What is marketing automation? Marketing automation refers to the technology and methods used to facilitate analysis and marketing campaigns across different channels automatically.
The worldwide market for marketing automation solutions was estimated at $6.9 billion in 2020 and is anticipated to almost triple to $19.7 billion in 2026.
To those who use some form of marketing automation, this won’t come as all that much of a surprise.
After all, many marketers are now accustomed to using MarTech in their stacks, and the pervasiveness of automation has lent itself to entirely new expectations regarding modern digital marketing.
And yet, despite the varied and compelling use cases for automation, a quarter of all businesses don’t use it at all in any capacity, and many more only use it for limited purposes.
For these SMBs, it’s important for them to recognize the uses and benefits that automation can bring.
If the mom-and-pop shop down the road isn’t in need of automation, then that’s fine—what we’re most interested in are the organizations that are missing out by not adopting modern solutions.
Today, we’re going to be asking what marketing automation is—the technology involved; the processes it helps with; and the benefits that can be sought.
What Does Marketing Automation Do?
Marketing automation is used by businesses for a variety of purposes. Let’s take a look at the primary uses of it.
Segmentation and analysis
At its core, automation is about telling a software bot what to do with the data it can access.
As far as marketing goes, companies have a lot of access to their customers’ data; most of which can be broken down and analyzed with automation tech.
How many businesses do this is another matter, with big data analytics a sorely underutilized strategy by SMBs.
Forrester reports that between 60% and 73% of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics.
By using automation, marketers can use tech to analyze data and determine how to best segment their customers and prospects into buckets, which in turn inform their campaign approaches.
If you don’t have the data and an understanding of your customers, how are you going to effectively communicate with them?
Lead nurturing and campaign delivery
This flows nicely into lead nurturing, one of the (if not the) key aspects of marketing in general.
When you’re nurturing your leads, you want to make sure that your communications with them are timely, relevant, and of value.
This is why segmentation is such a crucial component of the whole process. Now, with an automated analysis platform that handles your data, you know the differing characteristics of different prospects and you can send content to them according to that data.
This also means you can avoid sending unnecessary content to those who don’t need it, like an informative but basic overview of a service to a prospect who’s already progressed further down the sales funnel.
Automation of your content or campaign delivery also means being able to quickly identify what works and what doesn’t.
How many people opened that last email? How many followed the links? Who were they? Understanding simple key questions like these helps you shape and perfect your nurturing campaigns, all because of analytics automation.
Lead nurturing is just one of the common marketing workflows that can be improved through automation.
Additionally, there’s lead generation, continuous engagement and reengagement of cold leads, as well as customer retention which tries to make customers repeat buyers of your products.
Much of this workflow automation is associated with creating lists as with segmentation. Automating your workflows in these areas means, for example, inserting people into email lists based on their interactions with your website.
If someone signs up to your blog, you can use automation to group that prospect into a “blog subscribers” list, which can then be targeted specifically with informational content.
Likewise, if someone signed up for a quote, you can target them for a campaign setup specifically for them; and a prospect who downloaded an eBook for a particular product can be targeted with an offer or more information for exactly that.
Then we have social media. Every business has to do social media; some are better than others at engaging their audiences.
Whether it’s sharing a company update, answering a customer’s question, or running a campaign for your services, the uses for automation when it comes to social media are all-encompassing.
These automation tools are very common, and help marketers schedule their posts for the optimal times (as determined by automation), assess the performance of posts to inform future campaigns, and widen your reach and engagement with audiences as a consequence.
83% of marketers considered social media post scheduling to be suitable for automation, making social media the most popular use case.
Tools and Technology
Now we know what marketing automation does, what are some of the solutions that businesses use to get their automation strategies in place?
Customer relationship management (CRM)
CRMs help businesses log data from interactions with current or prospective customers, storing and sorting this information in a centralized database.
This means companies can engage and sell effectively to prospects using the data they collect.
Examples of CRM products: Microsoft Dynamics 365, Salesforce, HubSpot
Email marketing software allows marketers to automate the delivery of their campaigns, whether that’s based on very specific automated triggers for end users or a wider email blast approach.
Examples of email marketing platforms: Mailchimp, Campaigner, SendinBlue
Analytics software lets businesses get as granular as they desire with their data. Whether it’s visitors of a specific landing page from a certain region in the US or your ranking ability for a keyword that’s important to your offerings, analytics platforms automatically aggregate information and provide you with actionable data.
Examples of analytics platforms: Google Analytics, SEMRush, Ahrefs
Social media tools
Social media technology comes with the automation capabilities we spoke about above.
These platforms help businesses stay on top of their engagement and outreach strategies through social media outlets.
Examples of social media marketing tools: Buffer, Sprout Social, BuzzSumo
That’s a Lot of Technology, Can I Get Something That Has All of This?
The short answer is yes you can.
Several modern marketing platforms, including HubSpot’s Marketing Hub—which we offer to our clients—incorporate many different marketing automation solutions under one roof, including those listed above.
Platforms like these make marketing tech a lot easier to implement for SMBs who may understand the need for adoption but are cautious investing in a raft of different platforms on their own.
Marketing automation is here to stay.
Its benefits have been widely realized by marketers, but there are still a significant number of SMBs who are underutilizing (or not utilizing at all) the capabilities of automation in their marketing efforts.
For companies that are unsure of where they stand, it may be wise to invest in a marketing audit in order to access where they’re at.
From there, they can invest either in a platform like HubSpot that offers a range of automation services for their marketing, or start slowly by implementing one solution (email, for example) and build out their stack moving forward.
In any case, the advantages of marketing automation are clear and businesses should seriously consider whether they’re taking full advantage of what it has to offer.
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