Ever since software-as-a-service (SaaS) entered the picture several years ago, huge leaps have been made in how businesses leverage technology. Not just from an IT perspective, but from an operational and strategic perspective as well. Along with this trend came the explosion of acronyms such as CRM, CMS, ERP, and others which are now common terms used among marketing, sales and IT departments worldwide.
Now, the struggle for businesses seeking to leverage marketing automation technology is less about finding a solution and more about vetting the multiple solutions available. In this article, we’ll focus on one segment of these SaaS solutions: marketing automation. We’ll briefly cover what it is, how it fits into an organization’s process improvement and strategic execution initiatives, and some resources to help you learn more. Let’s get to it. What is Marketing Automation? In its simplest terms, marketing automation is software that allows organizations to become better at managing their online marketing. Wikipedia offers a more in-depth definition: “…software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online and automate repetitive tasks.” Some tools you’ll find within the leading marketing automation tools are:
- Email Design and Publishing
- Social Media Integration and Publishing
- Content Management System (for managing/editing web pages)
- Contact Database Management
- Metrics and Reporting Capabilities
- CRM Integration (SalesForce, SugarCRM, etc.)
- Automation (list segmentation, email scheduling, preset workflows, etc.)
*Please note the word “managing” above. Marketing automation software will not magically take over all of your online marketing. Rather, it allows marketers and business owners to gain leverage through the use of its native features. An example marketing automation in action: A manufacturer adopts a marketing automation solution. They build their website on this tool, kick start their blog, integrate their social media accounts, import their contact database and set up their metrics dashboards so that they can monitor the success of their online marketing efforts. After this initial set up, they can create content that attracts visitors to their website, run automated campaigns that nurture their new website leads by sending preset emails, social media updates and segmenting them based on qualification criteria (like budget, location, size, etc.). Ultimately, this allows them to capture, nurture and convert more online leads while simultaneously reducing the workload of their sales and marketing teams. Marketing Automation’s Role in Process Improvement & Strategic Execution The same features that streamline the management of sales and marketing innately offer the ability to streamline internal processes as well. While it won’t replace the need for any of your industry specific SaaS tools (like ERP or MRP), it can play a key role within your organization’s overall set of processes as seen through Value Stream Mapping (VSM). More specifically, it has the capacity to assist in managing your HR team, your operations team or other internal departments as they relate to sales and marketing. An example of this expanded role of marketing automation in action: A manufacturer of plastic casings has implemented a marketing automation solution to help grow their business online. While they’ve been using the tool to attract, nurture and close more customers, they soon realized a need to streamline their fulfillment process alongside these new orders. So, within the same automation workflow they use to send customer facing content and notifications, they turn the focus inward towards their fulfillment team. Now, as each order is purchased and automated “thank you” or upsell messages are sent to the new customer, automated messages and notifications are also sent to specific members of the fulfillment team at set times – updating them as to the new customer’s contact info, purchase info, and anything else that might be pertinent to their job. A Few Final Notes For the sake of time, we’ve merely scratched the surface of marketing automation’s capabilities in this article. Still, you can begin to see how marketing automation can have an impact on not just sales and marketing processes, but overall business processes and execution as well. It’s a solution that yields dual benefits of improving efficiencies/productivity while also working to increase your revenue. As always, if you want to be sure you’re selecting the right solutions and implementing them properly among your other sets of tech tools; I highly recommended you contact a process improvement expert to ensure your money isn’t wasted unnecessarily. These tools aren’t cheap, so it’s best to do things right the first time around. Where you can research marketing automation solutions: While you can always Google reviews for marketing automation, there are two websites that deliver the most candid reviews with the biggest sample sizes. Those sites are G2 Crowd and TrustRadius. About the marketing automation industry: The marketing automation industry has experienced massive 50% growth over the last several years, evidenced by HubSpot’s recent IPO and the insurgence of new products. Yet, while adoption of these tools has been high for tech companies, the adoption by other industries currently sits around 3%. Why is that? For starters, it’s common for the tech industry to lead the way for new business solutions given their large investments and access to talent. Secondly, in my personal experience, I’ve found that Related Articles & Resources:
- A Quick Crash Course in Marketing Automation
- Rise of the “SaaSy CMO”: How SaaS is Reshaping the CMO Role
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About the Author: Dustin Hall is President of Firesnap – an inbound marketing and marketing automation agency out of Los Angeles, CA. With over a decade of sales, digital marketing and marketing technology experience with businesses in various B2B and B2C industries, Dustin has helped companies develop and scale effective marketing and sales programs. He’s an active member and past board member of the Business Marketing Association SoCal Chapter as well as an active member of ProVisors.
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