This article was written as part of the SEMrush Big Blogging Contest.
If you are a digital marketer, you’ve probably heard of a term marketing automation.
But what does marketing automation mean?
I’m sure that most of the people relate this term only to the email marketing sequences or automated social media sharing and nothing else.
Is it limited to these couple of things or have a bigger picture?
Actually, Marketing automation refers to the technologies and software platforms designed to amplify the marketing efforts on multiple channels and automate repetitive tasks to improve overall marketing efficiency.
It’s one of the best marketing strategies to drive engagement and meet customers at multiple touch points that lead to the highest CLV (Customer Lifetime Value).
What Does Marketing Automation Do?
There are five primary functions of any marketing automation system.
1. Brand Awareness
It’s the first step where people get to know about your brand and the products you offer.
Traditionally, there were a ton of marketing tactics to increase brand awareness including Print, TV, and Press releases.
Adding automated process like scheduling, analytics, and tracking, help to cater your audience with more useful contents to create buzz about your brand.
2. Lead Generation
It’s a process of turning strangers to the leads (people who are highly interested in your products or services). Generating MQL (Marketing Qualified Leads) may be a time-consuming for most of the business owners especially when you haven’t put efforts on brand awareness.
However, marketing automation significantly reduces the time and cost by putting your lead generation process on autopilot.
What would you do if the prospect unsubscribes your list after downloading an ebook, report or anything you’ve offered as a lead magnet?
It’s the most annoying moment for any marketer after putting a lot of efforts.
Engagement is necessary after acquiring leads where you need to nurture them to turn into customers.
It’s not only useful in pre-sale but also to keep your current customers happy, retain them and push them to upgrade to more premium services.
The closing means converting the prospects into actual buyers.
Since manual closing is time-consuming especially for the high-ticket and B2B products, marketing automation does magic by simplifying the entire process to get more customers with minimum efforts and adding the scalability.
5. After Sales
The responsibility of the marketing team does not end with delivering leads to the sales department.
In engagement based integrated marketing, businesses need to collect data across all touch points of a marketing campaign even after the sale.
Engagement after sales leads to better customer experience, repeated sales, and increased referral leads.
Marketing automation helps you to drive users through the buyer’s journey right from a visitor to a delighted customer.
I’ve mentioned a few examples showing how marketing automation can help solopreneurs to enterprise level businesses to improve productivity and ROI.
1. Market Research
Whether you are a startup or an existing business with significant influence, market research is a crucial step to take you to success. You can’t just put a massive investment without understanding the growth potential and estimated profit in a short-term as well as long-term.
Market research gives a lot of valuable insights and statistics needed for successful growth.
Gathering & processing data manually is definitely not worth.
How could you tackle this problem?
Marketing automation for market research.
It’s necessary to find the pain points of potential customers, demand & supply relationship, trends over a specified period and most importantly, the drawbacks of current solutions available in the market.
See the following example to understand, how marketing automation can help in the market research activities.
Suppose, you want to start a web hosting business. Since there is a fierce competition in this niche, you would probably like to know the insights to decide your marketing strategies.
How could you do that?
Surveys help businesses to know the customer needs, their demography, psychography and much more. There are a few tools like SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and Monday to automate this task.
Similarly, companies may use Google Forms which is also a useful tool.
2. Keyword Research
Finding profitable keywords for your marketing campaigns is a small element of market research.
Today, it’s quite easy to know different metrics including average monthly searches, search trends over the last 12 months, SEO & PPC competition, and CPC, etc. using some advanced keyword research tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Google Keyword Planner.
Plus, you will get a lot of related terms, LSI, synonyms and several metrics to the targeted keywords on a single dashboard making your marketing efforts more effective.
- Read: How to find low competition keywords with high traffic and rank your website on the top of the SERP?
To achieve the ultimate goal of conversion, you must shift your focus from traditional keyword research to intent research.
There is no benefit of thousands of hits to your landing page unless you get the conversion (whether immediately or after a long follow-up sequence.)
Intent research will help you decide what to include in the marketing campaign and what not.
Doing manually – is it feasible?
