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What Is Marketing Automation?

Consumers are getting more and more sophisticated these days.

  • 76% now expect more personalized attention from vendors.
  • 73% use more sources to research and evaluate purchases.
  • 71% conduct a detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision.
202 B2B Buyer Behavior Study Graph
Source: DemandGen

With all these expectations, moving customers through the sales process is challenging now more than ever.

To get this right, you’d need to juggle a LOT of things to win their trust and attention. Launch a new landing page, set up different email campaigns, publish multiple posts a week… the list is neverending.

This is why marketers can not avoid the use of marketing automation — it saves them time and keeps their sanity.

Then again, what is marketing automation?

Does it involve bots? Can it drive huge ROIs? And wait, can it eventually replace marketers since it can do parts of our jobs?

We’ll answer all those questions. And not only that. We’ll help you figure out which part of your business needs to be automated, how you can start, and what to look for in automation tools. 

What is marketing automation? 

Marketing automation refers to the use of tools to accomplish and automate specific marketing tasks, especially recurring processes that take up most of your team’s time.

What is marketing automation graph

For example, you can set up a series of welcome emails to be automatically sent to every new visitor who signs up for your newsletter. 

Using marketing automation tools, you can not only make all the qualified leads enter this evergreen funnel. You can even personalize the messages by mentioning their names in the emails as well.  

Marketing automation helps businesses become more efficient. But even to this day, many are still unsure whether to use it or not. 

That’s why we’re debunking the 7 most common myths around this marketing process. We don’t want these to stop you from thoroughly enjoying this incredible technology.

Myth #1 – Marketing automation is only for large companies.

The marketing automation software available today caters to all sizes. Sure, there are a lot of expensive options aimed at big businesses. But plenty also offers affordable plans that have only the most essential features small to medium companies need. 

Myth #2 – Marketing automation efforts are only for the big shot technical marketers.

Yes, automation is advantageous for marketers with deep tech knowledge. But most marketing automation platforms today have a user-friendly interface that requires a slight learning curve. So yes, even newbie marketers can do a lot with marketing automation.

Myth #3 – Marketing automation systems are “set and forget.”

Just because it’s automated, it doesn’t mean that you can just let it run forever. Marketing campaigns demand checking from time to time. You’ll eventually have to optimize, tweak, or stop certain automations. For instance, do you need to add the newly released feature in the onboarding process? Do you want to mention your new best-selling product in the welcome sequence? Will your new automation interfere with the existing ones?

Myth #4 – Email marketing is the only thing you can automate.

Nope. Aside from email, you can also automate your lead management, content strategy, and social media. Plus, the best marketing automation software can even integrate your signup forms, landing pages, and forms. This’ll kick more manual tasks from your to-do list for good. 

Myth #5 – Marketing automation is the same as account-based marketing (ABM).

Many are confusing these two concepts, but they’re totally different. Marketing automation is more like a process, while account-based marketing is a strategy. ABM is a strategy where you treat the account of a single organization as an individual, so you send personalized content to them.  

Myth #6 – Marketing automation tools are CRMs.

Nope, they’re pretty different from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools. Let’s put it this way. Both are used to reach out and build relationships with prospects, but marketing automation tools are intended mostly for marketing leads, while CRMs are used for sales-qualified leads. We have delved into the difference between marketing automation and CRMs in more detail.

Marketing automation vs. CRM graph
Marketing Automation VS. CRMs

Myth # 7 – Automated marketing isn’t personal

BIG misconception. Automated marketing campaigns can be behavior-based. Meaning they can be narrowed down and applied to a particular group of people at a specific time. Now that feels more personalized than blasted campaigns, don’t you think?

Now that we’ve got these myths out of the way let’s move beyond the basics.

How does marketing automation work exactly?

In its simplest form, marketing automation is like a bridge that lets users cross from marketing and straight towards the sales team. 

It’s like a string that guides them to advance to the next milestones, which could be any of the following:

  • Signup for a free trial
  • Download the lead magnet
  • Join your webinar
  • Subscribe to your weekly newsletters
  • Follow your social media page
  • Click on your email’s CTA link/button
  • Book a call with your support
  • Purchase/re-purchase your product or service (the most important one!)

