With today’s constantly evolving digital marketing landscape, savvy business owners know that they must be able to embrace change and adapt quickly. But the danger of always prioritizing rapid-fire decision-making is that a fast-paced timeline can occasionally lead to undesirable consequences.
To open up time and allow for a more measured and thoughtful approach to setting business strategy, many businesses are now having their cake and eating it too by incorporating marketing automation into their day-to-day workflows.
Saving time and money is something almost every small business owner is interested in prioritizing. But before you can make a choice on bringing the best marketing automation platform on board (one that is both affordable and effective for your needs), you’ll first need to grasp the basics of what exactly a marketing automation platform is and the ways it can benefit your business.
What is a marketing automation platform?
Marketing automation platforms are automated online solutions that can complete what would normally be time-consuming or repetitive tasks in a fraction of the time it takes a human — saving users both time and money.
Uses for marketing automation platforms and their related tools and apps vary from email marketing automation and lead segmentation to automation and personalization, ‘life of the lead’ tracking, behavioral targeting, strategic workflows, and more.
There are countless ways that companies use marketing automation, and since each business is different, the right platform will be flexible and able to adjust as your business goals evolve.
Marketing automation software, platforms, tools, and agencies. Oh my!
If you’ve spent any time researching automation software, you’ve probably noticed that discussion around the topic includes a good amount of marketing jargon, definitions, and terminology.
For example, there are different types of marketing automation and various ways of referring to the subject.
Most noticeably, the terms “marketing automation software,” “marketing automation tools,” “marketing automation platforms,” and “marketing automation agencies” are all often used interchangeably.
Note that, for the most part, when people talk about either marketing automation software or marketing automation platforms, they truly do mean the same thing. However, when it comes to the term “automation tools,” it’s more likely to mean the individual components that come together to make up the complete software package or platform.
When it comes to marketing automation agencies, they are third-party vendors that businesses can choose to employ to help you implement, oversee, operate and manage your marketing automation toolset. Whether you elect to keep your automation software use in-house or utilize the expertise of an agency is up to you.
Many small businesses are very successful simply adopting and using automation themselves, while other companies find it worth the extra cost to pay an agency to manage that part of their business (this is especially true as companies scale and grow).
Do you need a digital marketing automation tool?
An effective marketing automation platform will comprise many individual tools designed to work together to help streamline marketing efforts. So, when considering whether your business is ready to make the move towards automation, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re actually evaluating whether your team is ready to adopt a marketing automation software platform.
A good rule of thumb for marketers and business owners in the early stages of exploring automated marketing platforms is to identify whether your current processes are creating inefficiencies.
If you find that a lot of time and resources are being spent on manual data entry and reporting, or on duplicating efforts or carrying out monotonous tasks, then a marketing automation platform will likely be able to help.
When utilized effectively, a good marketing automation platform can improve efficiencies in many vital areas, from streamlining processes and reducing frustration to boosting client satisfaction, return on investment (ROI), and your overall bottom line.
Here are just a few ways automation can be good for business.
The right platform powering your marketing automation efforts can set up a lead generation machine for your business and boost revenue to unprecedented levels.
Sticking to a budget
Companies that use marketing automation often end up saving money in the long run (and often even in the short run). Although there’s an initial investment required, spending well-planned funds on the right marketing automation platform will more than pay for itself over time.
Another preliminary note to consider regarding how to choose a marketing automation platform revolves around the overarching goals of your budget. The marketing automation software you select should ideally be diversified and relevant to your expected business needs while being cost-efficient. Consider choosing software with a flexible architecture, so it can be implemented around you and your company’s specific growth curve.
If your company currently utilizes an in-house marketing team to manually handle tasks associated with digital marketing strategies, then it’s likely you’re spending time, effort, and workforce hours on redundant tasks. Often, marketers have to spend time tending to repetitive tasks that could be completed by an effective marketing automation program.
By allowing automation to handle some key daily tasks, you will free up time for your creative team to do what they do best — create dynamic content that sells your products and services.
Improving communication and cultivating stronger relationships
Using a marketing automation platform to handle repetitive tasks will not only improve your customer relations, but it will also help you build high-value relationships with clients to increase brand memory. Automated marketing platforms do this by:
- Ensuring email campaigns are properly triggered and sent to the appropriate recipients
- Answering inquiries from social media posts or private messages
- Following up with those leads to gently guide them through the end of the sales funnel
Streamlining processes and workflows
When used effectively by sales and marketing teams, marketing automation can help streamline communication with both prospective leads and current clients.
For example, when a lead takes an action (like downloading an asset, signing up for a webinar, or completing a form), automation workflows can be created to trigger a specific response. As a result, your business can then engage with leads by targeting them with relevant, timely content that is directly connected to the lead’s interests and behaviors.
This also helps nurture a better work environment inside your company. This is why many automation platforms allow users to manage all their clients from one spot. With all of these redundant tasks being automated, your team members won’t have to worry about duplication of work, and there will be fewer miscommunications between departments.
Boosting your revenue and bottom line
The cost-saving benefits of a digital marketing automation platform include increased revenue from new and better lead generation and a reduction in the need for hiring additional staff. In these ways, adding automation can actually assist businesses in boosting revenue, despite having to pay to purchase and implement the software.
