What is Marketing Automation Software?

Marketing automation refers to the process of using technology to streamline marketing activities and make them more effective. There are many repetitive and manual tasks that marketing teams need to carry out on a day to day basis. Some of these tasks include social media posting or ad campaigns.  Marketing automation software allows for these tasks to be done in a far much easier way by carrying them out automatically, thus freeing up both time and resources for the marketing team. 

Marketing Automation was once the preserve of only the most financially successful businesses. Technology needed to create the systems required heavy investment and was built ‘in-house’. Regularly the cost of building the software outweighed the cost-savings.

However, thanks to a proliferation of third-party suppliers, sophisticated automation software is now much more readily available to B2C and B2B companies both large and mid-size. Especially in 2021 Marketing Automation is set to proliferate within the small to medium size business sector.

Marketing automation is a powerful tool, and for it to work, you’ll need to understand what makes up marketing automation and how you can make the most out of it. We have compiled all you need to know about marketing automation, and much more. Let’s get to it.. 

Table of Contents

When did marketing automation start?

Marketing automation started back in the 1990’s. The marketing industry however, began to take shape in the mid 2000’s. During this time, email marketing was the centre of marketing automation. Marketing automation would then later on develop as a result of the combination of marketing technology, including email marketing, web analytics and marketing resource management.  

This kind of software was only accessible to a few large businesses (mostly tech and manufacturing companies) since the existing marketing software providers at the time charged fees as high as monthly rent. As the marketing automation industry got revolutionised, more services and marketing automation software was available, making it more affordable. The Internet was also gaining momentum fast and this meant that more companies could use marketing automation. 

Shopping habits have also changed over the decades, influencing more businesses to adopt a model that complements the new way of doing things. The customer is no longer at the end of the funnel, they are at the centre of it. Marketing automation focuses on creating customer centred experiences, both for B2B and B2C companies. From the initial point of contact between the lead and the company, there should be positive interactions that drive them further down the funnel until they make a conversion.  

Marketing Automation is quite affordable today and many small businesses are also opting to go the automation way. The competitive nature of the market is also one of the reasons why the cost of marketing automation is declining. There is a solution for all businesses, irrespective of the size or budget. With the incredible value that marketing automation adds to your marketing efforts, it will soon become an essential component of every marketing strategy.  

How does marketing automation work?

Marketing automation makes use of a variety of tools to automate some processes in your marker strategy.  Some of these processes may include sending emails, posting on social media or lead segmentation based on actions. You get access to a number of personalisation and customisation features to fit your company.  You can also categorise your leads and offer each lead group content that is automatically personalised for them. 

Personalized content

You are able to effortlessly build relationships and scale up your business with marketing automation. You can use the different features to provide each lead an experience that is consistent. This will help you establish prospect relationships that are more meaningful, since you are giving them information that is relevant to what they need each step of the way.

As an example, here is what a basic automated email workflow could look like:

Step 1: You send an email invitation to download your latest ebook to a targeted list of contacts

Step 2: You send a thank you note to all the people that downloaded the offer

Step 3: A few days later, you send a follow up email to the list of people who downloaded the ebook, offering them a case study relating to that topic

Step 4: Finally, when someone downloads that case study, your sales team will get a notification so they can follow up with them (this person is now much more qualified and is likely farther down the buying process)

What is marketing automation software?

Marketing automation software refers to an advanced platform that is structured in a manner that helps marketers to attract new leads, analyse lead behaviour and campaign performance, as well as improve marketing efficiency. This kind of platform is a combination of different tools and features such as web marketing, email marketing, analytics and multi-channel marketing.  Based on a comprehensive study, here are some of the best marketing automation software providers available in the market. 

ActiveCampaign 

This marketing automation software is used by more than 90,000 small businesses and is one of the best platforms available in the marketing automation industry. The ActiveCampaign platform initiated the visual sequence builder and they continue to release new features that are ahead of the curve. What stands out about ActiveCampaign is their pricing. They are one of the most affordable marketing automation platforms, which makes them great for small businesses.  