Let marketing automation software gather, analyze and process the raw data to give you final results in an excel sheet.
Remember, you can’t ignore the accuracy, time-saving abilities, and profitability of the marketing automation tools.
2. Web Development
A web page is a crucial part of any marketing campaign. Right from designing the landing pages to tracking visitors activities and process that data to create the more sophisticated marketing strategies is the prime target of any conversion-focused web development.
Remember, marketing automation is not limited to lead generation and sales only. It has a much more significant potential to generate substantial ROI by transforming your marketing campaign into a sustainable result-producing machine.
Here are a few of examples to get you a better idea.
1. Landing Pages
You may find several high-quality cloud apps as well as dedicated page builders to create beautiful landing pages.
However, marketing automation tools not only help to build the landing pages but also capture the leads, send them personalized communication, track their on-page activities and develop your further marketing plan.
You probably know how heat maps, as well as other analytics tools, collect data about every visitor coming to your landing page.
This data can be processed and used for segmentation, marketing communication and drive user engagement by interacting with customers at 1 to 1 level.
2. Live Chat
Whenever you visit a business website, you might have noticed a small widget of live chat in the bottom right corner.
While some big companies have a dedicated support team to handle sales & marketing queries, other choose AI-powered bots with predictive marketing to navigate the potential customers through automated buyers journey where every action is recorded for affinity and behavioral analysis.
Since 51% of the customers want businesses to be available 24/7 and 41% of customers see the website with live chat feature more trustworthy, adding AI-powered chatbots can significantly improve your marketing engagement and reduce the time in support queue.
It’s the best way to automate lead capturing in integration with an email marketing automation software. Once you decide your target audience, create a quiz around the niche.
Add some multiple-choice questions so that people can choose an option for each. Don’t forget to add fun part or relate those question to your target audience.
People will go through that questionnaire, and after successful completion, they’ll need to enter their contact details (preferably name & email address) to see the results.
Such quizzes have a psychographic effect on users which results in a rapidly growing email list, social shares and most importantly acquiring the audience insights.
3. Email Automation
You might have familiar with the email automation.
Since emails are the best channel for B2B as well as B2C communication and drive ROI of $44 for every $1 spent, all businesses want to build a massive list of targeted audience.
Do you think, that’s possible without using an email marketing automation software?
Attracting visitors, offering value, acquiring them to your list, nurturing and manually pitching your product(s) to each customer could quickly drain your budget.
Email Marketing automation let businesses like yours to gather a ton of subscribers and run marketing campaign seamlessly 24/7.
On another side, automation helps to find open rate, CTR, CVR and unsubscribe rate. A few email marketing automation tools help to visualize buyer’s journey through the marketing funnel.
Sometimes, people may decide to opt out to your mailing list for many reasons, but email automation can find the exact reason while the subscriber is leaving your list.
Advanced email marketing has much more capabilities to drive more engagement and sales completely on autopilot.
I have mentioned a few advanced email marketing automation tactics.
Personalization creates an instant relationship with your readers. Plus, personalized marketing automation has a positive impact on the unique open rate and click rate.
Personalized promotional mailing gives 29% higher unique open rates (UOR) and 41% higher unique click rates (UCR). Similarly, personalized triggered mailing shows a positive shift, with 25% higher unique open rates (UOR) and 51% higher unique click rates (UCR) than non-personalized mailings. (Source: Experian)
2. Third-party Integrations & API
Email marketing can be integrated with the third-party platforms through API to collect data from CRM and e-commerce software.
Collecting accurate data will help you craft better marketing strategies to generate higher ROI.
You can check the shopping cart abandonment for your Shopify store and remind customers to complete their purchase by sending a simple email notification.
Sometimes, people may have some issues like high prices, shipping problem where you can offer an irresistible custom offer to generate a sale.
You can also refer an article How to Craft a Successful Abandoned Shopping Cart Email on SEMrush blog.
Email marketing automation is a really powerful tool when you see the global cart abandonment rate of 75.52% (Source: Annex Cloud).
