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Marketing Automation explained

New to marketing automation? We have got you covered. Get up to speed with Marketing Automation in less than 12 parsecs with this handy overview and learn the ins and outs on how marketing automation can help your business best connect to your customers.

What is Marketing Automation?

Consumers today are entitled: they want their needs and wishes fulfilled and they want it now. Traditional marketing is sometimes too slow or impersonal to meet these needs in the digital age. This is where Marketing Automation comes in. It allows you to personally reach out to a large group of individuals and get the right message across at the right time using the right communication channel. We do this by identifying touchpoints in the lifecycle of a consumer. Depending on your type of business, these could be when they first sign up for your newsletter, when they get married, when they buy one of your products, ….

Marketing automation tailors your communication to better connect to the consumer at that precise moment. Additionally, it looks to your own business lifecycle to send out communications to the right audience i.e. when launching a new service or through a weekly newsletter. In the end, it hopes to establish a meaningful dialogue that meets the needs of your consumer as well as drive your business forward.

What are the advantages?

Your local baker probably knows his customers quite well. He might know you recently got married and congratulate you or know your favourite brioches by heart. These tokens of personal attention make you a loyal consumer. However, if you are a company with thousands or even millions of consumers, this becomes more difficult to realise. Here, the benefits of Marketing Automation allow you to excel, enabling you to connect to your entire consumer base on a personal level. This makes you more relevant as a company because you understand the needs of your consumer and can almost instantly respond to those needs. This delights existing consumers and will help you acquire new ones.

If done correctly, Marketing Automation lets you leverage a large consumer base with only a small team. It enables you to deliver faster, cheaper and more personalised than you ever could using only traditional media or online advertising. Not only will you get your message across, you will also bring value to the consumer at every step of the way. A happy customer is a loyal customer.

Who benefits from it?

In all fairness, Marketing Automation is probably not for everyone. If you are a small business with limited clientele, chances are that you can easily reach out to them without needing an advanced Marketing Automation set-up. However, as your company grows, Marketing Automation will start to make more sense and give a good ROI (Return on Investment). This is where data comes in. If you have solid and clean data of your consumers, products and services, you can use that information to start an automated and personalised conversation with your clientele. It does not matter in what sector your company operates: travel, transportation, banking, insurance, retail, media, food, publishing, B2C or B2B, …. Almost all types of businesses can benefit from Marketing Automation at some stage.

In the end, it comes down to respect towards your consumers. Overloading them with generic commercial messages might be a way to get products sold on the short term. However, not all consumers are the same and all have different lifecycles. Moreover, your company will not be the only one aiming for your customers’ attention. When you begin to realise this, you are ready to start using Marketing Automation to connect personally to your customers.

How do you implement it?

In the beginning, there was data. Without centralised, clean data it is difficult to implement a well-performing Marketing Automation system. Companies have a considerable amount of data, but it is frequently scattered across several departments and systems or contains incorrect information. If you use this incomplete or faulty data in your Marketing Automation tool, you will never be able to send out a consistent message to your consumers. Hence, having clean, actionable data is key. The first step is to map out all your information that might be useful in your quest to communicate to your consumer on a personal level. Next, centralise this data and standardise it. Remove doubles and clean up wherever possible, making sure your data stays flawless and up-to-date.

Once you have your data sorted, start thinking about leveraging touchpoints along the customer journey. You can start by simply sending periodic newsletters and installing a welcome campaign for your new customers. To achieve this, design the necessary landing pages and e-mails in your Marketing Automation tool and insert personalisation wherever possible. Track the success of your actions so you can answer key questions and prove the ROI. Questions may include how many new people subscribed to your newsletter, what percentage opened the latest newsletter or how many orders were placed as a result of your latest marketing campaign.

Once the basics are up and running, possibilities are endless. You can integrate Marketing Automation in your e-commerce platform to guide your customers in their buying process or use it to assist your helpdesk employees by tackling possible issues before they occur. Our advice: take the leap and reap the benefits right away.

What are the best tools?

