More Than Just Email Marketing: What Is Marketing Automation?

November 14th, 2019

70% of marketers say marketing automation software is critical to their success. So what is it, anyway? 

Marketing automation occurs when marketers pass the burden of monotonous tasks to software logic to complete. Ideally, your team would define this process once, perform maintenance checkups, track the provided analytics, and take action on those insights.

What is marketing automation and why is it used?

An automated system allows experienced marketing teams to deliver new customers without increasing employee requisites. Having a lean team is important to achieve company goals and function within budgetary constraints, especially in a startup mindset.

Common automation themes include outbound and inbound lead generation, campaign management, workflows, email sequences, reporting, and analytics. Some tools are set up for success in different channels like SMS, email, and social media, or are even native to applications. 

A solid marketing automation solution will handle your tasks elegantly, but also provide insights around your campaigns. For example, email automation covers several useful KPIs. It includes things like Open Rate, Click-Through Rate, Unsubscribe Rate, Response Rate, and Bounce Rate. 

What are the most important marketing automation features?

Automated marketing began with the “email”. By sending emails to your customers and prospects based on a schedule or triggers, marketers could control the conversation and increase positive outcomes for sales. Tools like landing pages and segmentation can help you to build leads and drive interest to new visitors. Reporting and analytics features are crucial to know when and how a marketing resource resonates with your audience. 

Social media campaigns will provide the direst of KPIs for your product and services. Marketers are keen on the customer lifecycle strategy and like to ensure that confidence is instilled at each checkpoint in the buyer journey. In the last decade, several sophisticated automation functions have been incorporated into websites, mobile apps, SMS/text, and social media.

Let’s shed some light on the range of features that cover the majority of the marketing stack. These following features roll into 5 categories: Email Marketing and Online Marketing, Lead Management, Reporting and Analytics, Social Media, and Integrations.

Email Marketing & Online Marketing

  • Email Management: Automation for segmentation, A/B testing, scheduling, and auto-responders is key. Consider opt-in, unsubscribe, and bounce processing. (This could keep you from being black-listed).
  • Triggered Email: Send real-time, delayed-time, personalization on behavioral, and response-based outreach. 
  • Landing Pages: Unique Page visits, customized experiences are vital to success. Control customer experience and is well-known to increase conversion rates.
  • Forms: Survey forms, validation, and scoring are viable based on answers. Sentiment analysis and categorization are evolving into marketing tools.
  • Dynamic Content: Landing pages and selected interactions can trigger different results to appear within content placeholders. 

The real value with lead management is turning your top of the funnel leads and website visitors into marketing qualified leads for sales to close. The goal is to convert leads into long term satisfied customers.

Lead Management Features

  • Lead Database: Email clicks, website visits, and scoring changes can all be automatically logged or triggered by outside sources connected to your CRM.
  • Lead Nurturing: Emails can be triggered based on a predetermined campaign, and in a sequence that aligns with the customer’s purchase journey.
  • Automated Sales Tasks: Automatically send follow-up messages based on specific behavior, create lists of qualified leads for sales, and alert salespeople of new action.
  • Segmentation: Demographic, company information, and behavior-based filters refine the outreach process.
  • Workflow Automation: Planning, calendar creation, and task assignment, status updates, and channel outreach can all be automated.
  • Lead Scoring: Identify the best lead for a campaign or tactic. You can weigh important and undesirable behaviors automatically.

What good are all the automation tools in the world if you cannot track engagement, gauge results, and plan for your next campaign? Let’s cover the bases of Reporting and Analytics.

Reporting & Analytics Features

  • Basic Reporting: A summary of email KPIs and landing page views, form submits, clicks, scrolls, and heatmaps are often part of a smart dashboard. 
  • SEO & Keyword Tracking: Web pages often hand you the tools to track keyword strength and compare your performance to market competitors. This could also include the relevance of your content and supporting backlinks
  • Web Analytics: Determine which pages of your website are most popular with prospects. Look at bounce rate, common paths and more.
  • Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning: Likely the most forward and innovative trend in data if making the most of feedback and form fill outs. To optimize future marketing operation, one must consider sentiment analysis for automated responses, smart surveys, and feedback loops, classifications, and recommendations.

With the ever-growing volume of social media platforms, there’s a rise in social listening and platform analytics which we should pay close attention to as the market develops.

