23 October 2019
Getting Started With Marketing Automation
The marketing automation train is gathering steam. Are you on board?
Once the domain of large corporate companies with big budgets for customised software; marketing automation is now widespread and available to any business, no matter how small.
In this article I’ll explain what marketing automation is, outline the key features of the technology, and give a price comparison of a small cross section of the rapidly growing list of marketing automation vendors, and then finish up by offering three important steps to get you started with some resources for further information.
Let’s get started…
What is Marketing Automation?
The term ‘Marketing Automation’ has taken on a very wide remit, to the point that most online services in the marketing field are adding various features to their offering and calling it ‘Marketing Automation’.
I’m no expert, and have yet to find a definitive definition, (if there is one), so for the purpose of this article we’ll take Marketing Automation to mean a collection of integrated software tools that will help you move your prospects from the top of your marketing funnel through to becoming sales-ready leads at the bottom.
Traditionally the ‘marketing team’ acquired the leads (predominantly using interruptive marketing techniques like print advertising) and then passed them onto the sales department to follow up and convert into customers. Not anymore.
With a variety of marketing specific Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms springing up across the web as well as other older marketing software solutions still in the frame, the two departments can now use the same cloud based software to automate the handover.
The majority of platforms even help with the various automated processes before and after too, such a landing pages and forms, and a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM).
To begin with most people will use the software to automate simple processes such as sending emails and scheduling social media. Advanced use includes being able to ‘score’ a prospective lead based on their activities on your website, and then show or send them specifically targeted content and messaging (even postcards and SMS messages). The result is to nurture a prospect from first contact with the site, converting them into a qualified lead, and then nurturing them further until they are ready to buy. Some of the bigger tools also provide SEO interface tools to help guide you through your website hurdles and analytics to ensure optimum optimisation at all times.
Look at marketing automation as automatically generating, tracking, scoring, nurturing and managing a lead from a variety of channels all the way through to a sale (and beyond should you wish to do so).
And don’t be fooled by the name. Marketing Automation is not ‘set and forget’ software, turning website visitors into customers and clients with a wave of the marketing department’s magic wand. There’s a lot of ongoing work involved and once you start, you’ll never stop because the options are endless.
Is Marketing Automation for me?
· If your business is sending out information for prospects and using a CRM to keep in contact by phone, then you’ll benefit from marketing automation
· If you have a website and company blog providing information for prospects tied to an email marketing service for sending out newsletters, then you’ll certainly benefit
· If you use different platforms for social media posting, email marketing and website analytics then certain MAT will be of great benefit as an all in one resource platform.
· If you have a blended approach then you will appreciate being able to automate the whole process, as well as being able to track and target individuals to get them the information they want when they want it
Marketing Automation, if set up correctly can: cut your lead acquisition costs, increase your leads and their quality, and ultimately increase your sales revenue. What’s not to like?
Sooner or later, your competitors will be using marketing automation to generate and nurture their leads and steal your sales – assuming they aren’t already.
So what are the features of this Marketing Automation Technology?
There are many software solutions being offered for marketing automation, and though they do differ with a variety of features, (even different names for the same thing) the essentials are: landing pages and forms for lead generation, email marketing for lead nurturing, and lead scoring, grading and management for highlighting the hottest leads.
Landing pages and forms
Landing pages (sometimes called lead pages, or squeeze pages) are specific web pages on your website (or hosted by the marketing automation platform) designed to do one thing and one thing only: capture an email address (and other lead data when necessary) by offering a bribe – an incentive usually: a pdf guide, report, case study or whitepaper. You should also be able to split-test your landing pages to improve conversions. (Use a control and only test one thing at a time).
Remember: The more lead data you ask for on a first visit, the fewer the leads you’ll generate. You are better off just asking for an email address first, and then use that to educate and further engage the prospect. Find out exactly what the problem is they are looking to solve by giving them links to different pages or a simple ‘survey’. When they click the link, the software will automatically fill in their email address in the form on the new page and you can ask for further lead data then in exchange for more solution specific content.
Lead scoring, grading and management
Lead scoring involves ranking your leads based on how interested they are in your products or services. Are they the right prospects for your company? How likely are they to buy? And how soon can they be converted from a lead to customer?
For example, what pages on your site did they visit and how long were they there for? You’ll want to score your visitor more for visiting your pricing page than for a quick scroll through your home page. And a prospect who’s signed up for and received a personal demo would be graded much higher than a lead who only watched half of your ‘popular features’ video.
Remember: It’ll be up to you to define exactly which activity scores what points, how the prospect is graded and where they are taken next in your marketing/sales funnel. The software will just add up those points for you, showing who your hottest leads are at any one time.
Other tools include: online behaviour tracking, social listening and posting, ad management, segmentation, customisation and CRM integration.
What Marketing Automation Software is available?
Short answer – far too much to write about! From 2016 – 2017, the number of marketing automation vendors grew by 36%, from 156 vendors to 212.
Whilst marketing automation software can be sourced from a large variety of vendors, many SaaS businesses already in the online marketing and sales fields are now including marketing automation as part of their offering.
