing automation has become integral to managing multi-channel marketing.
As digital channels continue to proliferate, marketing automation will be necessary for brands to manage customer interactions and engagement across the complete lifecycle.
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is software that simplifies processes for marketing functions by automating repetitive tasks. It helps marketing teams prioritize, execute, and streamline marketing tasks to improve efficiency. It frees marketers’ time and allows them to focus their efforts on more value-added tasks.
Marketing automation enables many modern marketing practices such as segmentation, lead generation, lead nurturing and scoring, customer retention, and overall marketing ROI measurement.
What does marketing automation do?
Marketing automation helps you eliminate repetitive manual activities and streamline the marketing process to enable you to drive revenue and ROI (return on investment).
- Personalized communication to build relationships
Marketing automation enables companies to deliver personalized content to prospects and customers that help establish long-term relationships. The receiver appreciates thoughtful information sent by the company that addresses their specific needs instead of generalized mass mail. The one-on-one relationship helps companies increase conversion and improve customer retention.
- Efficient leads management to fast-track conversion
Marketing automation helps marketers manage leads efficiency by prioritizing tasks that support prospective customers to move ahead in the funnel faster. It expedites answering Lead queries quickly or sending follow-up emails to prospects who have browsed the website or abandoned their carts.
- Seamless omnichannel experiences
Marketing automation enables you to collect data to create a unified view of customers. It helps you to offer a seamless, personalized customer experience irrespective of the channels through which customers connect with your brand.
- Conversational marketing for instant engagement with prospects and customers
Marketing automation enables you to leverage AI (Artificial Intelligence) chatbots to engage with buyers on your websites and move them through the funnel.
It helps in automatically identifying your website visitors and personalizing their experience based on their profiles, behavior, and how they've engaged with your team.
- Report automation
It enables you to save time in preparing data visualizations and analysis by automating report generation with the help of easily accessible tools such as Google Analytics, Tableau, and Power BI.
What is the role of marketing automation in building customer journeys?
Customer journey refers to the path taken by customers while interacting with your brand from the first point of contact to purchase and post-sales engagement. Companies use marketing automation tools to stay connected with their customers through their purchase decision journey, which consists of primarily four stages.
The first stage of the customer journey is where your marketing efforts are focused on lead generation. Marketing automation platforms help you to capture and organize lead information from different sources such as websites, social, PPC (pay-per-click) data, inboxes, and others.
You can segment the list to send customized content to different groups based on their attributes and interests. You can send a series of automated emails to create awareness about your brand and propose your product and services as a solution to your prospect’s problem.
This is the stage when your prospects are actively considering your product or service as a solution to their problems. The marketing objective of this stage is to show your prospects that your product or services appear as an ideal alternative to competitors. This process would enable them to advance to the next stage of their journey.
Marketing automation allows you to create a workflow to set up tasks such as sending a follow-up email or a request for a call. This is important considering that the average email open rate is only 21%. An automated workflow gets activated the moment a customer performs a certain action or behavior, such as opening an email or clicking a link.
- Decision or purchase
The decision or purchase stage is when you can convert a lead into a paying customer. Marketing automation enables you to encourage leads to take follow-up action, such as signing up for a trial offer or setting up a call for a product demonstration.
Even after converting your prospects to customers, you can continue to use marketing automation to retain them through cross-selling/up-selling and other promotional activities.
The customer journey is non-linear and these stages are fragmented across multiple channels and devices. Because of this, it has become a necessity for brands to engage with them cohesively. Marketing automation bridges the gap and enables brands to efficiently deliver the right type of engagement at the right time through the right channels. More than 72% of the most successful companies use marketing automation to save time and facilitate personalized communication.Thus, the marketing automation tools can ensure that your brand has a top-of-mind recall at every stage.
What are marketing automation capabilities?
While lead generation is the primary objective, marketers have cited other reasons as well, for turning to market automation. The marketing automation platform enables 44% of marketers to better align marketing and sales. 36% of them believe it helps automate customer onboarding and retention, and 30% of them prefer to leverage marketing automation for understanding the digital behaviors of buyers and customers.