Social Marketing Features

  • Social Campaigns: Social media is becoming connected across all platforms. Facebook, Instagram, website cookies, and retargeting campaigns are getting so specific that people encourage seeing relevant ads.
  • Social Listening: Monitor brand mentions across the social sphere. Gain insight into prospect segmentation and campaign messaging.
  • Social Sharing: Incorporate smart share buttons into campaign messages. Gain data about who shares content which content and what drives social conversations.
  • Social Engagement: Increase engagement with polls or referral programs. Some tools allow integration of engagement apps to your Facebook, email, and website.
  • Social Analytics: Add tracking to social media campaigns, and improve your conversion rates for future campaigns.

Integrating with your existing CRM and outreach tools, such as email and scheduling software, means you can maximize the value you get from a marketing automation product.

Marketing Automation Integrations

Integration between your CRM and marketing automation software is critical to the success of your marketing department. Ensure that the tools you’re considering fit your ecosystem and tech stack. If you want to increase the chances for success and achieve a quick ROI, then consider what experts have to say about the propensity for success in your ecosystem. The data model should be consistent. Once you’re considering lead nurturing and lead scoring, the data has to be normalized and as tidy as possible. The quality of the marketing qualified leads that are passed to Sales depend on it.

Here are 3 things to consider when you’re evaluating an integration to your tech stack, API, and database:

  • Automatic object mapping / object relational mapping vs. manually mapping data
  • Live synchronization vs. batch uploading and synchronization
  • Real-time vs. intervallic synchronization

Marketing automation software often works as a cornerstone for all team leads and operators. While vendors offer a growing number of integrations, it’s important for marketing team members to identify key features that will impact their team for positive results. For example, for many B2B companies, webinars are a key tactic for qualifying leads, White papers and customer case studies lead to new customers. The possible integrations between marketing preferred vendors SaaS company solutions means the difference from ideation to actual success.

How do you decide on a marketing automation software solution?

Major factors to consider in purchasing marketing automation software include price, integration, usability, enterprise vs. simple SaaS, channel focus, documentation, and support.

Marketing leaders often have an affinity towards their favorite tools and select their stack with a fine comb. You’ll hear that integration with Salesforce marketplace is make-or-break, or that the organization is bootstrapped to Adobe tools. Often you will learn that your company has contracted a suite of tools through Oracle, so while you might want to work with a past platform you are tied into a network of options.

The important thing is to comb over the details by reviewing the entire suite of tools at your disposal while making sure that it meets your marketing teams’ needs as well. Let’s take a look at what experienced users had to say about a few popular automation tools.

Marketo

Marketo plays a central role in our company and we integrate with several other Adobe products. The engagement platform allows you to communicate, track, and report on prospects to customers holistically across their journey. Our entire lead flow runs through Marketo along with many other channels of our business. We have almost 100 active users across our org that are actively creating campaigns, assets, reports and other elements to help grow our company.”

Alex Greger | Martech Solutions Architect | DemandLab

Eloqua

“We use Eloqua to support direct messaging for the revenue administration. It is used within the Contact Centre and by the Communication team. We were very low on engagement with customers as the bulk of our messages was through public notices put on either in newspapers or through advertisements on TV. Our messages lacked a personal touch and were generic which means there was little response when there was action required from the customer.”

Sheila Mugusia | Chief Manager Customer Experience | Kenya Revenue Authority

HubSpot

HubSpot was originally only used for marketing, but this year has been implemented across sales as well so most of the organization uses the tool. We have been able to use HubSpot for our marketing needs, including social media, email marketing, blogging, and landing pages. The campaign feature allows me to track everything involved with a specific campaign, which makes it easier to quickly show the impact the campaign has had on our marketing efforts without having to try to gather all of the information.”

Heather Robinette, MBA | Marketing Manager | Conexlink

Want to learn more about selecting the best Marketing Automation tool for your team?

If you’re seeking out the right tools for your marketing team, TrustRadius can help to narrow down your search. Learn more about the top marketing automation stacks and gather insight from reviews by people just like yourself. These software assessments and TrustMaps will keep you focused on what matters the most. Take a pragmatic approach and focus on your specific needs. For a complete breakdown of the automation tools mentioned and beyond, download the Buyer’s Guide to Marketing Automation.