A good digital marketing automation platform will keep your customers moving smoothly through your sales funnel by handling customer relationship management (CRM), email marketing campaigns, social media posts, and everything in between.
Mitigating gaps in the sales funnel
If your website is generating a lot of traffic through dynamic blog posts or a large social media following, you should begin to see a rise in sales. If you’re not, that means that while your leads are making it to your website, they’re getting stuck within your sales funnel. Something about your website is preventing them from completing the purchase.
One of the biggest culprits to look at when your revenue is down is shopping cart abandonment. This occurs when a hot lead has found your online store, browsed through your products, added items to their cart, and then left the site without completing the purchase.
There are many reasons why this might happen, but luckily you can use marketing automation to mitigate the problem by setting it up so that an abandoned shopping cart automatically triggers an email reminder to that particular customer.
If no action is taken on the abandoned cart email, a promotional message containing a discount or free shipping code can be automatically sent out. Combined, these steps will greatly improve the chance of that sale being completed.
Analytics and reporting from a marketing automation platform
At the end of the day, marketing efforts are in vain if you can’t see the results of your campaigns.
With the help of analytics tools housed within automated marketing platforms, you can gather valuable customer data from campaigns and view it at a glance in easy-to-read reports. These reports can be generated daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually, to give you a better look at how well your marketing efforts are paying off.
Marketing automation software can also monitor your website traffic and determine where the hotspots are within your various landing pages and checkout process. With analytics and reporting, you can see where your site is performing well and where any efficiency issues or gaps may exist.
These insights can help you optimize your site for a more user-friendly interface. It can also help you adjust your email messaging campaigns. For example, if the majority of your website visitors are coming to your site or checking their emails on their smartphones, then you can optimize your email messages and website for mobile devices.
Other areas of the analytics report can show you how your leads got to your site. Did they come from a social media post? Did they find your website through a Google search? The right marketing automation platform can help you answer these questions through analytics and reporting.
Business owners that utilize automation platforms effectively are able to improve their strategies and campaigns and ultimately gain more and better lead prospects and increased marketing ROI.
Choosing the best marketing automation platform
We’ve illustrated how your business can benefit from adopting digital marketing automation software, so now it’s time to consider how to identify the best digital marketing automation platform for your particular business.
Begin by asking yourself a few key questions. Establishing your budget, goals, and desired business outcomes from your marketing automation tools will make picking the right platform easier.
The ideal marketing automation platform should possess software that touches on elements of your business, such as:
- Company size
- Company database size
- The sophistication of marketing automation benefits needed
The problems you are choosing to solve should yield solutions that will be forward-thinking and grow with the company.
The marketing stack
Although a website designed with all the bells and whistles can go a long way in attracting attention, it cannot move leads through a sales funnel all on its own. What helps drive conversions is a collection of viable marketing features known as a marketing stack.
There’s a wide variety of options available when comparing different marketing automation platforms, but a solid marketing stack will offer many or all of the following important features:
- Email marketing campaigns
- Web form builder
- Landing page builder
- Blog builder
- Social media management
- Customer behavior tracking
Email marketing campaigns are among the most effective methods of digital marketing, and the right marketing automation tools allow business owners to use email marketing more effectively than ever. Choose a platform that allows you to set up campaigns so that email messages will automatically go out when triggered by a certain action from a lead. The right software will also help you to track email data such as delivery, open, click-through, and bounce rates to see how well your campaigns are performing.
Web forms, landing pages, and blogs can also be simplified and brought to the next level through automation.
Some platforms include pre-designed templates you can customize to suit your specific campaign needs and brand themes. You can also select automation software that will outline how well each section of your site is performing by using customer behavior tracking.
Some marketers and business owners select their automation tools based on the goals they have surrounding social media. With the help of the right marketing automation platform, you can easily schedule and track posts with automated content calendars, answer frequently asked customer questions with a time-saving chatbot, and even cross-post between multiple social media platforms.
As outlined above, these days, there is software on the market that can assist with almost every marketing task you can imagine. Some platforms are specialized and designed to assist more specifically with certain tactics, while others are more generalized and offer a little bit of everything you might need to run marketing campaigns.
Before selecting a marketing automation platform for your business, it’s a good idea to have a clear view of exactly what problems you’re looking to solve and how you’re hoping to use the software. This will help guide your decision-making when you begin to review options from different providers.
Even the best automation software can only provide benefits based on how much you choose to put into it. This is why it’s important to do your research and find the platform that can best meet and satisfy the services you need.
When deciding if a platform can deliver your desired results, be sure to review its website for features, services, and testimonials from other clients to ensure your selection ultimately aligns with where you’re trying to go.
At the end of the day, you want to partner with software providers whose platform functions fit your needs (and budget!) where you are now but can also flex with ongoing business growth and evolution.
Choose a platform that can work across marketing channels, make the entire marketing funnel work together, and speed up the marketing process for your company.
Committing to success with marketing automation
When you decide it’s time to get started with a marketing automation platform for your business, you’ll want to ensure you’re setting yourself (and your team) up for success.
One way to do this is to put a concrete plan into place before you begin to work with your chosen platform or professional marketing services agency. Decide how much time you will spend on training, as well as how many internal resources you will dedicate to it. You should also plan to take full advantage of any onboarding or ongoing customer support the vendor offers. This will allow you to hit the ground running and make the most out of your investment in automation.