Today’s technology can help with just about anything: email marketing, product management, collaboration, social media marketing, insights and analytics, and visual content. Marketing-related technology usually falls into two major categories: marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM). Together, the tailored tools of marketing automation and CRM platforms not only help you to stay on top of all leads and customer relationships but also help you to organize your data, optimize your website, and ensure that visitors to your website have an ideal experience from the moment they enter your site until long after they have closed their browsers.
Discover the unifying power of marketing automation
Marketing automation tools include software platforms and other technologies that enable organizations to more effectively market on multiple online channels (e.g., email, social media, websites, and search engines) and to automate repetitive tasks.
In general, automation is anything you can do to avoid having to perform tasks manually. For marketing, these tasks can include updating your company’s website, sending emails newsletters and other email campaigns, and deploying your content on social media. For example, when someone visits your company’s website and fills out a lead form, an automated tool can use the information in that form to create a drip marketing campaign (automated email campaign) targeted to that particular individual.
But automation doesn’t just help with new leads. If you are trying to increase your sales from existing customers, for example, marketing automation can help to segment data from past customer purchases to be used in upselling, cross selling, and making cycle-based sales. If you are trying to increase your conversion rate, marketing automation can show you which activities typically precede the moment of purchase. You can then automatically offer those touch points to leads that may be near the purchase decision.
Marketing automation also makes it easier for you to manage, review, and evaluate your social media campaigns, enabling you to streamline posting activities across multiple channels. You can also automate previously repetitive, manual tasks, such as tracking of website visitors, SEO, and landing-page integration with your website.
A marketing automation tool is an excellent first step for putting in place the right technology. Popular automation service providers include Marketo, Act-On, and HubSpot. Remember, you can also start small and free while you are becoming acclimated to the process—and those introductory solutions may even work just fine in the long run.
How marketing automation aids your brand and bottom line
Marketing automation provides your company with a more efficient, influential, and cost-effective marketing process. Your business will appear more credible, respond more quickly to inbound leads, and communicate with customers and prospects more frequently and in a more personalized manner. The resulting consolidation of data will also offer insights into which of your marketing processes are most effective, and the increased efficiency and decreased labor costs will reduce operating expenses.
The improved lead management and new insights provided by marketing automation will also generate significant new revenue. This is why most successful organizations today use a marketing automation platform:
- 63% of companies that are growing faster than their competitors use marketing automation software, while 78% of high-performing marketers say that marketing automation is responsible for improving their contribution to revenue.[i]
- According to a study by ANNUITAS, businesses that start using marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads.[ii]
- Nucleus Research has also found that the use marketing automation platforms, on average, produces a 14.5% increase in sales and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead.[iii]
This is one bandwagon that it would be smart to jump on.
Use a CRM platform to leverage your customer relationships
The second technology-based investment that you should make is in a CRM platform. At its core, CRM enables you to wow your customers at a scalable level. It’s one thing to wow five customers, but what about when you have five hundred customers? A good CRM platform will combine every interaction with a specific prospect or customer into a digestible profile of your company’s relationship with that prospect or customer. A properly trained sales team then will be able to maintain a history of each lead, tracking every touch point and coordinating all of the team members.
Instead of struggling to keep track of long-term relationships, your sales team will know when and how to pull the trigger in order to convert a lead to a purchase based on all previous interactions detailed in a prospect’s or customer’s profile.
When you combine a powerful CRM platform with streamlined touch points and the implementation possibilities of your marketing automation tool, you will be maximizing every lead every time. Salesforce.com offers the best-known CRM, but you may not need or use all of its sophistication. A less expensive alternative, such as Zoho CRM, Sage CRM, SugarCRM, or Insightly, could be right for you.
Technology is never a substitute for thinking
To get the most out of your chosen technology platforms, however, you must remember that marketing automation improves your existing efforts. It does not do your marketing and lead-generation work for you.
Technology will not provide you with a strategy. It is a tool: it informs you so that you can make better choices about strategy, and it helps you to efficiently implement your chosen tactics. Therefore, technology investments should be made based on the tool’s ability to execute on and improve your predetermined strategic priorities. You must then furnish your chosen platforms with the necessary data, leads, and content in order to generate your desired results.
Permission-based lists and engaging content are more important than ever
Take drip marketing campaigns, for instance. Through savvy marketing, these automated email campaigns can keep your company top of mind and thus generate impressive returns. But if these emails are sent to individuals who have not filled out a form on your company’s website or who do not have a prior relationship with or awareness of your company, the campaign not only would fail to generate engagement but actually would hurt more than help.
If you provide an email automation tool with solid prospects and strong content, the platform will send messages at your preferred times, guarantee a professional-looking, glitch-free campaign, and begin to generate its own leads. If you artfully integrate the platform with your website, visitors to your landing page can sign up to receive automatic emails that are customized to their specific interests.
If you take the time to set up an automation tool properly, you will soon be strategically targeting customers without having to lift a finger.
Integrate your platforms to maximize results
Making sure that all of your technology platforms integrate with each other and can be used across departments is just as important as the choice of those platforms. This is particularly true for marketing automation and CRM platforms.
Begin by aligning your marketing and sales teams, both of whom must be properly trained, since marketing automation and CRM platforms are intended to directly benefit both teams. Although your marketing automation vendor typically will be willing to perform the actual setup and integration of the platform, it is your task to get your team on board with the integration. When the two platforms have been integrated, your sales and marketing teams will be able to align their interests to address the key touch points of the customer decision journey. They will be able to work together to maximize the benefits of your company’s technology investments.
If your company doesn’t yet have marketing automation or CRM software in place, appoint some individuals at your company to start researching the ones we have mentioned in this tip and any others that have been recommended to you. Next, create a spreadsheet of price, attributes, and benefits so you can figure out which marketing automation and CRM platforms are right for you based on your business objectives and level of sophistication. Set goals that within six months you will have a marketing automation system in place and that six months after that you will have a CRM in place, because implementing both initiatives simultaneously may be too much to tackle.
Marketing automation and a CRM are the two most important technological investments that you can make in today’s marketing world. The time that your team spends learning and using these tools can help to grow your business while cutting or limiting costs—while making you look bigger in the eyes of your prospects and customers than you really are.
[i] The Ultimate Marketing Automation statistics overview (Brielle, NJ: Lenskold Group, 2013), http://www.emailmonday.com/marketing-automation-statistics-overview
[ii] Mike Lewis, “Marketing Automation by the Numbers,” Business 2 Community (blog), November 27, 2012, http://www.business2community.com/infographics/marketing-automation-by-the-numbers-infographic-0342287#!rFqTU#hwGutfR4Ezv2QEW4.97.
[iii] Nucleus Research Inc., Marketing Drives CPM ROI (Boston: Nucleus Research, 2012), http://nucleusresearch.com/research/single/marketing-drives-crm-roi/.