Sendinblue

Sendinblue is one of the smartest and most intuitive marketing automation platforms for growing a business. They have a range of features which include the visual marketing automation builder, real-time deliverability reporting and SMS messaging. This is a relatively simple and stable marketing automation tool that will guide your business through the right sales and marketing tools. 

Autopilot

Autopilot allows you to automate the journey of your customers with visual marketing automation software. You get to organise all the information you get on your leads in one place and build our customer journeys. If you are looking to build email automation sequences, they have one of the best-designed canvas tools. You can annotate each sequence with stickers, emoji or explanations. Teams can work together in real-time and collaborate easily on creating sequences. 

Hubspot

Hubspot offers a variety of marketing tools in one powerful platform that is easy to use. Their marketing software is aimed to help you grow and convert more visitors. They also provide sales CRM software that automates your tasks, gives you deeper insights into your leads and helps you close more deals. The main focus of this marketing Automation software is the inbound marketing methodology to get the most out of each feature.  

Omnisend

Despite Omnisend being a relatively new marketing automation tool in the market, this tool is great for eCommerce businesses. Their templates and tools are designed as a solution for challenges that eCommerce marketers may face. They have a number of innovative features such as Facebook messenger and WhatsApp integrations aimed at helping marketers automate tasks across multiple channels. You can trigger campaigns and see reports on how automation is impacting your sales. 

Marketo

Marketo offers marketing automation features that cover every channel and engagement. Their list of automated tasks multiplied when they were acquired by Adobe. Marketo uses a full feature software that handles a wide range of marketing automation including account based Marketo and social media. It is a great tool for larger marketing operations. 

Blueshift

Blueshift is a marketing automation platform that helps you create omnichannel expenses for your customers. They offer features that include single customer views, audience segmentation, personalisation and AI predictions and decision making. Blueshift features help you run multi-channel campaigns that are targeted and personalised.  

Pardot

Pardot is a marketing automation platform that is tailored to solve the challenges that B2B marketers face. It is now part of Salesforce, making it a robust platform for marketing and sales teams. Their solutions run from account based marketing solutions to B2B analytics. It is designed to help marketers create meaningful relationships and generate pipelines that help them close more deals. 

User.com

User.com is a marketing automation platform aimed at increasing conversions and boosting engagement. This software allows you to set up and run campaigns with automated processes. They have automated email campaigns that help you turn visitors into users. You can then follow up on them with omnichannel messaging. User.com provides you with a complete package when it comes to customer communication and lead outreach.  

SharpSpring 

SharpSpring is a marketing automation platform that has robust features, performance and functionality. It is one of the most flexible marketing automation platforms in the market with a suite of sales and marketing automation features like behaviour based email marketing, lead scoring, deliverability reporting and so much more. It is an affordable platform that is also easy to use. 

How to use marketing automation software

The best way you can identify how to use marketing automation to grow your business is by looking at how other companies have used marketing automation to their benefit. Let us look at some case studies on this:

Case Study 1

One business found that although they were getting many leads, none of the leads were of good quality.  They decided to implement marketing automation to generate quality leads that had higher chances of converting. 

Marketing automation made it possible for them to use a lead scoring model to come up with a lead segmentation process. This was based on lead behaviour and engagement. Through this, they were able to obtain the right information about their leads and offer them information that was more relevant to their stage in the buyer’s process.  

The outcome of using marketing automation software is that their number of quality leads has improved and their conversion rate has greatly increased. They have also noticed an improvement between their sales and marketing activities.  

benefits of marketing automation

Case Study 2

The next case study is a software company that wanted to find a way to improve the targeting behind their marketing campaigns and to improve ROI. Using marketing automation software allowed this company to be more agile in how they handle their marketing initiatives. 

They soon started personalised marketing where they would customise all their landing pages and emails using the automation tools. This made it possible for them to build email campaigns much faster than they could before, saving them both time and money. When they implemented marketing automation software, their gross revenue increased twofold. 

What are marketing automation tools/features?

