Let’s start by answering the question: What is marketing automation? “Marketing automation” is a longstanding buzzword in the marketing world, one that refers to the set of technology solutions and methodologies that have become indispensable with the spread of mass digitization and the emergence of a new type of consumer.
In a dramatically transformed context that is increasingly crowded and competitive, marketing automation was born to respond to the urgency of companies to establish an authentic and profound conversation with these new customers, who are no longer easily categorized into undifferentiated and essentially anonymous groups, but rather are conceived as individuals with personalities and characterized by multiple memberships.
Marketing automation has been articulated and differentiated over the years until it has become indispensable support for the construction of the digital customer experience, a purchasing and consumption experience where customers expect content, offers, and information that is in line with their needs and expectations.
In its most advanced expression, marketing automation includes solutions capable of transforming customer data into rich and stimulating journeys, in which every communication, which is interactive and designed specifically for them, can develop in a fluid way. This is the philosophy behind Doxee interactive experience (ix) product line: personalized, interactive videos (Doxee Pvideo®) and dynamic microsites (Doxee Pweb®) that engage customers with relevant content.
To clarify what marketing automation is and how it works today – and how it has had to evolve in order to respond to changes in the market and consumers – we will first try to give a definition that takes into account both the methodological dimension and the aspects that relate to technology.
What is marketing automation: Technology or approach?
Mathew Sweezey, in his book, “Marketing Automation for Dummies,” dates the appearance of the expression “marketing automation” to the mid-90s, when it became clear that the combination of database and automated code (automated code) could create solutions based on the sophisticated management of large amounts of data.
Such solutions were able to make it easy to make an accurate granular segmentation of the target audience. From that moment on, marketing automation has grown at a dizzying pace to carve out a leading role in Customer Relationship Management.
Marketing and sales use marketing automation tools to set up and develop online marketing campaigns and sales activities, as well as to increase revenue and maximize process efficiency. When automation is used effectively to manage repetitive tasks, employees are free to tackle higher-value problems, while achieving a noticeable reduction in human error.
Marketing automation is successfully used within lead generation and lead nurturing strategies and for assessment activities, in lead scoring techniques, and for measuring overall ROI on campaigns. The effects of automation in terms of time and cost savings increase as the size and complexity of an organization increases.
The introduction of new tools never takes place in a vacuum without the recognition of real needs, but is preceded and accompanied by an increase in the awareness of the effects of technology and a reflection on the nature and validity of the approach, which is necessary to govern and exploit the potential of innovation.
Technology: Tools that simplify processes
Again, what is marketing automation? According to Salesforce’s definition, marketing automation is “is technology that manages marketing processes and multifunctional campaigns, across multiple channels, automatically.”
The focus here seems to be on the technological aspect. It’s thanks to the introduction of automation tools that brands’ marketing departments can more easily reach customers through automated messages distributed via email, the web, and social media.
In fact, messages are sent automatically, based on a series of instructions channeled into workflows, and workflows are defined by templates that can be customized from scratch or, depending on specific needs, modified in progress, for example in the middle of the campaign.
In its most basic form, marketing automation is therefore a set of tools designed to streamline and simplify some of the tasks and routines that are most costly in terms of time and resources. From automating the lead qualification process to creating a hub for executing digital campaigns, automation has the enormous advantage of making processes that are destined to become more flexible, manageable, and adaptable due to the entropy of today’s markets.
Marketing automation software, for example, allows you to implement digital strategies without having to manually “send” each email or message, to trigger each step of a campaign, or to distribute targeted blog posts or video content. Good automation tools are essential for identifying target audiences, designing appropriate content, and automatically triggering actions based on schedules and customer behavior. Once a campaign is launched, it also becomes possible to analyze and modify marketing plans in real time, based on feedback on the results achieved.
The approach: The three components of marketing automation
More than software, Sweezey focuses on the process that marketing automation enables, from lead tracking, to the automation and personalization of marketing activities, to the production of reports on the effectiveness of those same marketing activities, in a virtuous circle of increasingly targeted initiatives and timely corrective actions. If we take this point of view, we can conceive marketing automation as composed of three parts.
- Lead tracking: The tracking of leads through all available channels. This is an extremely important activity that involves the collection and categorization of customer data, both quantitative and qualitative, and its centralized management. After being stored in a single virtual location that is accessible by different business functions, the data can be used to achieve different goals:
- Contact management
- The automation of the most repetitive and lowest-value activities
- The distribution of workloads
- The activation of all programmable and replicable operations that are necessary for lead generation
The information assets are put to value to give new impetus to marketing activities, and marketers can thus count on the reconstruction of credible and recognizable customer profiles. To explain what marketing automation really is, it’s necessary to emphasize that it’s part of a broader approach to consumer relationship management, aimed at strengthening ties with existing customers, minimizing the risk of customer churn, and improving the bottom line.
