Digital marketing is a complex machine. There are a variety of tools from engagement platforms to analytics that are designed to improve the customer experience and better a company’s revenue results. But how these tools are used can vary. One of the most significant processes (and tools) within digital marketing is marketing automation.

What is Marketing Automation?

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To understand what marketing automation is, a person has to first look at what it is made of. Anvil Media Inc. recently released a marketing resource titled “CMO Cheat Sheet: Marketing Automation” (registration required) that defines marketing automation as the following:

Marketing automation is the use of technology to generate, nurture, score and qualify leads, and drive sales, using customized, multi-touch marketing communications tailored for each contact’s profile, level of interest, behavior or place in the buying process. “

Essentially, marketing automation is an umbrella term that’s used to describe how products and practices are used to help a business improve a brand or product’s reach or public awareness across a variety of social platforms. Marketing automation not only improves the customer relationship with a more personalized experience, but also helps a company have a more cost effective and time efficient marketing strategy that can eventually lead to more revenue and a larger consumer base.

Savvy CMO’s recognize marketing automation as an investment in marketing and sales, an enabler for enterprises to revolutionize their marketing, sales and customer engagement process,” says the report. “As an elastic system, the potential benefits of marketing automation are endless.”

There are a number of marketing automation platforms available including Marketo, Act-On, Eloqua, HubSpot, InfusionSoft and Optify. There are also specific email marketing tools such as ConstantContact, YesMail and MailChimp.

A Breakdown on Marketing Automation Features

There are a variety ways that a company can generate and nurture leads and engage with customers The following are a few examples of how marketing automation works with specific tools:

  • Database and List Management: Data or list management tools, such as a spreadsheet or some kind of database are the core of any marketing automation platform. These tools can help marketing teams be more efficient as they'll be able to quickly and easily find prospect lists, contacts and leads, which in turn can help them better address customer concerns and launch better, more targeted marketing campaigns.
  • E-mail Marketing: Email is one of the oldest digital forms of communication and despite the arrival and prominence of other social channels, email still proves to be a good engagement tool. With email, messages can not only be personalized, but marketers can create email specific marketing campaigns, based off a person’s interactions and engagement on a company’s website. Not all email marketing is based around a newsletter sign-up option; there are a variety of tools available to suit a marketer’s individual email marketing needs. These tools include YesMail, an optimization solution, and Campaigner's API marketing tool for SMB's.
  • Social Media Marketing: With customers being able to share, pin or re-tweet, like and comment on posts, a business can see how well a specific product or campaign is doing, any concerns customers have and what consumer trends are so that they can tailor product releases accordingly. Therefore, whether it be with one social media account or a combination of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or other social site, in order to truly connect and engage with customers a company must be comfortable using social media.
  • Lead Nurturing: Ultimately the outcome of digital marketing is for a company to improve its revenue results; therefore a team’s attention should primarily focus on the customer experience. In using tools like email and social media, marketers should be readily available to assist a potential customer, essentially ‘nurturing a lead'. If done properly, this type of nurturing shows that a business is willing to form a relationship with someone -- and it can lead to repeat business.
  • Analytics: In a way, analytics are the customer comment cards of digital marketing. In having a good analytics tool, such as Google Analytics or Webtrends, marketers can track customer and competitor trends to see what and how they should be promoting their company and brand.
  • CRM Integration: The line between marketing and sales is sometimes blurred within a digital marketing context. A good marketing automation practice is for a business to integrate marketing automation platforms with customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, such as Salesforce. In doing this, a business can make sure that all of its departments, especially sales and marketing, are working together to achieve the same end result.

Digital Marketing Tools Key

While a company alreadys has a strong consumer base, they can't rely on older methods of engagement to support it and/or gain new customers. By adopting a digital platform with email, social media and analytics, marketers can improve brand reach, improve ROI and revenue, build a stronger customer base and form personalized relationships with these customers along the way.

The explosion of “big” data, social media and the cultural shift now taking place within marketing and sales will drive even those later adopters to consider the use of this technology to address the ever changing consumer driven buying process,” said Michael Fung, Iron-Point Marketing Principal in quote from the Anvil Report.

In utilizing not only marketing automation, but digital marketing as a whole a company can cement themselves as a business that moves with the consumer and adapts to whatever environment they are in.