Can Marketing Automation Help Your Company?

Automated marketing allows you reach your customer base instantly, helping you build stronger and more stable relationships.
Forbes Contributor: Makers, Inventors, Small Business, Forbes
June 03, 2011

Marketing automation reminds me of silly putty. It is this amorphous, easily shaped buzzword. It keeps reappearing in the marketplace, but recently it has started to live up to the hype. Small businesses using it are now armed with the tools to intelligently automate outreach and response to customers.

In an effort to keep the hype out of reality, I’m working on an eBook (sponsored by Infusionsoft and Lenovo) around marketing automation success stories and tips. Based on response, I know the topic interests business owners—the success stories interest them even more.

What is marketing automation?

Jeff Walters, one of the top branding and marketing minds I know, used to tell me it is “the right message to the right person at the right time.” He said this years before the marketing automation buzz had started.

Without the buzz, marketing automation is considered a subset of customer relationship management software. Most experts agree it is the combination of e-mail marketing and a sales process powered by a database structure. Sounds dense, but companies use it for lead generation with targeted messages that can capture and nurture leads from an early inquiry through to a sale.

Web-based inquiries are perfect for automated responses via e-mail. Many of today’s small business e-mail marketing solutions are “lite” marketing automation packages. These solutions allow you to create a rules-based, systematic approach to define if and when a customer receives an e-mail message, or a phone call, or some other contact method.

So what is different?

These two examples illustrate how a marketing automation system follows a systematic approach and delivers a customized message.

Wasp Barcode Technologies, a small business productivity solution, launched an e-mail marketing campaign of 9 timed e-mails that resulted in an average open rate of 35 percent. The e-mails are triggered -after a customer activates their MobileAsset product and the messages continue for six months. The key part is: If something changes in that customer’s product situation, the e-mail process changes along with it. By implementing this approach, click-throughs on complementary product pages rose 25 percent.

iProfile, a provider of IT sales and marketing intelligence solutions, discovered their landing page form had a high abandon rate. It is one thing to ask your prospect for new information, but your existing customers should be recognized as they start to enter basic data. So they let the marketing automation system sort that out and autofill the forms based on customer data. This increased conversion by 40 percent.

If you already have their contact information, why ask the customer to provide it again? In addition, the big “A-ha” came when they leveraged their data analytics to see which reports were the most popular and automatically rotated those into the marketing sequence more frequently resulting in a 30 percent lift.

The core aspect of marketing automation is using hard data to make decisions. If you can respond appropriately to a customer, at appropriate buying stages, you have a better chance of converting that sale. Remember, the right message to the right customer at the right time.

The ability to incorporate social and digital channels and real time interactions is a big part of where marketing automation is headed. What that means is depending on the various communications you have with a customer on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere, your e-mail can reflect some of those conversations. You can look to Optify, Eloqua, ActOn, Infusionsoft, Alterian and many others for ways to coordinate other new media channels into your marketing mix.

Can you teach your platform to think? That’s what many automation experts believe is possible. You are attempting to build follow-up sequences based on how you think your customer will respond. However, if you can tie your point of sale data to the marketing automation system, then you can create systematic responses that will adapt as your customer changes.

Instead of hype, you can leverage real world tools. You can learn about your customers as they navigate around your site and products. You won’t have to guess where the customer is going—you’ll have data that helps you respond better because you have been listening to them.