When you launch an email marketing campaign without automation, all contacts on your list will receive the exact same content – the same welcome email, newsletters, and follow-up sequence.
Email marketing automation helps marketers to collect behavioral data to divide their audience into different segments.
Plus, gathering accurate information about different email metrics in real-time allows businesses to identify the stage in buyer’s journey and fine-tune their nurturing process with personalized communication.
There are many other advanced tactics in email marketing automation including workflows, tagging, dynamic content delivery, etc.
Email marketing is a proven method to drive a massive ROI but adding automation can boost its performance like never before.
Seminars and networking are not new for people working in the digital marketing industry. The webinar is an online projection of physical meetups.
From the business perspectives, automated webinars are a great way to generate a pool of passive income.
Don’t you believe?
Top digital marketers like Neil Patel, Russel Brunson use this tools to get maximum audience engagement and sales completely on autopilot.
5. Social Media Marketing Automation
You might have used IFTTT (If This Then That) tool to tweet your Instagram picture or share it as a Facebook page album.
Similarly, social media automation tools help to automate or semi-automate the repetitive tasks like content curation, sharing posts on multiple social media channels simultaneously, brand monitoring and creating reports.
Most of the reputed social media automation software programs are easy to use even by a non-techie and highly effective to improve productivity.
Although social media marketing automation is not a replacement for human marketers, it can save a lot of time and efforts.
These automated software products can –
- Discover popular content across the world wide web or curate from blogs you love.
- Schedule and optimize your social media posts for the highest engagement.
- Give valuable insights by measuring the necessary metrics for your campaigns.
- Drive customer engagement using AI-powered chatbots.
I have discussed how social marketing automation can influence the commonly used social media channels.
Being a dominant player in social media with 2.234 billion monthly active users worldwide, Facebook is the first choice for small businesses as well as enterprises to promote their products.
Facebook marketing involves organic social promotion using viral contents, video marketing, FB adverts, and messenger-bots.
Facebook Organic Promotion
You can use different tools for content discovery, automated scheduling & posting as well as analytics apart from Facebook’s default marketing suite.
If you are using Facebook for driving engagement, you must know what kind of contents are creating buzz across the web.
Plus, you need to focus on crafting & sharing beautiful contents that customers want to engage.
You may need to manage multiple accounts, schedule posts for weeks or even months and measure essential metrics like post impressions, reach, engagement and link clicks, etc.
Social media marketing tools like ContentStudio and BuzzSumo are very useful in content discovery, brand monitoring, influencer outreach, auto-scheduling, analytics, and competitors’ research.
Securing the second position in digital ad revenue share, Facebook offers a massive advertising platform for every type of business irrespective of its size.
Once you create and run an ad campaign, Facebook takes care of everything automatically.
Using marketing automation tools like ROI Hunter, Qwaya, etc. will help you get more engagement and customers. You can use their ad scheduler, ad & campaign rules, ad rotator, and split testing modules to cut down your advertising cost.
Facebook Messenger Bots
Relatively new to the marketing industry, Facebook Messenger bots helps businesses to interact with their potential customers.
Today, Facebook bot software programs use AI technology to handle user queries and reply with the most sophisticated solution depending on the predefined sequence.
These programs can be easily added to the web page to turn an unknown visitor to a marketing lead.
Although there is a characters limit, Twitter is immensely popular social networks, especially in B2B space.
However, increasing followers, getting significant reach, drive engagement, and acquiring customers is hard to manage manually without using any automation tool.
Marketing automation tools will supercharge your contents by putting them on autopilot. You can schedule tweets or retweets, follow relevant accounts & unfollow the unfitting profiles and engage with your audience to keep them connected.
Pinterest is not only an image sharing website but also content discovery portal. With 250 million monthly users, it’s one of the best opportunity to market your products.
You won’t believe, but 93% of pinners use Pinterest to plan purchase and around 50% people buy the product or services after seeing a promoted pin. (Source: Pinterest Business)
93% of potential customers out of 250 million users, isn’t it a great number to target?
After Pinterest launched the Smart Feed update, content quality, topical relevance, and usefulness to the users have got more importance than chronological contents.
