Marketing automation is bandied around regularly in meeting rooms and the media these days. But what actually is it?

What does it really mean for marketing types and their businesses? And how do you go about getting started?

Defining what marketing automation actually is.

It would seem from our investigations that there’s many different interpretations about what Marketing automation is. Some people talk about marketing automation being about tactics, about artificial intelligence, some speak about software, and others refer to it as a subset of customer relationship management.

The term itself however, provides a hint how we would define marketing automation - you automate your marketing.

If we assume that automation requires technology, we can then define marketing automation in the following way:

Marketing automation is the how you apply technology to optimise, pre-set and measure repetitive marketing tasks.

Low hanging fruit for marketing automation are the repetitive tasks that you perform over and over again. The benefit being that you’ll be able to spend more time optimising on how better the task can be done and measured, in the process becoming a more effective, strategic marketer.

Why use marketing automation?

To remain competitive in any industry you need to embrace and adapt for all types of change. Marketing automation is a part of the digital disruption that’s currently effecting all businesses, so it’s no longer a “nice-to-have.” In fact, research in the US shows that the most important reason to use it is to drive lead generation, with 61% of businesses stating this as the strategic goal of marketing automation.

Marketing automation is more than sending mass emails. Both B2C and B2B marketers can use marketing automation software to achieve better performance across the following strategic goals.

  • Increasing lead generation
  • Lead nurturing (new to most businesses)
  • Increasing sales revenue
  • Improving customer engagement
  • Marketing productivity
  • Improving campaign measurability
  • Improving campaign targeting

7 easy steps to get started with marketing automation:

1.  Select the right marketing automation software

As you can imagine, the market is now saturated with marketing automation software solutions. With so many marketing automation software solutions how do you know which is right for you?

Start off by evaluating your needs and your financial resources. For example, if you represent a small business with limited resources, you might not require a full stack of marketing automation features. Automating just email tasks may be the level of automation you require at this stage. Or if you are an enterprise sized business you may be looking to connect all of your tactics under the one platform to generate not only greater workflow efficiencies but also better reporting insights.

Often overlooked is the user experience of the platform you select. It should be intuitive and easy to use, otherwise, adoption will be low, and you won’t be able to drive better performance.

2. Connect to your CRM for one source of truth

There’s little point undertaking marketing activity without relating it to your CRM (customer relationship management) solution. Your CRM will house data that your marketing campaigns continually generate about your customers and prospects. This allows you to learn and customise at scale your marketing initiatives to a much higher degree.

If you opt for an all-in-one CRM, like HubSpot, the CRM platform integrates seamlessly with their marketing hub automation solution. This means you won’t have to employ IT specialists to complete the integration as they are integrated out of the box, and. Increasingly, small to medium sized businesses are moving to an all-in-one CRM because they are more user-friendly, intuitive and don’t require significant IT resources to manage.

However, it is possible to integrate two non-native platforms, so they can share data back and forth. To execute this, you’ll need the assistance of an IT specialist to ensure the integration is fully set up and operating properly.

3. Make sure your team is properly onboarded and trained

By far, the biggest challenge you will face is managing employee change management. Your new marketing automation software solution must provide support for you on this front! Getting the keys to the new software with little to no training, and no onboarding program is a recipe for disaster.

Most marketing automation providers offer support either through video content or chat. For example, HubSpot’s academy is a highly robust implementation and onboarding process for new customers. Alternatively, you can leverage a certified inbound marketing agency for integrations, setup, implementation and training. This is probably the best starting point for most situations, as agencies work with the tools day in day out and because their future revenue is tied to their performance, they are likely to be the most accountable stakeholders you’ll find.

4. Setting up your contacts on the marketing automation platform

Setting up your contacts is a critical step. Depending on the marketing automation platform you proceed with, the process of importing contacts and their data will vary. However, it’s essential to do so before you get started using your new system.

You will most likely be able to import contact data from other systems, CSV files, Google Docs and more. During the import process, you'll have the option to map the columns of your file to properties.

Most providers will have a defined process so make sure that there will be assistance available to you during the process because it’s very important to get this step right.

5. Set up your templates

Before you can start marketing to prospects and leads you need to design and build your templates for email, blogs, landing pages, thank you pages and call to action elements like buttons and forms.

For most popular CRM and marketing automation systems, there is no point re-inventing the wheel as there is a plethora of free and low-cost templates to begin with. For HubSpot users, a great place to start is the HubSpot Marketplace. Here you’d be able to find a design and format that’s simple and easy to customise for your specific needs.

Then it’s a great idea to test run with a small sample group an email blast testing out how the templates work in action with particular emphasis on making sure the form fills are syncing with your CRM.

6. Build out your strategy and plan

Now the hard work of setting everything up is out of the way, it’s time to build your strategy and initial plans.

If you are struggling to know where to start then download our guide to creating a winning digital strategy.

Your strategy and plan should cover the following steps.

  • Buyer personas
  • Buyers journey
  • Your customer value proposition
  • Your key word recommendations
  • Your content marketing themes or pillar topics
  • Budgets, briefs and calendars for creating content
  • Your publishing and monitoring calendar

7. Measure your impact against your goals

As a marketer being able to measure what you do is a fundamental requirement in today’s business world. Marketing automation software is an enabler for the modern marketer as it generates deep insights into the results of their efforts. Doing this consistent reporting helps you identify the tactics that are working and those that are not. The insights generated allows you to kick out subjective decision making, adding certainty about your path forward.

Now that you are measuring your marketing activities through automation software, you can start to test hypothesis scenarios around copy, imagery and offers. A/B testing across email, landing pages and call to actions will generate performance metrics that will tell you how to continuously optimise your campaigns.

Finally, tracking your marketing actions across the attract and conversion stages of the inbound framework allows you to connect marketing with your sales efforts through your CRM. Here you can leverage your CRM metrics to generate even more insight for your sales teams to generate sales growth.

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