Although marketing automation systems differ widely in terms of customisation, integration, and personalisation, common features for a range of processes do exist. Here are some of the common marketing automation features:

Forms

A form builder is a marketing automation tool that makes it possible for you to build and edit your lead generation forms. This feature provides you with a code that you can add to your website pages. The information that a person inputs into the form goes into your marketing automation database. You can collect lead data such as names and email addresses using this tool. 

forms

Dynamic personalisation 

Personalisation is an essential component of marketing today. Through dynamic personalisation, you can tailor your content to any person you are connecting with. For example you can use personalisation components such as merge variables and dynamic content to build an email that is personalised specifically for the recipient. This ensures that each email has a personal feel to it. 

A/B testing or split testing 

Marketing automation makes it possible for you to test out your content before you send it out. Through A/B testing, you can run a number of versions of the same email and gauge which email is best suited for your audience. You can also analyse which emails have a better engagement rate based on the performance of the emails.

Email marketing automation 

Marketing has features that make it possible to send batch emails to segmented groups of people. They also have email builders where you can use templates to build our emails. You can customise the templates and add personalised features to suit your recipients. You can also set up behavioural trigger emails that will be sent out to leads when an action is completed. This proves you a competitive advantage. 

Lead database

You can evaluate lead behaviour using your lead database in a marketing automation platform. The lead database collects information on how your leads are interacting with your website, their social media activities,  as well as how they are engaging with your emails. From these activities,  you can get the lead scoring for each of your leads for analysis. 

Drip campaigns

Drip campaigns are one of the most used features in marketing automation platforms. They allow you to run automated email campaigns and send content to your prospects easily. In a drip campaign, content will be sent to a lead based on the lead action or time period,  based on the triggers you have set. Many drip campaigns are through email, but some incorporate other channels such as social media. 

 

drip campaign

Lead scoring 

Lead scoring is where you rank your leads based on their potential to make a conversion. The potential customers that have a higher lead scoring are more likely to make a conversion. Marketing automation software automatically sums up the lead scoring for your leads. You can adjust your lead scores based on customer behaviour.  

Social media management 

Marketing automation platforms make social media management much easier. They help marketing teams schedule and post to their social media accounts from one central interface.  Through tools in the software,  you can schedule a post days, weeks or even months in advance. You can also send direct messages to your social media contacts and engage with them from the platform.  

social media management

Task Automation 

The main aim of getting marketing automation software is to have automation handle the manual repetitive tasks for the sales and marketing team. Marketing automation let’s you set up tasks through notifications and alerts to help the team complete tasks in a streamlined manner.  Tasks automation also ends up saving a lot of time and resources.  

Social listening

Social listening refers to monitoring digital interactions and conversations on social media to evaluate customer feedback and your brand perception. The social listening features search social media sites trying to find mentions of your product, service or brand so that you can stay up to date with what is happening.  social listening

Multi-channel Analytics 

Marketing automation makes it possible for you to not only get analytics about your website, but also for other channels. You will get an analysis of your content marketing, email marketing,  and social media marketing. Make sure you connect your automation interface to data from your PPC campaigns, social media, direct mail, organic search and eCommerce platforms.  

Lead funnels

Marketing automation helps you understand how your leads are interacting with your content through engagement metrics. By taking this data across your marketing channels, you get a clear picture of how your campaigns are performing and what your funnels look like. You can then create lead funnels that work, using visual dashboards and funnel visualisations. 

lead funnel

Why use marketing automation software? 

Marketing automation helps you focus on your marketing strategy by automating the manual and repetitive tasks that the marketing team needs to handle. Here are some of the benefits that comes from using marketing automation software:

Lower operating costs

Marketing has many manual and repetitive tasks that may sometimes require extra staff to complete if you are using human hands. Automation takes care of these tasks, meaning that you can get things done with a much smaller marketing team, saving you some operational costs. Some of the manual tasks that automation can do is send out an email when a form is filled, schedule a social media post and make a notification when there is a change in lead status. You will save time and lower costs. 

Centralised tool for the entire marketing team

One marketing automation software is all you need to bring your entire marketing team on one interface. You can obtain a streamlined platform through which your team can post on social media, contact forms, send emails and even create content. This gives you more control of what everyone is doing, thus easier management.  

Free up time to work on strategy 

Marketing needs are ever changing and your team needs to be prepared to tackle every challenge that may come up. Marketing automation handles the small tasks that take up much time and frees up time for your team to spend on strategic and creative thinking.  They can spend the extra five and resources thinking about growth and strategy. 

