We are all being asked to accomplish greater results with fewer resources. Marketing is no exception. There is one way to accomplish such a feat and that is to get hyper-focused. Focused on a vision. Focused on the goals. Focused on building a name for your firm within niche practice areas. Focused on streamlining and automating processes to better serve your clients. Focused on results.
There is no greater way to be hyper-focused in marketing than through the use of marketing automation tools. We have moved beyond these automation tools as being a ‘nice to have’ to them being ‘must-have’ tools if you want your firm to thrive. The list of available tools is growing each day. From free to enterprise-level, and everything in between, the selection process can quickly become overwhelming. Questions abound. How do you select the right tool (or tools) for your firm? How do you integrate software into your marketing efforts? What exactly is marketing automation? When is the right time to make an investment in automation software?
To answer these questions, let’s begin with a brief walk through history – the evolution of marketing. A few years ago, marketing, just like business, moved at a slower, more controlled pace.
Prior to the digital age, marketing consisted of primarily outbound efforts. The promotion of products and services was primarily pushed through one-way communication channels. The early years of the 21st century saw a shift towards digital technology – a shift that dramatically impacted how people communicate and exchange information. Cloud computing, search engines, and the power of the Internet brought the need for interactive and social communication. With individuals hungry for more information and creating new ways to communicate, a communication revolution was born. Traditional marketing quickly took a back seat as the need for content creation, optimized sites, and social and mobile marketing transformed the way we share information and attract new business.
In recent years, we’ve seen another change in marketing – a technology evolution. Firms are becoming dependent on technology to communicate with clients and move prospects through the sales funnel. Marketing automation is on the rise. According to Focus Research, marketing automation has seen the fastest growth of any CRM-related segment in the last five years.
The introduction of multiple marketing platforms has led to a number of marketing tools, each with unique functions, lexicons, and ways of measuring success. Unfortunately, many of these tools are disparate – each operating specifically within an individual platform or having a specific purpose. While these tools are very beneficial at automating some marketing tasks, the inability to integrate all marketing tasks makes it impossible to have a completely automated marketing program.
When you gather information from various marketing tools, you are then required to compare data between the different tools. Often, it becomes difficult to determine true causation or conversion of audience behavior. While you may see certain analytics in social media driving your target audience to your website, you are left with the task of analyzing website analytics and determining, if possible, what social actions led to what conversions. When tools are disparate, we are left with vast chasms, difficult to fill.
For instance, think of your email. How are you communicating with clients? Do you use Outlook or a more sophisticated program such as Constant Contact, Emma, or Mail Chimp? Each of these platforms has its own analytics tools to measure open rates, click-throughs, opt-outs, etc.
Websites are now commonplace – an expected norm. The content management system (CMS), allows one to instantly update content, manage feeds, and add pages. Then add Google Analytics to the mix, presenting real-time measurement and monitoring of visitors, bounce rates, time spent per page, page visits, conversions, and more. While the CMS and Google Analytics act separately, both are important to the overall function and maintenance of your website.
Consider the various social media channels: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, this list goes on. Some of you may still be implementing a manual social media process. To post, one logs into a channel, posts a message, logs out, and repeats the process with each channel – a process that consumes an inordinate amount of time. Then, consider that each platform has its own analytics tool and the time commitment skyrockets.
As the channels became more popular, various apps began to integrate with the channels – intending to automate the process. The unintended result? More disparate tools.
From apps to analytics, there are many different tools available to manage and measure the various platforms. Firms are wasting time and resources by continuing to use siloed tools. Marketing automation solves this issue.
Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for organizations to more effectively market on multiple online channels and automate repetitive tasks. In short, it is a platform to automate marketing tasks and decrease the use of disparate tools.
The purpose of marketing automation is to decrease the use of outbound marketing tactics, and focus more intently on inbound tactics that draw prospects to your firm, capture their information, and initiate a nurturing process. This provides the means to lead prospects through the buying cycle by serving up content, tracking their behavior and interests, and assigning a score. Through the use of marketing automation, firms can categorize prospects by behavior, interests, and demographic details. For instance, if a prospect clicks on a link from your website, you can automate the system to send them a follow up email two days later. This serves as a push and a reminder of your firm. Marketing automation makes your life easier when targeting prospects, makes your communication stronger, and promotes your firm at the same time.
Virtually every marketing automation tool provides three core capabilities: email marketing, website visitor tracking, and a marketing database and there are a number of marketing automation tools available. The industry leaders include: HubSpot, Act-On, Eloqua, and Marketo. These products have large market share, are backed by several resources, and have been highly rated by users for satisfaction. They include many additional tools making them robust, but sophisticated systems. Beyond timesaving and efficiency benefits, marketing automation provides modern business process benefits such as:
Marketing automation is an investment, and you must assess your firm’s capabilities and goals to determine if you are ready to take the next step. Consider the following:
If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are ready for marketing automation.
So, what’s next? When selecting your marketing automation system, you must consider various items to determine the right fit for your firm. Tune in next month when we dive into how to select the system for you.