What is Marketing Automation?


marketing automation - banner

The most common definition of Marketing Automation is – it helps you capture leads, run, automate and analyze routine marketing tasks – with minimal manual intervention. However, this explanation is rather incomplete because it does not consider that marketing automation also increases sales! Knowing exactly how it moves the needle for your business is the key to running successful marketing automation campaigns.

So, before we go further, let us see how marketing automation impacts the business ROI

Marketing automation infographic

See what I mean? Since marketing automation is primarily used only by the marketing team, it’s impact on sales and thus the business ROI is either ignored or not fully understood. But, now that you have the whole picture, let us see how to implement and execute it.

Understanding Marketing Automation

Usually, email marketing is used interchangeably with marketing automation. That is not strictly correct. While email marketing is definitely a part of marketing automation, it is not the only function.

Marketing automation and email marketing

Marketing automation is also for tracking leads, qualifying them and passing them on to the sales team. That means, marketing automation is not just about email marketing (i.e basically send out automated emails). It begins from the moment the lead visits your site, tracks his behavior and activities so that targeted and relevant messages (through SMS or email) can be sent to them. It also extends well beyond after the message is sent – with evaluating lead behavior and then further customizing the marketing activities to reflect the buyer’s actions.

What can be done with Marketing Automation?

A marketing Automation software will automate all essential marketing actions that guides a lead down the conversion funnel. It saves the marketer a lot of time, thus enabling him to focus more on the marketing strategy, instead of simply executing tasks.

This representation can help you understand better:

Marketing Automation representation

So, marketing automation includes:

  • Landing pages, telephony & integrations to capture leads
  • Drip Marketing and Email Campaigns to help you nurture your leads
  • Lead Scoring to help in lead qualification
  • Conversation tracking at each touch point – phone calls, SMS, emails, social, web chat etc.
  • Website tracking and lead segmentation to ensure lead gets targeted content
  • Reporting and Analytics to identify gaps in your process.

So, can marketing automation replace marketers?

Nope. Marketing automation is not a substitute for your marketers. That is, you cannot introduce a marketing automation software one day and then fire half your team. The idea behind a marketing automation software is that it will take up the burden of voluminous, repetitive campaigns so that your team can measure impact and further streamline the process.

The same team can simply do MORE – they can engage with leads in a more personalized and relevant way, perhaps improve the process and help the lead have a better customer experience.

Marketing Automation in Action

Here is an example of an email that I got recently:

Email marketing with marketing automation

What struck me most about this email was that they timed it exactly with my midday break! And do you know what I did? I went right ahead and took the survey (and let me tell you – I dislike taking surveys). So, let’s look at why this email was successful in getting me to act:

1. Sent at the right time

Had I not gotten this email exactly during my midday break, it would not have had much of an impact. They timed the email to coincide with my break. See, I am not saying they knew my exact timetable and thus sent the email. They just sent it at the time when it would have had maximum impact. Check out this data from Co-Schedule that shows the best time to send emails.

So, they picked a time slot and scheduled the email to get delivered at that particular time to their lead list. They also cleverly worded their message so that it encourages the reader to take action.

2. Relevant content

They asked me to take a survey about their pricing. They knew I had evaluated their product in some way and was aware of their pricing structure. If I was a lead who had only downloaded an e-book, then this email would not have been relevant to me, I would have just skipped it.

So, they had probably segmented their lead list and ensured that this email reached only those leads who found it relevant.

3. Personalization

Now, this is the easy part. They got my name right. I wasn’t “Hi Subscriber” to them. And yes, that did make a difference.

In short, the email was timely, targeted and personalized which is why it had an impact. In fact, all successful email campaign share these traits – these powerful statistics tell us that much

Marketing automation impacts email marketing

I brought up the topic because I wanted to tell you that all of these can be achieved with marketing automation. You can segment your lead list, personalize the content (with mail merge fields) and make sure the content is targeted.

But, these are still capabilities of an email-marketing tool. Why do you need a marketing automation software for this? It is because, marketing automation will help you not just execute these tasks, but also refine it further.

Let us take the same example – you want to nurture your leads with targeted content and push them down the conversion funnel. Firstly, you face the following problems:

A) Understanding lead requirements:

Unless they explicitly specify on a form, you do not know which offering your lead is interested in. Sending an email blast about offering A will be pretty pointless to leads interested in offering B and vice versa. Similarly, In your lead list, you do not know who has downloaded an e-book and who has examined your pricing page. Sending an email blast about pricing will be spam for those subscribers who have not checked out your pricing.