Still, businesses need to share somewhere around 50 pins per day (not more than that) to grow their Pinterest accounts.
While you can’t completely automate the content creation process, the Pinterest account can be easily managed using some social media marketing automation tools.
If you are using Pinterest as a primary or secondary source of traffic, then you should consider using Tailwind app which is an MDP (Marketing Developing Partner).
With 562 million users, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. There is no doubt, LinkedIn is a golden opportunity to present your business in front of the actual decision makers.
However, every business can’t hire a team to interact with the prospects, walk them through the range of product and close a deal in the shortest period.
What is the solution?
LinkedIn, itself offers a set of marketing automation tools if someone decides to upgrade to the premium plan and use sales navigator.
The third-party tools may seem a good fit in certain cases, especially the businesses that want to expand their network.
It’s not necessary to purchase an expensive subscription for a reputed marketing automation platform. Even the Google Chrome extensions like Linked Helper can help a lot depending on your marketing goals.
A mobile app, social network, marketing tool, or an addiction, you can name it anything.
WhatsApp is the world’s most used messenger app with 1.5 billion MAU (monthly active users). Often people use it as a casual messaging app; only a few digital marketers make WhatsApp drive engagement to their businesses.
WhatsApp is not only for sending Good Morning or Good Night to your beloved ones, but it has true marketing automation potential when used smartly.
Actually, I was unaware of it until I booked my bus ticket through redBus.
At the first time, I saw the smartest marketing strategy that redBus has implemented.
We often receive OTP or confirmation SMS on mobile. However, I had received a WhatsApp message for my redBus booking within a few seconds.
The quality of service was also superior to that I was getting through regular ST bus travel.
After searching a bit more, I found that redBus is using WhatsApp chatbot seamlessly as a marketing automation tool to improve customer support experience.
You can read more at How redBus made use of DialogFlow, Whatsapp — to improve Customer Experience.
6. Marketing Automation in SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the major online marketing channels to drive organic traffic to the blog or landing page. I have already explained how businesses can find the keywords with buying intent using some advanced tools like SEMrush.
However, SEO rankings depend on more than 200+ factors including on-page, off-page, and technical elements. We will look at how marketing automation can help build a solid presence in SERP and drive potential customers.
#1. On-page SEO
Often, people keep saying write for users, not for the search engines.
What if it does not reach to the target audience?
The proper content structure using tags & styling, improved readability, on-page keyword optimization are no-nonsense things to do.
You know how does an SEO plugin like Yoast or Rank Math help to achieve better SEO score, and, how Grammarly finds the silly mistakes in our copy using its artificial intelligence.
#2. Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO is often constrained only with the link building.
While Advanced SEO automation tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Majestic will help you spying your competitors to steal their backlinks (legally) to improve search engine ranking, off-page SEO means much more than that.
Software products like Ninja Outreach help you streamline the influencer marketing, branding and lead generation process by driving engagement to your content.
Social signals, reviews, and brand mentions are also crucial off-page SEO elements. Implementing marketing automation to manage these things significantly improves customer engagement, conversions and data collection which can be analyzed and used to craft future marketing strategies.
#3. Technical SEO
How many staff-hours will require to complete the technical SEO audit of a big publication site and fix the issues if you are doing that manually vs. using automated SEO tools like SEMrush?
Finding broken links, checking for mobile friendliness & speed issues, structured data and schema markup, AMP, breadcrumbs, and pagination, etc. only by scanning the website code may become time-consuming & tedious.
Plus, there are chances of mistakes.
Don’t you think so?
SEO automation tools can pick all issues, create a report and suggest the best possible solution within a minute completely on autopilot.
Since the website is an important marketing medium, you can’t overlook technical SEO.
7. Mobile Marketing Automation
Since mobile traffic has surpassed the desktop traffic, businesses must focus mobile marketing automation.
The fun fact is that more people worldwide own a cell phone than a toothbrush. (Source: Blue Corona)
80% of smartphone users most likely to purchase from the brands whose mobile sites or apps help them quickly find answers to their questions. (Source: Think with Google)
Mobile has become a part of our life, and people have more affinity toward their smartphones than any other most common thing.