Regardless of what milestone you’re targeting, the “how you interact and follow up with your leads or prospects” is what marketing automation is. 

Imagine a visitor who’s reading an article on your blog. She found it very informative, so she decided to download the PDF version of the post (a.k.a. your lead magnet).

Your first move is to send her a “thank you” email along with a series of follow-up emails in the coming days. 

With an automation tool, these emails are sent automatically. Not only that, she will be added to your email list. She will get tagged with “a marketing lead” in your CRM if she takes the fun quiz on your website. And she’ll also get a reminder to join your upcoming webinar in the following 2 days.

Imagine what it would be like without an automation tool.

It would be crazy to repeat all these custom actions for 50 different people day in and day out! 

Sending follow-up emails, inviting people to your upcoming events, and updating your CRM is much harder to do, especially on a larger scale.

Here’s the recap. Marketing automation works by: 

  • Automating tedious, repetitive tasks related to marketing and sales.
  • Nurturing leads and prospects into sales opportunities and customers by delivering value.
  • Acting as the engine for improving the overall customer communication and experience.
  • Keeping your business’ internal database up-to-date.

Yep, marketing automation is present throughout the whole buyer’s journey, and it can get pretty crazy to make everything work together. But don’t panic. We are going to help you map out that process.

But before we get to that, let’s take a look at the many types of marketing automation.

9 Types of marketing automation

These are some of the different types of marketing automation that you should consider for your business:

Types of marketing automation

  1. Email marketing automation
  2. Business process automation
  3. Lead nurturing.
  4. CRM automation.
  5. Content automation.
  6. Project mnagement automation.
  7. Social media automation.
  8. Analytics and intelligence.
  9. SMS and text messaging automation.

1. Email marketing automation

Going back to Myth #4, automation is not only for emails. However, as the oldest digital marketing strategy and the one with the highest ROI, it makes sense that email is still the most widely used type of automation. 

How does it work?

Email marketing automation lets you send email messages to your contact on autopilot. They can either be a one-time blast (newsletters) or trigger-based (meaning, you only send it whenever a contact does something meaningful on your website). 

For instance, there’s the welcome automation which gets sent to every new user. The trigger here is when the visitor opts into a newsletter. Now, depending on the user’s subsequent actions, they either continue or get opted out from a campaign (and enter another). 

Automated email marketing happens when the user enters a segment then receives the set of welcome emails.

You can set it up like this:

Marketing automation flow
Click on the image to start with this automation flow. Simply click on “Copy flow” and create a trial with Encharge.

Most marketing automation tools have powerful features for email marketing. Encharge, for example, lets you send behavior-based emails. They get fired up once an audience carries out certain actions like signing up for a free trial. 

2. Process automation

Your service reflects how business processes flow in your company. Processes can be any series of steps taken by an organization to convert a lead into a customer, your internal team processes, and a whole lot more. 

Poor process automation will eventually affect the delivery of your output or product. 

Here’s an idea on how to automate your process.

How does it work?

One example is engaging your web visitors. Having a dedicated support team to entertain all leads near the top of the funnel doesn’t make sense. 

It’s better if a chatbot could automatically answer their most frequently asked questions, readily answer their how-to’s, or route them to Knowledge Base articles that could save the team from another support ticket.

3. Lead nurturing

Whenever a new subscriber shares their email with you, you get yourself a lead. Now, your job is to nurture that lead, so it becomes a customer. 

The tricky part is, leads may enter your funnel at different stages, and nurturing each can become too much — and impossible — if done manually. 

How does it work?

Depending on what type of initial content they engaged with, you can further tailor their marketing campaigns. You can creatively share information to give more value. Should you send them a drip campaign? Or a webinar, perhaps? How about a podcast? 

Think of a strategy that you will use. Once you know, it will be easier to send a series of messages using marketing automation tools. 

4. CRM automation 

CRM refers to Customer Relationship Management. By managing your sales-qualified contacts, no sales leads are missed. That means automation of your sales funnel. There’s no room for wasting time on the wrong prospect.

That’s why lead scoring is the perfect tool to track leads.

A lead scoring tool “scores” a lead based on their engagement with the product you market. They are ranked based on the marketing tasks they’ve completed. 

With automation, you can engage low-scoring leads to complete more milestones and increase their lead score in the system. 