With about 5.000 vendors in the Marketing Automation space, it is difficult to find the right tool that fits your needs. We advise you to select a tool that not only fits your current requirements but also suits your ambitions. The most mature tools grow with your business while allowing you to start small. Once your business needs expand, you can simply upgrade to a new plan and take your Marketing Automation to the next level.

Another element to consider is the level of support a vendor can provide. Is enough documentation about the tool available online or is specific training required? Is local support available or is the support team located overseas? DMI Belgium has compiled a list of the top 10 Marketing Automation tools (including Adobe, HubSpot, Selligent, Salesforce and IBM) to help you on your way.

Top 10 tools

How much does it cost?

On the market you will find a broad range of solutions, from tools that are free to ones that cost upwards from several thousand euros a month. Monthly licensing fees are often based on the number of contacts in your database, the number of communications sent out or a combination of both. Marketing Automation may seem expensive but it will bring you winnings. However, when done right Marketing Automation will bring you winnings. It will strengthen your other marketing efforts like SEO, SEA, social, content marketing and paid advertising. In this sense, having an integrated, well-implemented Marketing Automation solution can prove to be indispensable to your business.

What are some examples?

There are numerous situations where Marketing Automation can elevate customer experience (CX). Lead generation is one of them: using automated campaigns, you can guide prospects through your sales funnel and convert them into paying customers. Loyalty is another area where Marketing Automation can shine: installing a rewarding loyalty program will keep consumers engaged with your brand.

For e-commerce, implementing an RFM program (recency, frequency, monetary value) will reduce churn and keep your consumers close. To top it off, you can use A.I. to automatically send out the best offer at the optimal moment to each individual consumer, guaranteeing the best possible chance of success. Other examples of Marketing Automation include birthday flows, lead scoring, surveys, online competitions, abandoned shopping cart messages, event management and notifications.

Inspiring cases

What is the difference between e-mail marketing and Marketing Automation?

It is undeniable that Marketing Automation uses e-mail as a channel to get a message across. It might feel old-school, but it remains a cost-effective way to connect with consumers on a personal level. E-mail is everywhere: on our desktop computers and smartphones; it is even integrated into set-top boxes and smartwatches. Though e-mail is a big part of Marketing Automation, it is only one of the channels. A good Marketing Automation tool recognises this and offers a multichannel approach, allowing you to communicate using SMS, social media, social messaging(e.g. Whatsapp), print and any other channel that is open to personalised one-on-one communication.

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What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and basically is a set of regulations that came into play in Europe in May 2018. It aims to respect and protect the privacy of European consumers by guaranteeing the security of their data and the respect for their wishes. A good marketeer will embrace GDPR because it makes sense only sending messages to consumers who want them. GDPR gives consumers the right to consult and correct their data, to demand a company to provide their data in an open format or to request to forget their data.

In order to be GDPR compliant, companies perform an audit of their data streams, obtain an opt-in for e-mails, respect opt-out requests, write a privacy policy and appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). Consequently, this has a significant impact on Marketing Automation, being a data driven business after all. However, companies that use Marketing Automation correctly and respect the customer are probably GDPR compliant from the get-go.

What is the impact on your business?

The impact of introducing Marketing Automation cannot be understated. The days of letting your gut feeling guide your marketing decisions are gone. Marketing Automation is fed by data. Consequently, it will show the exact results of your actions and will give considerable insight into your consumers’ behaviour, who they are and what makes them tick. On top of that, you will get to know your business better. Consumers will happily tell you exactly what is wrong with your business model, your product or your service. Best-in-class companies use these insights to constantly improve and be ahead of the curve.

Marketing Automating done right will result in significant costs reductions. Considering A.I. and chat bots are already reducing the need for large helpdesk departments imagine what intelligent Marketing Automation could do for your other departments like sales and marketing. If you are willing to transfer some control, Marketing Automation can relieve your employees from mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on being creative and bringing true human value. Relinquishing that control might seem scary, but it is a known fact that successful companies are those that understand the needs of their customers and are able to act upon those needs in an instant.

Where can I learn more?