Some key capabilities of marketing automation platforms are
- Data integration and lead capturing
The marketing automation platform integrates with enterprise applications like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and ERP to extract customer data. Other possible sources for customer data retrieval are- websites. mobile apps and web stores.
The platform offers you 'forms' to enable you to capture information from your prospects and build your sales leads database. Some platforms also allow you to present different forms or CTA's (Call to Action) to prospects and progressively profile them and improve the data quality
- Lead management
The automation platform enables automated scoring and profiling of leads to classify them based on their potential. It also allows segmenting of leads into different groups based on predefined criteria. It helps you to focus your marketing investments and efforts on more promising leads enabling you to generate higher ROI (return on investment).
- Multi-channel messaging & Email marketing
The marketing automation platform offers you the capabilities to launch campaigns and send messages through different channels such as emails, social media advertisements, SMS (Short Messaging Services), and others.
Email remains the primary channel for marketing campaigns across the customer journey or the lifecycle.
- Customer journey nurturing
An expanded function of email marketing campaigns is nurture, which triggers messages based on predefined user actions or status changes. Emails are the primary medium to deliver these trigger messages. But nowadays, the channel list has been expanded to include social media and SMS.
- Automated Workflows
The key benefit of a marketing automation platform is that it increases productivity and efficiency. It allows for easy automated workflow creation and management for an optimized process.
- Real-time Alerts
The platform should send real-time automatic alerts to the marketing and the sales team. If any workflow requires an action to be taken by a team member, then the respective person should be notified through a message in real-time.
What are digital marketing automation difficulties?
Eighty-two percent of marketing leaders believe that automation makes them more efficient, even though only 53% of them have implemented the solution. Along with the opportunities comes challenges, and marketing automation is no different. Some of the issues that marketers face with digital marketing automation are.
- Data quality
Good quality customer data is crucial for the success of marketing automation initiatives. If the data lacks accuracy or is not complete, then it can lead to poor outcomes, such as low email open rates or wrong campaign creation. Marketers should check customer data and scrub the email list periodically to prevent unsolicited mail from being sent, else you risk getting penalized.
- Lack of engaging content
Marketing automation improves marketers’ ability to leverage content for customer conversions and engagement at unprecedented speed and efficiency. You can automate and streamline your email campaigns and social media posts. But you also need out-of-the-box content that can engage your target audience and encourage them to take follow-up action. Even as content is crucial, 65% of marketers find it challenging to produce quality content consistently.
- Lack of in-house expertise
The ability to leverage the full potential of a marketing automation platform can be restricted due to a lack of in-house expertise for implementation. A successful marketing automation initiative requires critical evaluation of the needs and picking up the right tools, prioritizing tasks for automation, and troubleshooting issues. The lack of a proper setup can lead to ongoing execution challenges and results that are below expectations. According to marketing automation research, only 17% of marketers consider their marketing automation successful, while 83% have results below their expectations.
- Excessive promotion
The automated campaign can lead to sending out too many messages in a short time frame that can irritate your target audience. Moderate your campaign pace and leverage automation to deliver personalized, curated content.
The way forward
With multiple marketing automation software, it becomes challenging for businesses to select the most appropriate platform that meets their requirements. Besides, businesses face challenges in realizing the full potential of automation due to a lack of in-house technical expertise. However, they can get the maximum from their investment in marketing automation by leveraging the services of third-party implementation partners.
At Srijan, we offer end-to-end marketing automation services, from platform evaluation to implementation and post-implementation support. With our services, you can quickly build end-to-end intelligent marketing automation including personalized email campaigns and optimized customer journeys allowing you to engage with every customer, through any channel, on any device of their choice.
We have technical expertise in Acquia Marketing Cloud, a leading open cloud marketing automation platform that enables brands to engage with customers in a unified and intelligent way. As an Acquia Preferred Partner, Srijan understands how the Acquia Cloud platform works. We do platform evaluation, setup support, and integration and have the expertise to leverage it. Our consultative approach, combined with our technical expertise, can help you deliver personalized communication, and experience across all channels. You can get in touch with us right away.