What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is one of those loaded terms that means di erent things to di erent people. It’s the subject of a fair amount of hype and embellishment, too, which adds to the confusion. The reality is that marketing automation is a simple idea, though one with wide variation in execution. It can be simple. It can be extremely complex. It’s done by huge companies. It’s done by one-person businesses. The goal is always the same, though: to automate previously complex marketing tasks so you can always send the right message to the right person at the right time.

Marketing automation is about using software to automate the process of communicating with your customers and prospects – driving them further along the path toward buying whatever it is that
you sell, whether that’s a product, a service, or a cause. It involves marketing with email but it’s quite di erent from basic email marketing, and far removed from the disreputable practice of “spamming” subscribers. This paper reviews the basics of marketing automation. It is intended to give you a sense of what it is and how it might work for your business.

Deficiencies in the Manual Marketing Process

Marketing automation began as a way to use technology to make up
for de ciencies in the traditional, manual process of marketing. Here’s a problem though: The “What is marketing automation?” conversation assumes that everyone understands what aspects of the marketing process are going to remain manual, versus those that will be automated. Adding to the confusion, the “marketing automation” community has also given some new, high-tech names to familiar, traditional tasks. We’re going to clear this all up.

Marketing for the Modern World

Quickly, let’s answer the most basic question rst: What is marketing? Everyone will have their own speci c answer, but in general, marketing involves all of the tasks and processes that lead to a new customer placing a rst order or an existing customer placing a repeat order. This is not a new topic, obviously. What’s changed in recent years, however, is the way that prospects and customers interact with businesses.

Today, as most managers have observed, customers are increasingly connecting with companies through technology. Car shopping, for example, which used to involve driving around to various dealerships, today almost always starts with online browsing of car websites. After gathering information about cars, the potential car buyer then goes out for a test drive at a dealership that ts the buyer’s criteria. Alternatively, or perhaps in addition, the potential car buyer might use a mobile device and a map-enabled search app to locate a car dealer while out and about.

If you’re a car dealer, you want that potential customer to drive to your dealership and test drive a car as soon as possible. If the customer doesn’t come that day, you want him to keep your dealership “top of mind” so that he will return another day. Better yet, you want a salesperson to contact the buyer, nd out what he’s looking for and do as much as possible to ensure that he will come and buy a car from you, and not anyone else.

How can you make this happen? Traditionally, a car dealer might advertise in the newspaper, on billboards, on TV and radio. When a prospect saw a car he liked in an ad, s/he might call the dealer, ask about the car and then perhaps drop by for a test drive. There is nothing wrong with this process and indeed, advertising is still very much the norm in the automotive industry.

Here’s the issue. The dealer, who is spending a lot money acquiring that rst conversation with the customer, is out of luck if he cannot sell a car on the rst contact. As Figure 1 shows, the traditional manual marketing process runs the risk of losing contact with a prospect. Not everyone is ready to buy a car at the rst point of contact with the dealer. If the dealer gets contact information from the prospect, it is possible to follow up, but doing so is a laborious, uncertain process. And follow-up requires a consider- able investment in time on the dealer’s part.

Attract Customer with Advertising

Marketing automation raises the probability of creating a lasting connection with the client through email and then automatically follows up with the prospect until s/he is ready to buy.

First Contact with Customer

Get Contact Info

Manually Follow-Up by Phone/Mail/Email

How can the dealer create a connection with the prospect that enables the dealer to follow up regularly and persistently without being irritating or spending hours playing phone tag? That’s what marketing automation is all about. Marketing automation raises the probability of creating a lasting connection with the client through email and then automatically follows up with the prospect until s/he is ready to buy. Then, after the rst sale, marketing automation continues to stay in touch – without people doing too much work to make it happen – in order to attract the customer back for repeat business.

How Marketing Automation Works

Most of us have had the experience of interacting with a marketing automation tool even if we didn’t know what it was called. Though there is a lot of variation in the practice, automated marketing begins with a visit to a website. Once on the site, the visitor is o ered an incentive to exchange his or her email address for something of value. This could be a coupon, a free trial, a piece of marketing content, the ability to receive special o ers in the future, and so forth. After entering his or her email in a web form, the email address is sent to a marketing automation tool, which adds the address to a list. Most marketing automation tools are hosted in the cloud. The user accesses the tool through a web interface.

Depending on the system, there may be a con rming email that goes out automatically that double- checks that the site visitor is, in fact, opting in to receive messages from the business. After that, the marketing automation tool automatically sends pre-written messages to the site visitor at predetermined intervals until the visitor either buys something or opts out. Figure 2 illustrates this basic marketing automation work ow.

There are many variations on this pattern. Some retailers, for example, ask for a customer’s email address at the point of purchase. Others may use contests or sweepstakes to get customer names and email addresses for future marketing automation use. The “contact us” form may also feed email addresses into the marketing automation tool.

Author: georged31093

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