Marketing Automation is a fast-moving industry: new tools and possibilities emerge on a daily basis. Consequently, it is more beneficial to read online blogs and subscribe to Marketing Automation newsletters than reading books about Marketing Automation considering these are quickly outdated. However, some of the basic principles of Marketing Automation (such as personalisation, segmentation and relevance) still hold true today.

If you want to master a Marketing Automation tool, try downloading a demo version or sign up for a free account to get acquainted with their software. Some tools allow you to certify for their software, a great way to profile yourself as someone who is knowledgeable on the subject. Finally, there is no substitute to having an experienced partner to support you. They will teach you best practices and show you how to use Marketing Automation properly with individual trainings and workshops to take your business to the next level.

How can A.I. support marketing automation?

A.I. (artificial intelligence) is all the rage these days and rightly so. It can truly turbocharge your Marketing Automation efforts. All major tools already support some kind of A.I. integration. Some examples of A.I. implementations in Marketing Automation include:

  • Determining the best offer to send to each individual consumer (product recommendation);
  • Finding the right audience for your specific message or offer (audience match);
  • Determining the best time and day to send messages to each individual consumer (send time optimization);
  • Sifting through unstructured data to discover trends or segments that can be used in future communications;
  • Helping you set up automated A/B/n tests to get the best-performing message to each individual consumer;
  • Helping you determine the best subject line for your next e-mail communication based on past performance.

This is the just the tip of the iceberg. In the near future, A.I. will guide the consumer through his complete lifecycle, constantly learning and improving for success. A.I. has the potential to significantly increase the performance of your marketing and sales efforts.

How can Marketing Automation support lead generation?

In many companies, generating new leads is the task of the sales department. Their job is to track potential customers and guide them through the sales funnel to become loyal customers. A challenging task, considering there could be hundreds or thousands of leads for sales to follow up on. Moreover, each lead is at its own stage in the funnel. Marketing Automation can free up time for your sales department by using automated lead scoring and lead nurturing campaigns. This allows your sales reps to save time and engage the most promising prospects.

Training & education

What are the potential dangers?

There are two areas with the potential to make or break your Marketing Automation efforts: data quality and thoroughness. When your data quality is lacking, personalised communications will suffer. For example, you risk falsely sending out thousands of birthday e-mails on the 1st of January because this date happens to be the default value in your database. Or you could send John an e-mail that starts with ‘Dear Ms. Unknown’ because someone entered the wrong information.

Mistakes will also occur if you implement incorrect flows and work with a lack of precision. You might declare everyone a winner in an online competition if your target audience is not set correctly. Or you might send out the same unique ‘use once’ promotional code to all your customers, leaving all but one disgruntled because they receive the message ‘this promotional code has already been used’. With the potential to reach thousands or millions of customers at the touch of a button comes great responsibility. Our advice: triple check your actions and seek advice from a Marketing Automation expert when needed.

What role can it play in e-commerce?

Marketing Automation can play an important role in the entire online shopping experience. Starting in the awareness stage, Marketing Automation can guide consumers through the thousands of items in your inventory and suggest relevant offers. In the consideration stage, you collect information from the consumer allowing you to help them solve their problem or satisfy their need. Once consumers get to the decision stage, Marketing Automation makes the purchase process as smooth as possible and assists the consumer with the right information at the right time. After completing the purchase, Marketing Automation is deployed to help with upselling or cross-selling. Our opinion: e-commerce and Marketing Automation are a match made in heaven.

Which systems can integrate?

The top Marketing Automation tools allow you to integrate with and connect to almost any other tool in your organization. You should have no problem connecting your different databases, e-commerce platform and helpdesk system to your Marketing Automation tool and leverage the power of Big Data. Typical integrations are:

  • Transferring data between databases using overnight batch synchronization;
  • Setting up real time communication between two platforms using API’s;
  • Sending out messages using manual or automatic triggers.

It is important to look at your Marketing Automation tool not as a closed system but as a hub between all the different people and systems in your business.

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Joz, Sales of DMI

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Joz, Sales of DMI