Analytics and tracking made easier

The best marketing automation software for your business is one that has analytics and reporting features that provide you with information about your running campaigns.  Getting reports helps you build better campaigns when you identify what is working and what is not. Marketing automation analytics is focused on sales and marketing campaigns to provide you with insights that will help you grow. 

 

Analytics and tracking

More data

Marketing automation takes all your data and creates a database that helps you better understand your funnels, customers, financial and operations. This is information that your team can use to build better marketing campaigns and segment customers to increase conversions. You can also use data from reports to improve your lead generation efforts. 

Deploy wider marketing campaigns 

Marketing automation makes it possible for your team to Deploy wider marketing campaigns.  This is made possible when you bring together information from various touch points such as website interactions and email engagement. You can then qualify and prioritise leads to drive wider campaigns through trigger based marketing campaigns and personalised emails. 

In fact, marketing automation will also empower your organisation to do the following:

  1. Add dynamic content based on an individual’s specific user profile. For instance, you can send targeted offers based on website patterns.
  2. Categorize customers and prospects by common behaviors, interests, and demographic details. These will be dimensions for segmenting your customers.
  3. Develop optimal marketing patterns. Marketing automation can help your company test different variables like email send times, subject headings, and ideas for personalization.
  4. Integrate marketing channels to deliver a more comprehensive and better cross-platform user experience. Make sure that every touch point is carefully planned for optimal conversion optimisation.

Best practices for developing your marketing automation strategy 

If you are just starting out in marketing automation, here are some of the best practices to follow:

Define Buyer Personas

The first step in your marketing automation strategy would be to develop buyer personas. A buyer persona refers to a fictitious version of your customer or your prospect. Understanding your buyers and their needs is the foundation to implementing a marketing strategy that is ideal for them. All your marketing activities, including your workflows, content and communication needs to trace back to your buyer persona. You can look at your analytics dashboard to get an understanding of your potential customers.  

Build workflows based on the buyer’s journey 

Since buyer’s vary from each other, their buyer’s journey will also not be the same. This means that the information they are looking for will be different, and so will their needs. You need to map your content to fit the needs of your leads at each stage of the lead funnel. Ensuring that there is relevant information for each stage of the buyer’s journey will make sure that you are delivering the right message each step of the way. 

 

buyers journey

Capture lead information 

The amount of information you need to collect about a lead will depend on which stage they are on in the buyer’s journey. If they have just made the initial contact with your brand, you will need to gather as much information about them as possible.  This may include their name, location,  email address and contact information. You can collect this information gradually as they move further down the funnel. 

Create solid content

There is a lot of information on the Internet today and the information you provide to your customers needs to be unique and high value content. When you understand the buyer persona and the information that your prospects are looking for, you will be able to create content that is most relevant to them. This can vary and may include blog articles, videos, webinars, ebooks and much more. Make sure that you target each stage in the buyer’s journey with suitable information. 

Establish a lead scoring model

A lead scoring model is a feature that is designed to help you analyse which leads are more likely to convert. It assigns a score to each of your leads based on their engagement and interactions to help your team identify where they should place their efforts. You can identify which leads are just testing the waters, and which ones are looking to make a conversion.  

Why choose marketing automation software over other software options?

Compared to other tools, marketing automation software has so many functionalities. It combines the power of workflow automation, email service providers, workflow automation, project management, social media automation, project management, and data visualisation software. This means you get all the features you need to automate each of your marketing activities in one interface. Marketing automation covers a scope that other forms of automation do not reach.

Marketing Automation Stack - Broken

 

Instead of getting individual tools to help you manage social media, business Intelligence,  email marketing, customer relationship management, forms, blogs ,databases, you get one interface that does what they can all do.

 

Marketing Automation Stack - Speaking to each other

 

ESP vs. Marketing Automation Software

What’s The Difference?

Marketing Automation (MA) vs. Email Service Providers (like MailChimp). A comparison of marketing automation’s easy-to-learn functions with Email service providers (ESP) such as MailChimp, ConstantContact and Vertical Response.

