Knowledge Share: Getting to grips with marketing automation

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Marketing automation apps such as Marketo and Hubspot are becoming smarter, more intuitive and more connected, so what can these technologies offer marketers in 2017?  

In simple terms, marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organisations to streamline all their marketing communications (such as email, social media, web content etc.) and automate tasks.
Developed in the early 90s, marketing automation uses automated software to help marketers nurture leads so they can deliver highly-targeted, personalised messages that address their specific barriers to purchase.
With advancements in artificial intelligence, marketing automation is expected to broaden even further in the coming years, and to be able to tackle some of the more complicated tasks that marketers have to take on.
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Zaynab Bostan, account manager at Carswell Gould, discussed the past, present and future of what is becoming one of the modern marketer’s most important tools.
Zaynab explains that while marketing automation has its roots in large B2B businesses, in recent years B2C companies have also embraced the technology. “At the moment the majority of marketers are using it for campaign automation; lead scoring, lead nurturing, lead routing and sales enablement,” she says. “So it can focus on a lot of B2B functions, but we’re actually seeing a lot more B2C industries such as healthcare, media, entertainment and retail adopt marketing automation.”
She says that lot of the functions of marketing automation are being overlooked by marketers. “It has a lot of functionalities that people aren’t using at the moment” she says. 
“There’s data management, advertising management and personalisation, but a lot of marketers are soley focussing on email marketing which is where automation started in the early 90s. Althought the tools are to hand, they’re not using the software to its full potential.”
Zaynab explains that while big marketing automation platforms can be a large investment, smaller companies can pick and choose elements of it independently: “It’s a very large investment for a marketing department, and a lot of marketers may struggle to justify the cost, but if you’re not going to use all the features there are things you can be doing that could achieve similar results” she says.
“For example, using email marketing software to set up workflows and rules, setting up landing pages for data capture, you can use a CRM integration and there are lots of really good free analytics for social media marketing.”
She continues: “If there’s just a few goals you want to achieve then you don’t have to buy from a big automation vendor, and a lot of them actually do checklists to help you determine whether you need the service or not.”
Zaynab told us how the average customer may experience marketing automation: “The most common occurance is when you go onto a website and you download a resource. You’re very likely to have been asked to enter your information to access the file” she explains.
As soon as your information is captured, the relevant marketing team has instant access to it and you are put into what is called a ‘sales funnel’ in which you will start receiving correspondence through touchpoints from a sales team. What you are sent will often be tailored to the resource you downloaded – if you downloaded a white paper on PPC then you might get a call from a sales rep trying to sell you PPC related services.”
Marketing automation offers a really bespoke and focussed way of interacting with your current customers and converting leads more, but Zaynab warns of some of the pitfalls you might encounter. 
“A lot of the pitfalls come from the marketers themselves rather than the software” she says. “Failiure generally comes from a lack of strategy, if you haven’t properly planned out a customer’s journey then the software won’t know what you want it to do.
She adds: “There’s still a lot of work you have to put into marketing automation, it’s not just a case of simply pushing the go button and you’re off.”
Despite the potential pitfalls, Zaynab thinks that the future of the technology is bright: “In the future I think it can only get bigger and better. One of the best things about marketing automation is that it takes out a lot of the human effort, but there’s still a lot of work to do to make it function correctly.
“Artificial intelligence is going to get a lot better, and there will be more predictive marketing using things like big data and web analytics – the more data we can capture the better the software can predict behavior and tailor campaigns.”
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