Here are a number of options for you to consider – they generally fall into three different categories:
· Specific marketing automation programs
· Existing email and other online marketing providers who’ve now extended into offering a built in marketing automation service too
· Full blown online sales and marketing platforms that include marketing automation as part of the whole package
There is also a huge variation in price for what appears on the outside to be essentially the same set of tools in a variety of ‘flavours’. The following vendors are just a mixed sample across the spectrum of MAT providers.
|Type||MAT name and URL||The lowdown|
|Free (Open Source)||Mautic.org||You’ll need to host this yourself on your own server. It is well supported by the community and you can have an unlimited amount of contacts. Mautic follows the same business model as WordPress (free, commercial) – the world’s most used Content Management System (CMS)|
|Free, but Limited||Drip.co||Limited to 100 contacts, and includes drip branding|
|Smoove.io||Limited to 200 contacts, and 2000 emails per month|
|Mautic.com||Limited to 5000 contacts, and 1000 emails per day|
|Comparative pricing for 10,000 contacts from a cross section of vendors||Getresponse.com||$75 per month|
|Smoove.io||$109 per month|
|Drip.co||$149 per month|
|Icontact.com||$189 per month|
|Mautic.com||Starts at a few $100/months (depends on # of contacts)|
|Infusionsoft.com||$379 per month (annual contract billed monthly + on boarding fee from $999)|
|Sharpspring.com||$600 per month (+ on boarding fee of $1800)|
|Act-on.com||$900 per month (billed annually at $10,800 for 2,500 active contacts + on boarding fee from $500)|
|Pardot.com||$1000 per month (billed annually at $12,000)|
|Hubspot.com||$1,250 per month (billed annually at $15,000 + on boarding fee of $3,000 for the pro package)|
|The founding MAT platform||Eloqua.com||$2000 per month with 10 users|
|Others to check out||Ontraport.com||A full business automation platform – from attracting a prospect right the way through to actually selling them your product or service with an integrated payment gateway – $297 per month for 25,000 contacts (similar to Infusionsoft)|
|Communigator.co.uk||This Marketing Automation is well rated and can help you build your pipeline of new and engaged contacts, whilst nurturing them with content; sent exactly at the right time based on their behaviour – contact them for costs.|
Need help deciding?
Check out the real-time and unbiased user reviews of 205 (and counting) marketing automation solutions on the G2 Crowd website.
But what about my Salesforce CRM?
Don’t panic! Most of the solutions above – even the cheaper ones – will integrate at some level with “The world’s #1 CRM”. At the higher end (generally for an extra fee) the platform will integrate so deeply you’ll even benefit from a single sign on.
Salesforce recently bought the dedicated marketing automation platform, Pardot, and heavily integrated the two.
And don’t worry if your CRM is still a spreadsheet. Some of the marketing automation platforms offer their own as part of the package HubSpot currently offer it free.
So where do I go from here?
To be honest, with so many vendors in the marketing automation game, probably down a rabbit hole – or two!
Here’s what I suggest:
Step 1 – Get your content/assets together and map out some workflows that show exactly what happens on the buyer’s journey your prospects will take. This can be as simple or as complicated as you like, but you’ll need to have it all sorted for at least one product/service you offer. Most vendors will provide training on getting going with their software. Some even provide mandatory ‘on boarding’ for a one off fee and you’ll need everything ready to go before they can help you get going on their platform.
Step 2 – Research the solutions. What are other companies your size and in your sector using? What are your competitors using? How many contacts are you likely to need in your plan? And what’s your budget? Are you already using Salesforce? Or an email marketing service provider? Would you prefer to take advantage of the month to month pricing from some solutions so you can easily switch to another if you’re not happy? Or are you willing to dive in deep with one vendor and pay up front for a full year’s contract? From my (albeit limited) research, they all do pretty much the same thing, but as you can see above, the pricing varies extensively. It certainly is not the case that the more you pay the more you get.
Step 3 – Once the CFO is on board, (just mention more qualified leads, equal more sales revenue and a ROI in 6-9 months and you should win them over) choose your vendor and get all members of your marketing and sales teams on the same page. Then, take it slowly. Bring on one product/service at a time and start testing. Make sure you and your team have gone through the various routes in the workflow before going live with real prospects. Badly planned/implemented marketing automation is far worse than no marketing automation at all.
Conclusion and Further Resources
In this article we’ve discovered that Marketing Automation is a process that operates within several communication channels using a variety of integrated tools to efficiently and simultaneously nurture leads through to a sale based on the prospect’s behaviour and personal profile. Your ROI will be great, providing you get it right, quickly.
And you’ll need to get on board sooner rather than later. You don’t want to be the company who’s missed the biggest boat in marketing technology this decade.
4 worth a look:
1. Seven minutes to learn everything you ever wanted to know about marketing automation, and how you can put it into practice – I’m reliably informed that no giraffes were harmed in making this video!
…with Drip’s Marketing Automation School – “With the perfect balance of information, instruction and examples, this multimedia learning experience features five chapters, over 20,000 words, and a mixture of infographics, guides, podcast episodes and more”.
· Marketing Automation is not ‘set and forget’ – be prepared for some hard work
· More analytics means more data means even more work, but it will be worth it
· Don’t ever expect to finish your marketing automation project – once you start, you’ll never stop
And the Kompass Top Tip
Have you rented a list of suitable prospects from a data supplier like us? Did you know that you can import them directly into your MAT and/or CRM system? EasyBusiness imports data directly into your CRM.
You marketing automation solution will take it from there.
Author: Paul Foster, Consulting Marketer
Image Credit: Scott Brinker, chiefmartec.com