That’s the reason brands should invest in mobile marketing automation.
#1. SMS Marketing
SMS is a great medium to communicate with your current and potential customers to drive maximum engagement.
With an astonishing open rate of 99% and CTR of 36%, SMS marketing is a golden chance to drive user engagement and sales too.
Adding automation to SMS and integrating with other digital platforms may create a significant difference in your marketing ROI driving more SQL (Sales Qualified Leads).
You can send promotional messages, discount coupons to entice users to make a purchase as well as to confirm the transaction.
Since SMS is the fastest and more reliable channel, adding automation to SMS marketing is very helpful especially in reminding the cart abandonment, showing payment and delivery status, and attracting more people through integrated text campaigns.
SMS marketing is often considered as a unidirectional way of customer interaction; automation may help brands reach a new horizon of marketing.
Here is a simple example of how Paytm is leveraging text messages in their marketing campaign.
#1. The first message to send marketing offers (here the cashback) to get more traffic and engagement.
#2. Payment notification for successful transaction along with the hashtag #Paytmkro to increase the brand awareness.
#3. This SMS shows how Paytm is leveraging the true potential of SMS marketing automation by integrating historical payment data to supercharge their marketing campaigns to drive engagement and conversions.
#2. Proximity Marketing
Proximity marketing a.k.a. hyperlocal marketing lets businesses utilize the power of proximity to drive customer engagement and often sales completely on autopilot.
It helps to target potential customers accurately when they are about to make a purchase decision.
Proximity marketers can send notifications or valuable contents via a Bluetooth or WiFi signal using BLE beacons or hotspot, similar to a mobile app push notification.
While the target audience is limited (in close vicinity), proximity marketing seems a game-changer for the retail businesses especially those who run retargeting ad campaigns.
More than half of consumers are most likely to engage with location-based ads and willing to share their current location.
That’s not all.
62% of online consumers share local deals with friends. (Source: Forbes)
It clearly shows that the use of proximity marketing automation greatly influences the buyer’s purchasing decision.
8. Digital Ads
Online advertising is already automated where you choose target keywords and maximum bid on CPC/CPM basis.
Paid advertising is one of the best ways to get quick and scalable results.
However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make a profit every time. Although you generate significant revenue, you may have different costs including product development, marketing & support.
Sometimes, you may need to compete with multi-million businesses with a tiny marketing budget.
To beat these competitors and make positive cash flow, marketing automation is a magic wand for digital marketers.
You can get benefited using the following tactics.
#1. Ad Personalization
Marketing automation helps to segment customers by interests, preferences, and their behavioral data gathered from the interactions across different marketing channels.
Businesses can leverage these segments to deliver more personalized ads that people want to consume.
#2. Improvement in Ad ROI
Due to accurate targeting, conversions and Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) are significantly higher compared to random ad campaigns.
#3. Bringing Back Potential Customers to Landing Page
Since only 2% of traffic convert on the initial visit, you have 98% more people who might be interested in your product or service.
You can bring them back using meaningful retargeting ads. Just install a tracking code/Pixel to your landing page and see how Google or Facebook will get you loads of traffic who have bounced before.
The businesses that primarily focus on digital ads to get traffic and leads, should consider using integrated marketing systems and measure results to achieve consistent growth in ROI.
How could you improve & scale your marketing campaign if you don’t measure the effectiveness in the form of different metrics?
The best marketing strategies are data-driven and not the hypothesis.
Before launching any campaign, it must be tested and validated at a smaller scale.
That’s possible only if you are tracking visitor’s activities, right engagement metrics, and analyze them to measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategies to focus exclusively on those are working fine for you.
The primary objective of marketing automation platforms is to effectively manage the company’s interaction with current and potential customers – in short, customer relationship management.
CRM software is an all-inclusive marketing automation package to increase brand awareness, speed up the lead generation & sales process, and earn customer loyalty to create the highest possible CLV (Customer Lifetime Value).