Sidenote: Your CRM and your marketing automation tool are two different beasts. Learn more about the difference between CRM and marketing automation.

How does it work?

Lead scoring tells the system which leads are sales qualified. When there’s no guesswork, you can see who qualifies for a sales pitch. And it lets you route these qualified leads to your sales team automatically.

Also, by matching the hottest leads with the best sales reps, you’ll increase sales conversions.

5. Content automation

Allow me to use an ancient (but still valid) cliche: content is king

Giving out juicy materials for your new visitors or users is a must. You’d probably think it’s primarily manual — which is half-true. There are content automation tools that work like magic.

Most of them are machine learning or AI-backed. 

How does it work?

One good example is writing a blog. Outranking helps you write blog posts a lot faster by helping you generate headlines, suggesting meta descriptions, and even outline your blog.

How cool is that? 

AI Wizard screenshot

It also scores your raw article on its SEO optimization based on your article structure, keywords in the section, and outline.

6. Project management

When it comes to project management, many things could be missed if the system doesn’t take care of it for you. For example, you could miss important deadlines, spend more than the allocated budget, and even delay the project because of this.

Automation keeps a good chunk of these problems away. One benefit is making your marketing communications easier.

How does it work?

Process automation lets you accomplish stuff or communicate faster. For example, you can set up internal Slack reminders of upcoming sales calls, rules, meetings, tasks, and deadlines.

Slack automation screenshot

7. Social media automation

Social media should be a part of every business’s marketing strategy to build a two-way relationship with customers. You can include social media to promote blogs, test offers, and, more importantly, make your clients feel heard.

And if you’re thinking about just posting salesy messages, stop. Here’s why social media is not ideal as a sales channel and what it’s better suited to:

Wrong mindset for social networks:

“I hope this piece of content gets me a lead.”

Right mindset for social networks:

“I hope this is helpful for my ideal buyer… maybe they’ll remember me down the road.”

Stop trying to capture demand on social.

Create it instead.

Good content strategy in one sentence:

“Post about them, not about you.”

Dave Gerhardt

That said, there are just tons of things that you can share, and that’s precisely the point. You’ll need the help of social media scheduling tools if you want to keep up.

How does it work?

You can publish content to multiple channels simultaneously. Automation allows you to do post-scheduling. Meaning you can create a post now and choose to publish it at a later date.

Monitoring of social media is also possible through automation tools. You can see how your prospects are engaging with your social media posts.

8. Analytics and intelligence

One of the most significant challenges in digital marketing is knowing “who” your potential customers are.

You can get actionable marketing data such as visitor behavior and other marketing activities thanks to marketing automation software. That way, you understand if your marketing efforts are effective. 

How does it work?

Get this. Automated data analytics exists. It’s the practice of using computers, AI systems, and processes to perform analytical tasks with little or no human intervention. 

For example, some marketing tools come with analytics, automatically generating a report about your daily pipeline while updating an interactive dashboard.

The marketing team then can mend the parts of your campaign that don’t work and devise a new plan. That’s predictive analysis at its finest.

If you are just starting with marketing automation, you can simply monitor the behavior of your leads by checking their activity feed. Encharge’s website and app tracking allows you to see an activity feed of your contacts — what pages they visit, what actions they perform in your product, the forms they submit, and more.

Value of marketing automation: So, do I need it?

When considering investing in a marketing asset, you’d be asked whether or not it’s necessary. Deciding to purchase marketing automation software is no exception.

In fact, 31% of businesses have automated at least one function.

Adoption of marketing automation stats
Source: Oracle NetSuite

While 63% of marketers will be increasing their budget soon. To help you make your pitch for automation, we’ve summed up the pros and cons for you.

Advantages and disadvantages of marketing automation

+ Pluses – Minuses
1. You save time and effort. 
I’m sure you get many marketing and sales-related tasks. Automating them is clever marketing because you know that you cannot do everything by hand.

2. You improve how you do lead nurturing. 
Are there times that you missed following up on a lead that could have been converted? Automatic nurturing can eliminate this.

3. You make fact-based decisions.
Verdicts upon your strategy’s efficiency are based on real numbers. Tracking and then analyzing the results is interpreted easily. It makes reusing or tweaking a campaign before a launch simple. 