B) Sending emails after lead action:

Even if you manage to send relevant content, you will also have to send it at a time that makes the most sense for you and for the lead. Bombarding the lead’s inbox with emails for each website visit or an inconsequential action will make even the most interested of leads, immune to your content.

C) Nurturing leads based on behavior:

The more the lead involves with your business,  the more targeted your content should become. That means, each follow-up email should be based on the action that the lead has already taken. For Eg. for a lead who has not opened your first email, you can say ‘I see that you haven’t checked my previous email‘ and so on.

Marketing Automation can solve all these problems. By tracking the website activity of each of your leads, you can identify where the lead came from (lead source), what he is interested in (the pages he browsed) and when to send a relevant email (after a crucial action like visiting the pricing page).

website tracking with marketing automaion

Once you send out the email, you can know how each lead responds to the email (Do they open it? Do they click on the link? Or has it simply been ignored) and use this information to further nurture them. You can also take it one step further and notify the salesperson if the lead has taken an important conversion-centric action.

Of course, as with any marketing tool, the email statistics after each campaign will show you how the email has performed. It will also give you an overview of how each lead reacted to the email – who opened it, clicked on it etc.

D) Checking if the lead is sales qualified

The point of all nurturing is to make the lead sales-qualified and push them further down the conversion funnel. But, how will you know if the email campaign you sent out has finally convinced your lead to check out your product? This feature is not present is all email marketing tools. However, with marketing automation, it is possible.

By tracking lead score (and sometimes engagement score), you can identify when the lead is sales-ready. The more involved a lead is with you, as in, more engaged he is (identified by engagement score) – the higher the interest. If he performs a conversion – critical event, he can also be automatically moved down the funnel.

Marketing Automation lead stage change



E) Tracking marketing activity

So how exactly did your marketing efforts impact business? Did it improve lead generation? Did you get in more quality leads? What is your high-performing channel of lead source?

All These questions can again be answered with a marketing automation tool. The reporting and analytics tell you which your best performing campaign was. But my personal favorite is the report that tells me the response time. The amount of time taken by your sales team to get back to the lead makes a tremendous impact on the lead’s buying decision. The higher it is, the more important for you to take action and fix that gap.

Finding response time with marketing automation

One glance and I know that this month, the amount of time taken to complete an outbound phone call by my team is over 2 days. Since this is clearly a bad number, I shall look to improving it and fix the gap.

In this complete scenario, the involvement of the marketer is minimal. Yes, he has to monitor the campaigns from time to time and check the reports. But he doesn’t have to necessarily execute each of the email campaigns separately. All it required from him is a one-time investment of time upfront – and then he gets to focus on other tasks or spend time in improving his campaign

Why Marketing Automation?

This is the bit where I tell you how marketing automation can help you improve your lead quality, boost your ROI and make you (and your team) more productive.

But I will not.

Not because it is not true – because marketing automation can streamline your entire business process:

Marketing automation improves sales ROI

But again, this is only one half of the story. The real reason why you should get marketing automation is that it provides the lead a much better customer experience. Let us look at how the above campaign is seen from a customer’s perspective –

  1. Emails are sent only at a time when it is most convenient
  2. No unnecessary spam. In fact, the emails are highly relevant and interesting
  3. No pestering calls from Sales Team to buy
  4. The sales guy always knows what your exact requirement is – no repeating oneself
  5. The process is fast- you get acknowledgments and replies instantly

In short, it is a seamless journey that gives the lead more reason to buy from you, or at the very least form an extremely positive opinion.

And that is why marketing automation is such a good idea. It doesn’t just help your marketing team – it also impacts the user experience and interaction with your business that will otherwise be very difficult to monitor. That is the real reason you get a marketing automation tool – to build lasting relationships with your leads so that they choose you, every time! I have explained it in further detail on how to improve customer experience with marketing automation.

So, should you adopt marketing automation? I would love to say YES – Go for it! Get LeadSquared. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. If I truly want to help you make the decision, I have to tell you that sometimes Marketing Automation might not be a great idea.

When will marketing automation not make sense for your business? I shall tell you all about it in the next chapter. I shall talk about the major reasons and signs that show when MA is not a feasible option for a business – so that you can honestly evaluate whether your business needs it or not.

Till then share, like and tell your friends about this post – they help me write faster.

Go to Chapter Two