For successful onboarding of a customer and build a positive ROI, the CRM software is proven marketing automation tool.
Why am I saying this?
See the following stats.
- Although the CRM system is expensive marketing automation, you can get an average ROI of $8.71 for every $1 spent. (Source: Nucleus Research)
- 74% of users have improved access to customer data after adopting the CRM system. (Source: Software Advice)
Here is an infographic showing the benefits of a CRM system.
What is the Best Marketing Automation Software
The requirements of marketing automation software are different according to the size of the company and the industry they are working.
While considering to invest in marketing automation, you should focus on the unique goals, estimated business results, and long-term benefits rather the features.
How to Choose the Best Marketing Automation Software
Marketing automation tools have multiple functions like automating repetitive actions, segmentation, personized interaction with customer or prospect across every touch point and most important the detailed analytics to measure KPIs, campaign ROI, and impact on overall revenue.
It’s quite difficult to pick the best one from a stack of thousands of marketing automation tools.
The product must fulfill the following requirements to qualify for inclusion in the list.
- Automate at least two or more marketing activities including an email, mobile & SMS, social media, SEO and digital advertising.
- Help in lead generation and act as a central database for marketing communications.
- Perform dynamic lead segmentation and lead management activities like lead scoring.
- Interact with the targets at multiple touchpoints depending on their behavior, triggers or time-interval.
- Provide in-depth analytics and reports to track the lifecycle of the marketing campaign for each lead and decide the correlation with ROI.
I’ve already mentioned different marketing automation tools, but you can choose anyone from the following G2 Crowd Grid for marketing automation software programs.
Here are our top picks for the marketing automation category.
HubSpot is the world’s leading inbound marketing automation suite offering multiple channels in an integrated form including blogging, email marketing, social media marketing, SEO, and analytics.
Do you need CRM to manage interactions with your customers or prospects?
HubSpot provides a CRM system which is free forever up to 1 million contacts.
Premium plans of HubSpot marketing automation ranges from as low as $50 to a few thousand dollars per month.
Although HubSpot is well-worth for big enterprises, the small businesses can leverage the power of Inbound marketing to generate quality leads which ultimately turn into customers.
Marketo empowers businesses through engagement marketing to create brand value and grow revenue in record time.
It’s a widely recognized marketing automation platform for its reliable performance, scalability and user experience.
This software can help you in lead management, advanced email marketing, digital ads, social media, and mobile marketing to drive customer engagement.
Plus, Marketo’s advanced analytics allows businesses to decide further marketing strategies.
Pardot is primarily B2B Marketing Automation platform for smarter lead generation, streamlined lead management, email marketing, seamless sales alignment, and insightful ROI reporting.
It helps to find the hottest leads and turn them into your customer.
Whether you want to monitor your SEO keywords or spy on competitors, Pardot is one of the perfect solutions.
It also offers multiple integrations for an Olark chat, Google AdWords, Webinar, and native CRM, etc.
To drive a consistent stream of user engagement and align sales & marketing, Pardot is one of the best marketing automation tools.
In 2019, businesses need to face fierce competition due to market saturation. It’s difficult to survive unless you are focusing on innovation and bringing value to the customers.
If you want to land maximum leads, drive engagement and close more sales in record time, then you must opt to the marketing automation.
LeadSquared offers all-in-one toolkit to push down leads faster in your sales funnel with conversion optimized landing pages and drip marketing.
It’s integrated Sales, and Mobile CRM helps to improve sales velocity with smart lead management and sales automation.
Their 30K users are proof that LeadSquared is one of the best marketing automation suites for your organization.
Drip claims itself a full-fledged e-commerce CRM system with artificial marketing brain that engages users and sells products like a human seller.
It features multiple integrations for landing pages, CMS, CRM, payment processing, webinars, etc.that makes it a powerful marketing automation tool.
Drip can help you to design intuitive workflows to create the delightful user experience, show automated ads depending on customer behavior and send them personalized emails to drive maximum engagement and sales.
Right from a tiny business to a large e-commerce company, Drip is an excellent platform to grow business rapidly & build ROI based marketing.