4. You understand who your audience is and what they want.
You can’t deliver a great experience if you don’t understand them first. With accurate data that reflects their current behavior, you can determine the right engagement that will work.

5. You enhance the overall customer experience.

You can trigger messages based on user behavior. You only send highly personalized and relevant messages.

6. You give your clients predictable results.
You can be confident that a particular approach is giving good results now and will do so in the future.

7. You reduce your client’s expenses.
Combining all the advantages equals your cutting down operational expenses.
1. There are costs involved.
Marketing automation platforms come with a cost. Some may be expensive and require a reasonable budget. Therefore, some companies will find it challenging to spend additional money on marketing ― a valid concern for many small businesses.

2. They come off as “complex“.
A myth says that marketing automation is only for experienced marketers. While it’s not entirely true, there’s still some learning curve needed to maximize their potential.

3. They are not designed to work without supervision.
Although they can work once you set the predefined steps, they still require that you intervene from time to time. Like, for instance, when you need to provide custom pricing because they cannot adjust calculations.

So back to our earlier question, if they are meant to replace marketers completely ― No, they won’t. They can’t. 

4. They sometimes cause emails to arrive in the spam folder.
Some emails sent using a tool don’t arrive in the recipient’s primary inbox.

If you’ve already decided to use a marketing automation tool, then read on to find out…

How does automation affect the customer journey?

It’s not enough to know how marketing automation works. Marketers should know how all the automation would come into play throughout the customer journey.

A buyer’s journey is a representation of how your ideal customer moves to buy from you. In reality, it is affected by a lot of factors, but this is how a typical customer journey could look like:

The buyer's journey graph

As you can see, the journey starts with attraction. This is when they discover that you exist. 

Usually, inbound marketing plays a huge role here. Your prospects either arrived from Google, referrals, blog posts or your social media posts. 

And that’s the ideal beginning:

  • A prospect gets attracted to your social ads or content or;
  • Someone visits your website and does a milestone, say downloading an ebook from your blog. 

The next phase involves:

  • Capturing their information
  • Sending them nurturing messages to win their trust

And finally:

  • Getting them to a “sales-pitch ready” state 
  • Keeping them as happy customers
  • Attempting to upsell or cross-sell more products and/or services

That’s the general view of the customer journey. 

And more often than not, automation overlaps with each of the phases in the buyer’s journey.

Typical setup of marketing automation

To see the customer strategy in action, we’ve prepared a sample workflow for you:

  • John is a fitness enthusiast. He reads every day when he sees articles related to keeping his body in shape. He stumbles upon your website via the “How to Lose Weight Without Diet” blog post and finds your service attractive.
  • You offer fitness coaching. He sees that you give free trials, so he signs up.
  • The marketing automation solution picks up his information and adds him to your CRM. In the system, he is tagged with “blog_subscriber.” This makes him part of the list from which he receives the welcome emails.
  • He automatically receives the first email. He then tries using the app you offer, but healthy recipes aren’t free. Since healthy eating is essential to him, he downloads the app for a small fee.
  • His lead score starts to increase. This lets you know that he’s getting warmer for a subscription.
  • Once he purchases the subscription, the system tags him with “paying_users.” Then, he gets another set of emails asking him if he wants to upgrade his subscription (upsell).
  • When his lead score rises further, you can pass him as a hot lead to the sales team and could be an excellent prospect for one-on-one coaching. The sales and marketing team can work together to convert him to this high-ticket program.

How to implement marketing automation 

In many cases, marketers see automation as the solution to all their problems — from improving conversion rates to automating manual tasks to boosting customer retention.

Yes, automation can bring a lot of benefits to your marketing strategy. But only when it is executed correctly.

Most businesses are having a hard time starting and implementing marketing automation. And with all the types of automation we’ve learned today, it could be overwhelming to decide where to start.

So, here are some suggestions on how to implement them:

  1. Choose which processes to automate first. Start with: (1) what’s already working for you and (2) what you need to accomplish your marketing objectives

    For example, starting with inbound marketing automation could make sense if your business is looking to improve lead generation and overall marketing and sales performance. Nurturing your inbound leads is a win if your blog posts are already getting a lot of signups.

