What is marketing automation and how can you use it?
Imagine you’re the conductor of a very strange orchestra. You have a heavy metal guitarist, a reggae drummer, a classical violinist, a jazz pianist, and everyone wears earmuffs. You’re trying to conduct them to play music that will immediately impress the most picky critic — your audience — who’s walking through the hall in a hurry.
If your musicians aren’t listening to each other, you’ll miss each and every customer, one by one, or even scare them away with a crazy cacophony.
That’s why we created this article explaining the main concepts and functions of marketing automation. You’ll also get a to-do list for launching and scaling your marketing automation processes at a company of any size. We hope after reading this article, your marketing orchestra becomes harmonic and gathers a London opera hall full of customers!
Table of contents
- What is marketing automation?
- What are the main tasks of marketing automation?
- Types of marketing automation tools
- Marketing automation spheres. Which areas of marketing can benefit from automation?
- Example of marketing automation for marketing performance analysis
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation is using software to minimize inefficient effort and time spent on marketing routines and manual tasks. You can find other definitions of marketing automation, but this one is the simplest.
The main function of automation is to simplify and speed up time-consuming marketing activities such as:
- Content production and distribution
- Marketing campaign management
- Lead management
- Advertising campaign estimates
The main advantages of marketing automation are less time spent on routine work, fewer chances of making a mistake, and more attention available for customers.
There are three pillars at the heart of marketing automation:
- Advanced analytics
- Completeness of data
- Consolidation of data from different systems in a single place
Done correctly, marketing automation minimizes repetitive manual work for marketers and frees their time for strategic, management, and creative tasks that have a high impact on marketing results.
What are the main tasks of marketing automation?
Which business aims are reachable by means of marketing automation?
Optimizing a marketer’s work
With marketing automation, marketers can scale typical tasks:
- Send trigger emails in response to customers’ actions instead of sending a handful of emails each week by hand.
- Segment audiences to automatically choose the most efficient communication channel based on segment characteristics.
- Analyze advertising channels much faster.
Collecting data also becomes easier with marketing automation, and you can collect data more precisely without the risk of human mistakes. Even the smallest error or inaccuracy can lead to massive data loss or incorrect selections for reporting.
Profit: Zero time spent on routine tasks, more attention to work with traffic, leads, and clients, less chance of making a mistake in the data collection and processing stages.
Let’s get back to the orchestra analogy. When musicians meet each other, become friends, and hear each other during the performance, the music they play is unique and expressive, and the audience can’t ignore it.
The same is true with marketing. If you acquaint all of your marketing tools with each other, connect their data in one system, and solve the problem of data discrepancies, your comprehensive data analysis will give you new insights you never expected.
The first thing you should start with is setting up your business intelligence analytics system. Not sure you can do it alone? OWOX BI will show you how to solve this task during the demo.
Profit: After launching a business intelligence system, your marketing department can focus on lead generation and management, creating specialized advertising campaigns. This will increase the number and quality of leads. And you’ll have all the data you need to build viable and informative reports.
Estimating and optimizing advertising campaigns based on comprehensive data
These processes are the everyday routine for a PPC specialist.
But sometimes, just guessing the efficiency of advertising campaigns isn’t enough. You have to look at the data harvested from different sources, which can describe the successes and failures of your campaigns from different points of view. Then you have to visualize your data and get the whole picture.
Of course, this method is much more expensive and complex than simple manual estimation. But each non-optimized campaign launched without correct measurement will drain your budget.
With OWOX BI, you can get reports that show you the bottlenecks in your sales and marketing funnels and help you increase the conversion rate.
Profit: Save money, quickly stop inefficient spending, and generate more leads.
Sales and marketing departments are effective partners
The more work marketing does to address the questions and objections of current leads and customers, the more arguments the sales department will have to persuade new customers. The better your lead generation, the more work the sales department will have. Marketing automation helps to improve communication among departments, simplify the exchange of data, enrich CRM data with additional resources, create a unified database for marketing and sales, and build better reports.
Profit: Correct distribution of roles and duties, synchronization of efforts, minimization of lost leads, and growth of income.
Growth of brand awareness and customer loyalty
You can improve the loyalty of your audience with the help of personalized offers. People who get offers relevant to them are more likely to buy something than those who get a random offer or no offer at all. To make relevant offers, you need to collect behavioral data, process it, create segments, and apply personalized marketing strategies.
Profit: Growth of market share and customer loyalty.