- Automated execution: The execution of operations through the implementation of specific software. Marketing automation, after segmenting and targeting the “right” audience, quickly intervenes in processes and on a large scale, automatically customizing messages for each customer based on his profile and conveying, in a few clicks, relevant content via email, on social networks, or through dedicated platforms, according to the characteristics of each category of interest and the objectives of the brand.
This is the moment when the potential of the data is unleashed, where the analysis and segmentation operations that have allowed leads to be qualified are grounded. Through the automated distribution (sending) of relevant and consistent messages with respect to the identified profiles, lead nurturing strategies are developed to create and maintain meaningful relationships with the consumer over time.
- Closed-loop reporting (closed-loop system or with feedback): This operation, which is just as important as the first two, is the one where “lead grading” is carried out. Here, leads are assigned scores that quantitatively describe their value. It is also here that the usefulness of adopting a CRM system that records and measures incoming data through certain KPIs becomes even more evident, i.e. one that is able to objectively report demographic information, relating to online behavior and interactions with the company. By listening carefully to the feedback from the various touchpoints of the customer journey, lead grading allows, through progressive adjustments, to more accurately segment the groups of users identified and, ultimately, to correct marketing automation initiatives where necessary.
The future of marketing automation: Challenges ahead and current successes
Among the key challenges facing marketing automation today, the one that professionals surveyed by Ascend2 say is the most difficult and the most pressing is building and delivering personalized content (44%), followed by integrating all tools within the enterprise system, implementing a successful strategy, and achieving data unification (source: Ascend2).
Creating quality automation, therefore, seems to be the main concern for marketers today, and choosing the most reliable solutions capable of guaranteeing the best performance is rightfully the top priority for company decision-makers. And it’s not just a matter of finding the best technology; to work at its full potential, marketing automation requires a lot of high-quality content through which to create engagement.
However, it is indisputable that choosing the tools, integrating them into the company’s infrastructure, and enabling the automations that can optimize processes is a real commitment that requires both attention and significant investment. So it’s no surprise that as many as one-fifth of the agencies Automizy contacted a couple of years ago were struggling to find the right marketing automation tool (source: automizy.com).
So far, we’ve reviewed the critical issues that could slow down or even jeopardize the success of marketing automation:
- Difficulty in developing valuable personalized content
- Possible friction in their multi-channel communication
- Doubts and second thoughts in adopting the most suitable technology
On the other hand, if we look at the current situation, statistics paint a positive picture, and one that is decidedly promising. In fact, companies that use marketing automation to cultivate their relationship with customers are experiencing:
- 451% growth in the number of qualified leads
- 14.5% increase in sales team productivity
- 12.2% reduction in overall marketing department spending (source: salesforce.com)
Marketing automation according to Doxee: How to build valuable relationships
In an attempt to establish what marketing automation is, we have disassembled it to identify the three aspects responsible for its operation: lead tracking, automated execution, and closed-loop reporting. We have also highlighted how it has two additional dimensions, both complementary and indispensable, the technological and the methodological.
The reality is that the success of marketing automation has contributed to the development of a different and more sophisticated way of thinking about marketing. Now, marketing automation is no longer interpreted as a succession of particular operations but as a whole. It’s a total multi-level approach that is enabled by digital technologies. And it’s the only one capable of grasping the scope of the transformations in the brand-customer relationship and of exploiting change to raise the standards of corporate action, setting increasingly ambitious economic and production objectives.
Today, customer expectations are very high. Each customer has desires and needs that must be constantly listened to and resolved, offering the products and services they really want, in a timely manner, in a short time. Companies must shorten the distance between them and customers and they must reduce “background noise” due to unnecessary mediation. In marketing, automation acts on processes in exactly this way: eliminating redundancies, redistributing workloads, allowing people to focus on more creative activities.
But in order to gain reliable insight into consumer preferences, automation is not enough. It’s essential to gain the trust of customers and create spaces for participation. In other words: working to win the opportunity to build valuable relationships, essential for business growth.
Personalized and interactive videos are born in response to the need for brands to capture, and not lose, the attention of the recipient. The personalization of content, combined with interactive functions, makes Doxee Pvideo®, when inserted in a perfectly coherent logic of marketing automation, a communication tool capable of shortening the acquisition funnel, ensuring high conversion rates, and above all guaranteeing a customer experience that is always current and engaging.