    The last thing you want is automating a process that isn’t working yet.
  1. Learn your customer’s journey. Create a visual representation of the journey to make it easy to visualize all the proposed engagements. You don’t want to smother them with too much content that isn’t even relevant to them.
  1. Analyze your metrics. Use lead scoring to analyze the engagement your users need. Rank them with numbers based on your ICP’s journey. 
  1. Automate internal processes. Maximize the power of the tool. Use it for project management too. Let it deliver the promise of saving time for you and the rest of the company.
  1. Track your performance. Measure everything you do. The analytics are your honest marketing conscience.

6 Tips for designing a marketing automation strategy

We want your marketing automation strategy to be a success. So, we’re giving you tips on how you can align your new marketing program:

Tips for building a marketing automation strategy

  1. Set up your marketing automation goals.
  2. Segment your audience.
  3. Use search intent to guide your content.
  4. Keep your campaigns from appearing too automated.
  5. Bring your team to work together 
  6. Review regularly 

1. Set up your marketing automation goals

Before anything else, be clear with what you need to achieve. Be clear about your current marketing strategy gaps. Can you honestly say that automation can fill it? If yes, then proceed to automation. 

2. Segment your audience.

Your primary goal is to gain a large contact list. But not everyone in it requires the same engagement from you. Do not generalize them in a single list. Instead, segment your audience by:

  • Demographics
  • Industry
  • Company
  • Channel source
  • Milestone

3. Use search intent to guide your content.

Their first interaction with you is most likely going to be something they’ll read from you. So, to meet their expectations, send out and publish only relevant content. For blogs, use search intent as your basis when you produce them.

4. Keep your campaigns from appearing too automated.

While it may be natural to use automation in things like email blasts, the last thing you want is to sound like a robot. Add a human touch to your messages. Personalization tokens, birthday vouchers, and seasonal promotions help keep your campaigns from sounding too generic.

5. Bring your team to work together 

Does the company you work for have multiple stakeholders? Let them know and understand your automation. Will the marketing department have a say or be affected by this strategy? 

Bring them in, too. And, if needed, train them to know the ins and out of the tool.

6. Review regularly 

After setting everything up, watch how the automation does its job. There may be bugs or errors that you have to tend to fast. And, remember, you still need to tweak it based on the data you get. So, make a schedule to ensure you get to check up on it regularly.

Marketing automation tools: what to look for?

Ready to give it a try but not sure which marketing automation tools to choose from?

Look for these elements to help you find a good fit:

Ease of use 
Look at the tool’s user interface. Does it look friendly? You and anyone who’ll use it have other tasks that are sometimes critical. So, a tool with a steep learning curve is a disadvantage. 

Customer support
You are the customer here. If your company’s support team tries to give the best assistance possible to your customers, wouldn’t you want one for you as well? Dedicated support is a plus. 

One of the critical factors in choosing a good marketing automation platform is communication with your native apps. So, check if it can integrate with your daily apps now, so it won’t be a problem later when you scale.

Startups may not remain startups forever. So if your small business aims to grow, consider software that can grow with you as you have more sales. 

Clear pricing
Make sure that the automation software companies you’ll choose from are transparent about their pricing. Some tools aren’t upfront about their charges, so you might get surprised that you have to pay extra when you add a feature. When selecting a tool, go through the features you need and get a quote to ensure that it’s compatible with your budget and is cost-effective.

The right time to invest in marketing automation is now

There you have it.

You just read a comprehensive guide about what marketing automation is and how marketing automation streamlines your marketing and sales teams, processes, and customer journey.

With marketing automation, you get more leads and customers. But that doesn’t mean that you have to work harder ― not when automation is here.

Now that almost every single market has become oversaturated, marketing ROI becomes harder to reach. Which also implies that work becomes more tedious. So yes, there’s never been a better time to invest in marketing automation than now. 
With different tools that all claim to help you boost sales, it can be overwhelming.

Give Encharge a try or book a quick call with us — we’d be happy to help you find out if it’s the right marketing automation solution for you.

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Meet your new marketing automation platform

Customer messaging tools don’t automate workflows outside your product and marketing automation tools are bad at behavior emails. Encharge is the best of both worlds — a marketing automation platform built specifically for B2B SaaS businesses

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