Types of marketing automation tools
- Integrated marketing management systems. These are aimed at automating processes and technologies for centralized marketing management and include operational (SAS Marketing Operations Management), executive (SAS Marketing Automation), and analytical (SAS Social Media Analytics) software.
- Marketing resource management software is aimed at budgeting, creating, and conducting marketing campaigns, developing promotional stages, creating email lists and collecting the results of marketing investigations.
- Enterprise feedback management is a class of corporate systems for planning and conducting marketing
investigations and managing a database of analysis results.
- Campaign management tools provide functionality for managing advertising campaigns.
- Marketing analytics tools support the collection, merging, and analysis of marketing data.
- Lead management systems help you work with leads in the sales funnel.
Is there any unified marketing automation system today? No, as there’s no tool that works the same for everybody.
An ocean of tools and formats is not a blessing but a challenge.
The global complexity of marketing automation means that choosing tools is the easiest part of your work. Before that, you should educate your marketers, then create working processes, and only after that pick tools.
Let’s take a look at a prototypical company on the way to marketing automation.
Marketing automation spheres. Which areas of marketing can benefit from automation?
Marketing automation can be applied to these areas:
- Content marketing and distribution
- PPC advertising campaigns
- Lead-gen marketing
- Emailing and client services (email, SMS, calls, push notifications, chat bots)
- Delivery and payment automation
- Business intelligence analytics
There are more than 7,000 marketing tools today. Planning your automation strategy will help you choose those that work for you.
It’s extremely important to choose your own combination of tools for
marketing automation so they work together harmoniously with the richest data you can collect.
Now, let’s review each area of marketing that you can automate.
Content marketing and distribution
Without process automation, content marketers become shy writers. They write articles that are too long and don’t publish them effectively.
That’s why it’s so important to automate content production and use content marketing instruments wisely.
- Content management. Create a content plan, assign topics, prepare materials, and tune the writing workflow with authors. Even a spreadsheet is a good tool to start. Dedicate one sheet to your publication plan for the month. Control the publication deadlines, even if it’s difficult.
Your writers should use text analysis services like the Hemingway app to determine uniqueness, identify errors, and measure readability.
Make readable and interactive content for your ad campaigns and for each page of your website.
- Install a convenient CMS (e. g. Wordpress), SEO optimize your content (SEMrush, Serpstat), use link building services, and connect with bloggers to promote and share your content.
- Build up your content distribution strategy based on your marketing plan. This means you have to create an automated process for seeding your content on social media, other platforms, your partners’ websites, etc. Use SMM, email marketing, and PR tools. For instance, you can use a publication planner (Preview, Planoly, or SEMrush) to make a post automatically appear on Facebook. You can use Popsters to analyze competitors' content and create your own more engaging content. Such integrations can be non-linear, triggered, and cross-platform. For instance, you can send an email with five articles, a discount, and an invitation to follow your company on Facebook to those who liked your latest blog post.
Create processes for guest blogging and share publications created for other platforms. If you post an article to your blog, why not add a link to your main website and post it on Medium?
PPC advertising and CPA campaigns
You have tons of goods on your website and you need to sell them. But you’re not alone in the market. There are dozens of online stores like yours. How can you help customers find and choose you? It’s easier to do with advertising campaigns.
Pay-per-click campaign automation has two main functions: launch and optimize bids for thousands of campaigns, manage all of them simultaneously in real time, and as a result, save your budget.
Here’s what you can expect from automation at this stage (depending on the tools you’ve chosen, the results may vary):
- Collect and build semantics
- Manage bids (starting with simple bid managers and macros and ending with linear and complex rule optimizers)
- Optimize CPA/CPO campaigns
- Automatically create UTM tags without errors
- Hunt for 404-pages
- Manage expenses and perform statistical calculations
- Conduct analysis and build reports (Use the results of analysis to manage bids and optimize CPA/CPO campaigns.)
The automation approach is another way of realizing advertising campaigns, from planning to adapting the results of analysis.
Maybe you’ve tried to merge data manually. But without 100% precision when merging data from discrete sources, the possibility for human error is high.
You can analyze the results of your advertising campaigns in each different advertising service manually, wasting tons of time, creating pivot tables, but get the low quality of this analysis.
Or you can build a dashboard once, where all key campaign metrics will be presented on one screen, and use it for a long time. The choice is up to you.
Lead generation is the most high-contact sport in the marketing olympics. With the help of software, widgets, plugins, and other tools, you can get contact information faster and in a way that’s easier for both you and your leads.
