Marketing Automation Software Overview
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing Automation software helps to automate and scale repetitive marketing tasks and the subsequent analysis of those efforts. Software products focus on digital campaign planning, execution, automation and measurement. The core concept is that leads in the marketing database can be nurtured through the buying process by providing them with relevant, personalized content until they are ready to purchase. Historically the primary channel was email, but today websites, mobile interfaces and social media are all integral to successful marketing efforts. Campaign workflow can be designed within the tool and then executed automatically; once a campaign has run its course, a range of analytics tools can measure its performance to understand what worked well and what did not.
Most Marketing Automation software products contain an email engine and abilities to create customized landing pages, score leads and analyze results, which provide a holistic view of the entire marketing funnel from visitor to customer. Beyond these core functions vendors tend to differentiate themselves on breadth or depth of offering, largely based upon current or historical market segment focus.
At the high end of the market some enterprise tools provide comprehensive Marketing Resource Management (MRM) functionality focused on internal marketing processes like budget and forecasting, project workflow management, asset management, brand management and spend management. Such capabilities have historically not been a focus for small business and mid-market enterprises, though some believe MRM capabilities will become important for mid-market companies. For example, in the last year Marketo added budget management and released a calendar feature.
“For marketing automation to move beyond demand generation to become the platform for marketing, MRM [Marketing Resource Management] is an area that they will have to include as part of their suites moving forward.”
At the small business end of the market, the emphasis is on providing a complete toolset of marketing capabilities, of which campaign management is just one element. These “All-in-One Marketing Platforms” typically include basic email, social media, search engine optimization (SEO) and blogging tools. Some also include eCommerce and basic CRM capabilities.
Inbound versus Outbound Marketing
An inbound marketing orientation focuses on the “top of the funnel,” i.e., generating new leads. Primary inbound marketing tactics include publishing educational content (blogs, white papers, videos or any other content that draws people in), search engine optimization and social media.
Outbound (or mid-funnel) marketing focuses on nurturing and engaging existing leads with relevant content via email and social media, building calls to action (e.g., attending a webinar) and sending leads to personalized landing pages. As these leads become increasingly engaged, they become Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and ultimately Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) that are ripe for closing. Some Marketing Automation tools aim to cover the full funnel, while other tools emphasize individual stages. Many tools include a scoring system to track and distinguish MQLs vs. SQLs; some platforms allow users to customize and update this system.