Generating More Leads

MA ESP Feature
x x Importing lists of contacts
x VisitorID for identifying anonymous web traffic
x Dynamic form fields for building complete contact profiles
x Third-party and native-form integration
x Simple CSS adoption to make your forms blend in
x Automatically connect on social media
x Qualify leads based on position in sales cycle
x Schedule an email to a single contact for future delivery

Driving Sales

MA ESP Feature
x x CRM integrations
x x Easy-to-use email designer
x Notification sent to sales team of a leads online activity
x Automatically segment your leads based on their behaviour
x Target messages for near one-to-one communication
x An illustrated timeline of all emails each contact received
x Increased engagement and segmented messages
x Sales process automation and follow-up reminders

Proving ROI

MA ESP Feature
x x Open rate and click through rate tracking
x ID for identifying anonymous web traffic
x Build complete lead profiles using dynamic form fields
x Online and offline monitoring of leads activity
x Automatic return on investment calculations
x Sophisticated marketing campaign attribution
x Sales cycle management
x Pipeline value and close rate analysis

 

CRM vs. Marketing Automation Software

Both CRM and marketing automation software are important tools for a business. These two systems help maintain contact with a prospect all through, from the point of contact until they make a conversion. However, there is a difference between them when it comes to the point of focus. Marketing automation software focuses on lead generation and lead nurturing across multiple channels and campaigns. CRM often picks up from marketing automation, analysing the data obtained by marketing automation to facilitate the sale process. Many businesses combine the use of marketing automation and CRM to manage the lead funnel. 

Generate More Leads

MA CRM Feature
x x Import CSV files of leads
x Identify anonymous web traffic with VisitorID
x Build complete lead profiles using dynamic form fields
x Create powerful blogs and landing pages
x Qualify leads based on position in sales cycle
x Integrate with native or third-party website forms
x Schedule email campaigns in advance
x Get notified when a lead returns to your site

Drive Sales

MA CRM Feature
x x Score leads based on engagement and sales-readiness
x Gain valuable insights on leads’ interests/attributes
x Receive automatic notifications when leads are sales-ready
x Automatically segment leads based on their behaviours
x Send targeted messages for one-on-one communication
x See a graphical timeline of a lead’s interaction with your brand
x Personalise your email and web content automatically
x Automate your sales & marketing process with automation

Prove ROI

MA CRM Feature
x x Record deals won and deals lost
x x Record deal value and customer lifetime value
x Gain visibility through detailed performance analytics
x Eliminate wasteful spending practices
x Monitor lead activity both online and off-line
x Get automatic results on ROI calculations for marketing
x Assign marketing campaigns via first and last touch attribution
x See social media contribution to lead score and value

If you are looking into Marketing Automation and need to see which vendors are best – please use our handy Marketing Automation Vendor Comparison

Marketing-Automation-Comparison-Guide-Book-Cover

 

These are some of the reasons why a company will adopt marketing automation:

  • Save time – multiple campaigns can be scheduled way ahead of time and released as per your own settings, therefore working hours can be utilised for other activities.
  • Efficiency – it provides a streamlined automatic alternative to traditionally manual processes. Time and labour can be reduced, therefore costs can be reduced too.
  • CRM integration – it can help to make sure that leads don’t disappear off the radar after a couple of unsuccessful contacts.
  • Data collection – automatic marketing offers a touch-point to clients or customers that isn’t necessarily sales-driven. It can help provide better insight and be used to collect specific data to improve future campaigns or communication.
  • Multichannel management – whereas it was possibly easy enough to manage a single email channel, now thanks to the multiple channels that consumers can be found on, it’s getting harder and harder to keep track of them all. Marketing automation can help you keep tabs on any channel.
  • Consistency – Incorporating all your marketing efforts in one process can help keep a unified brand tone-of-voice.
  • Personalisation – automation helps tailor the experience to the user, creating a unique and more inviting experience that’s entirely relevant and will more likely lead to conversion.

 

Marketing Automation Benefits the Entire Funnel

 

If you’d like to learn more about how Marketing Automation supports your business growth in 2021, give us a call at Munro Marketing and request a free trial. We are a SharpSpring Platinum Agency. SharpSpring is a marketing automation platform with a wide range of features and Munro Agency can assist you in making the most out of these features.

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