Marketing automation platforms can help businesses deliver memorable, personalized digital experiences for their customers. 

Think of marketing automation as a company’s communication vehicle — fueled by content and tracking billions of touch point engagement data to help businesses better understand their buyers. 

The result? Digital experiences tailored to the individual buyer and delighted customers who see a company that knows what to engage on and when to engage with.

What Marketing Automation Looks Like in Action

Here's how an automated nurture program might influence the digital experience: a buyer visits your product page, browses around various packages and services and clicks on a specific offer tailored to enterprise companies. Her behavior triggers a follow up email to be sent to her 15 minutes after exiting the page — which includes a trial offer and an e-book. 

An engagement with these materials indicates the buyer's interest is peaked. You enter her into a three-week nurture program (whatever makes sense for your buying cycle), in which she's sent a series of progressive messages based on two variables: who she is (demographic) and what she does (behavior). This way, you’ve done some legwork by the time someone from sales reaches out — a clearer picture of the buyers’ interests, needs, pain points and more. 

Having this intelligence ensures that companies deliver a unified brand experience across all channels: both online and offline. 

As more and more data is collected on a buyer over time, companies can begin to tailor what that individual sees when they come to the website: a welcome note upon arrival to the homepage, a thank you for visiting using a first name, sending an invite and details for an event taking place in their neighborhood or recommending content specific to their role or interest. 

It's these customized experiences that can move the needle for a brand and convert buyers into customers and customers into advocates. 

From Data to Delivery

Marketers need to map out personas for their buyers: their likely titles, their likely constraints and their likely pain points. 

Charlie the CMO, for instance, may require a very different kind of sales touch than Molly the marketing manager — more high-level content that clarifies big business benefits of your product (the cost savings, the revenue attribution), versus tactical info on how to put your product to use. The better sense you have of how these personas work for your business, the more you can personalize the DX you offer.

You should also look to divvy up their outreach by the various stages of the customer lifecycle, so the content they offer a prospective buyer in a drip campaign coheres with their journey: 

  • the Attract stage: where you generate awareness around your brand 
  • the Capture stage: where you capitalize on a buyer’s interest to get their info
  • the Nurture stage: where you build trust over time, reinforce the needs that your product answers
  • the Convert stage: when the opportunity becomes a customer and
  • the Expand stage: when the customer becomes an advocate, or is upsold to a higher tier of service.

The Support Structure

Good marketing automation governance comes down to three things: proper workflows, proper staffing and proper resource allocation.

If you're new to deploying a marketing automation platform, consult your peers in sales early on about the buyers they court — sales’ criteria for leads, preferences on the handoff process (separating cold ones to be nurtured from warm ones to be called) and methods of follow-up. This way, you can put structures in place to support the experience across departments for better collaboration and alignment.

You should also take a look at how departments are organized, to make sure that the appropriate staff is in place to support strategy and goal setting (people responsible for creating a larger roadmap, determining realistic metrics for success), marketing operations (technologists charged with managing and refining programs day-to-day) and content creation (creatives providing fuel for the MA engine). 

This may mean reaching outside of the existing talent pool. According to an recent study (pdf), 79 percent of marketing leaders supplement internal capabilities with outside contractors.  

Finally, take a close look at how you've allocated your current spend. To justify the expense, keep metrics close (to prove value), offer a factual perspective, demonstrate the competitive advantages (what you're up against otherwise) and delineate a clear plan of attack. 

Consider current spending trends: digital advertising has displaced the traditional, content marketing is essential (makes up 28 percent of budgets, according to the Content Marketing Institute), high-quality content is imperative (54 percent cite it as a challenge in the same CMI report), technology is a must-have (67 percent plan on making the switch in the next two years, HBR reports) and account-based marketing is good business sense. 

A good business practice, according to SiriusDecisions, is to allocate 50 percent of marketing budget to personnel and 50 percent to tools, systems and products.

Goals Set

On this front, it’s again helpful to consider the stages of your buyers’ journeys and set your metrics accordingly. How many visited your site at the Attract Stage, and what offers held their attention longest? 

At the Capture Stage, what calls-to-action performed best? 

How many marketing-qualified leads did you produce at the Nurture stage, and what activities contributed most to lead scores? 

At the Convert stage, how many sales-qualified leads were generated and new customers won? 

How many new customers were added to your loyalty program at the Expand stage? How many customers onboarded in the last 12 months has your business retained?

You can also break results out on a case-by-case basis: tactical metrics (open rates, subscribe and unsubscribe rates, conversion rates, attendance), campaign metrics (total lead volume, sales-ready leads) and program metrics (close rate, time to close, cost per close, revenue per customer).

For the Love of the Customer

Marketing automation helps companies to customize and personalize their buyers' and customers' online experiences and the subsequent interactions they have with the brand. By leveraging data collected in the marketing automation system, companies can now feed tailored content and messages to their site visitors in line with what is most important to them. This has a huge impact on both the acquisition of new customers and the retention of current.

Title image Forrest Cavale