There are lots of leadgen methods, and some of them are way too popular! Like annoying pop-ups. Your pop-up that says the equivalent of “come back, customer, please!” won’t tug at any heartstrings. But if you can use pop-ups smartly in appropriate places on your website, they might be rather useful both for you and your customers.
The best advice: Ask for contact information in exchange for offers that might be interesting for your customers. For example, if your customers are interested in your blog and read it a lot, they might like to get reminder emails about new articles. You can offer them this service in exchange for their email addresses.
One of the simplest ways to get contact data is using a feedback form. Users might leave their emails/phone numbers to review your company, share feedback, or get additional support.
Thanks to automated lead generation, you’ll be able to work with cold and hot leads. These users think differently and have different needs: cold leads need information, while hot leads want a smooth and positive purchasing experience.
A few more ways to generate leads:
- Through social media forms
- Offering consultations
- Offering discounts
- Providing offers based on UTM tags or lead magnets
You have to store data about your leads in compliance with security and reliability standards. We advise you to use Google BigQuery storage, as it has all the capabilities you’ll need to process and present collected data for marketing and sales departments. BigQuery will help you analyze your lead generating channels better and check the quality of your lead magnets and CTAs.
Full-fledged marketing automation starts as you get more data on your customers and sort them by the channels and campaigns they come from.
The main goal of lead nurturing is to transform cold leads to hot leads, hot leads to constant buyers, and constant buyers to brand advocates.
Turn on your imagination and create your perfect mix for lead nurturing:
- Create an email offer based on your customers’ previous actions on the website: adding items to favorites, comparing items, sharing items, saving them for later. You can also display these items on certain areas of the website.
- Offer a gift, discount, or invite to a sale.
- Create a useful pop-up reminding the customer of an abandoned cart or offering to save or email the items currently in it.
- Create trigger emails with discounts for abandoned carts.
- Plan РРС campaigns with discounts for customers that have looked through dozens of pages of products but haven’t bought anything.
Many channels may be involved in lead nurturing: email, SMS, calls, chatbots, social media advertising, offline advertising, and more. For example, if a customer gives you their phone number during registration, you can analyze the list of products they’re interested in and create an SMS suggesting complementary products – or send a friendly reminder that something from their favorites list is back in stock. Chatbots simplify communication with customers and are helpful if you want to share information about your product with customers in a Q&A format, entertain them with smart quizzes, etc. People like to interact with chatbots, especially people who don’t like to communicate with managers and support agents.
Lead nurturing demands careful consideration of how you will interact with customers and requires constant improvement.
As we’ve mentioned, your CRM system must include all possible information on leads. This information will help you segment your leads, understand them better, track their journeys through the funnel, and accurately attribute value to channels.
There’s no need to call or send an email to each lead each time you have a gut feeling they’re going to leave you. This blanket approach can push people away if the timing is wrong and they’re not ready to buy from you. It’s important to warm up your audience with the right content in a logical sequence and not to rush them. The perfect customer will come to you even without any advertising. But to get such customers, you have to work a lot on warming them up.
An automated lead management system must predict the hottest leads who are the most likely to buy from you, then offer them goods or services based on their activity. With all this data, the sales department just needs to call leads or send them the right offer to make a deal.
The perfect instrument to predict the hottest leads is a lead scoring system.
Each action taken on your website can be given a score. For example, if you have an online store, you may add scores for:
- Reviewing products
- Reading articles
- Adding items to the cart or favorites
- Sharing on social media
- Subscribing for emails
The more time leads spend on your website, the more interest they demonstrate and the more chances you have to convince them to buy. On the other hand, if you see that leads are passive, you have to stimulate them by providing useful information and the right CTAs.
A lead management system gives you the opportunity to choose customers with the highest scores and push them to purchase.
Also, you can interview your leads to improve segmentation and to gather even more information about them and create handpicked offers.
Billing, online payment, and delivery options
Make choosing billing and delivery options a comfortable process. Choose the most reliable online payment system to convince your customers that each purchase is protected and each penny will be tracked to the destination. If you do business internationally, check that your system handles different currencies in a way that’s convenient for your customers.
You can integrate information from your billing system and CRM to get an overall understanding of how much revenue each customer brings in. Problems with payments and delivery can cause the hottest leads to go cold. To avoid these problems, set up automatic reminders and create a separate segment for analysis based on lead’s “cooling down” behavior. That way you’ll quickly see errors in the funnel and can fix them.
