Like most business buzzwords, "marketing automation,” means different things to different people. If you're listening to a sales rep, marketing automation can solve all of your problems — all you have to do is install the software! Talk to other people, and their idea of marketing automation is more attuned to a specific tool that accomplishes a standalone task, like automatically sending out tweets.
Since we've written extensively about the latter element, today we'd like to address this topic at a higher, more conceptual level. This approach, in fact, seems fitting with 2015 just around the corner. You'll inevitably hear about how marketing automation is the "next big thing." You may even have your CFO walk into your office and say, "why aren't we investing in marketing automation?" Scarier still, maybe your CFO will ask for "marketing automation" under the company Christmas tree. Yikes.
Marketing Automation: Reality Vs. The Ideal
To set the stage, we turn, once again, to our pals over at HubSpot. HubSpot talks about the "reality" of marketing automation and the "ideal." The reality will probably sound familiar.
Software marketers who convince clients that all digital marketing tools are necessary for growth have defined the current state of marketing automation. As a result, clients invest in inapplicable tools while ignoring marketing basics like organically and systematically generating leads. This is bad because, as we've noted, automation can't do everything. Then there's the marketing automation "ideal" whereby companies buy and sell just like Amazon. Just think about your experience on the massive e-commerce site as you shop for holiday presents. By pushing timely and applicable content in the form of products, it intuitively knows what you want. Most of this back-end work is automated, providing Amazon with a tremendous return on investment. And while Amazon's business model doesn't apply to every company, the core components of their approach — pushing customized content, nurturing leads, creating satisfied customers — are very pertinent when viewed through the lens of marketing automation.
What Constitutes "Good" Marketing Automation?
So there's a marketing automation reality and an ideal. Reality is bad because it ignores key marketing fundamentals, while the ideal is out of reach for most companies. How can companies strike a healthy balance?
The answer involves using automation tools at the most critical elements of the sales lifecycle: prospect identification and nurturing. This means understanding a prospect's needs, demographics, purchasing history, their location in the sales funnel, and other important pieces of information, and using automation to address these elements with precision. Key to this step is leveraging interactions across every marketing channel, not just e-mail. In addition, sales reps need to "un-learn" what was taught to them by software marketers. Automation doesn't "do the selling" for them, but instead provides critical information to increase the changes of conversion. Lastly, marketing automation can only succeed if it interfaces with good content at the back-end. In other words, you'll be more successful in say, getting prospects to click on a holiday-themed call-to-action if the CTA itself and the related landing page directly speak to prospect needs.
But Don't Forget the Building Blocks
So with the holidays upon us and 2015 approaching, we encourage you to ignore the sales hype and understand that automation alone can't magically generate leads, get your sales and marketing associates on the same page, or create compelling content. If, however, these building blocks are in place across your team, marketing automation can help you scale your efforts and deliver value.
What do you think? Has your team fully adopted marketing automation? Has it proved successful? Have you worked with any of the big players like HubSpot, Marketo, or Pardo?
Thinking about a partnership with an inbound agency? Do your due diligence and download our Hiring an Inbound Marketing Agency eBook.