Be attentive to the bounce rate on your billing and delivery pages and solve all problems there to save yourself a bunch of money!
Advertising campaign analytics
A marketing automation system should analyze advertising campaigns based on complete data stored in a single place, using a clear interface that provides clear results.
The information you need for serious analysis is stored on your website, advertising accounts, and CRM. You need all this data to understand how much you spend on acquiring leads and whether your actions are efficient. Also, you have to analyze how orders are delivered, how many returns there are, and how all your managers are doing their work. This is all necessary to understand how much revenue you’ve received from all this activity. And when you have all that data perfectly stored and prepared so you can build each report you need, the overall efficiency of your marketing activity will rise. Because finding bottlenecks will take minutes, not months.
To analyze your advertising campaigns correctly and reap the benefits of comprehensive data analysis, you have to:
- Build your business intelligence (BI) system.
- Calculate honest ROAS and CAC for your advertising campaigns based on comprehensive data.
- Use LTV and other metrics and find out your CPL, which will be your milestone for spending on customer acquisition.
- Set up notifications based on CPL to stop spending in case your milestone is exceeded in the bid management system.
- Segment your audience and conduct RFM analysis to create personalized offers.
This approach is rather different from the manual approach, don’t you think? But the results are even more different!
Example of marketing automation for marketing performance analysis
Obviously, any business wants to know clearly where it’s spent money and what profit it has made. However, marketers usually build cost analysis reports manually. Compiling one such report can take from two to five hours a week. Why does it take so long? Usually, data is kept in different services, formats, and currencies. All information must be imported into one place, merged, and structured in a single format. No wonder manual reports often contain lots of errors. However, all these processes can be completely automated and configured once, after which all the necessary information can be received on time and will be up to date.
And let’s not forget that if a marketer spends most of their time collecting data, merging data, connecting services, and creating reports, they won’t have the energy and time to analyze the results, think about a new strategy, or develop creative ideas to promote the company’s products.
Let’s look at an example of what steps are available to automate a marketer’s task to increase the effectiveness of advertising campaigns on an e-commerce website by reducing the cost of inefficient campaigns.
Step 1. Automate data collection in Google Analytics:
- Data about users’ behavior on the website
- Campaign cost data from GoogleAds
Note: For more accurate analysis, you should add data from non-Google campaigns and add data about orders and their statuses from your CRM system. In Google Analytics (Universal), there’s no possibility to import such data automatically — you have to use connectors or upload CSV files manually.
Step 2. Collect all marketing data in Google BigQuery for advanced analysis and database segmentation for other automation areas (sending emails, managing bids, distributing content, etc.).
For example, the following data can be used for analysis:
- Google Analytics — Sessions, behavioral factors, transactions completed during the sessions
- Advertising services — Advertising costs by source/medium
- CRM systems — Transactions, transaction revenues, transaction statuses
OWOX BI is the perfect solution for all this. With its help, you can:
- Collect user behavior data from your website and Google Analytics
- Add data from advertising services
- Enrich data with information from CRM systems
- Merge all your data and create various reports
By implementing automation at this level, you can:
- Reduce the time to identify unprofitable campaigns
- Automate the alert process
- Use processed data further (sending segments to bid services, sending segments/triggers to email services, predicting conversions, etc.)
Step 3. If you need to constantly monitor data, it’s helpful to create a dashboard suited for your needs. You can do this in Google Data Studio or any other tool that’s convenient for you. You can use data from your Google BigQuery project, where you’ve already collected all the needed data in the previous step.
For example, a dashboard that analyzes advertising campaigns depending on item availability can help you:
- Find out how much profit you lose by attracting users to pages of items that are not available
- See why this is happening and how to fix it
Marketing automation is unavoidable and necessary if you really care
about your business. Will you do it with pleasure and get the expected
results or will you build a nonsense Jenga tower of services and data
channels and wait until it falls down? It’s completely up to you.
Plan your marketing automation stage by stage. And don’t forget that:
- The data ocean will be increasing constantly. Without automation and organization of data processes, your whole business can sink.
- Advertising will become more and more expensive. Thus, saving money is a must. All market leaders have systems in place to stop inefficient expenditures rapidly based on business intelligence.
- Human errors and marketers’ time cost even more than automation. Let marketers make their decisions and let computers do the calculations and exchange data.
How’s your marketing automation doing? Let us know in the comments below.