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September 20th, 2017  /  Marketing, Strategy

Marketing Automation 101: Covering the Basics

The Need for Better Marketing

“We need more traffic to our website.”

“We need more leads.”

“We need to close more sales.”

“We need a better ROI on our marketing.”

These four statements are arguably the most common (albeit generic) goals that in-house marketers are tasked with. Sales teams will always be looking for more, better-qualified leads. Marketing directors will always be watching the rates at which said sales team closes the leads marketing brings in. And leadership? They will always look for the best possible ROI when it comes to marketing.

These are all perfectly fine, obvious statements. The problem arrives when you start discussing how you (or your marketing team) will go about accomplishing these tasks, since many in-house marketing departments can be a bit all over the map when it comes to strategy and tactics.

For example, most organizations have some basic social media or email marketing tactics in place. They share content, build an email list, and occasionally see some spikes in traffic to their website. They are also spending a significant portion of their marketing budgets on offline, more traditional tactics, like trade shows and print/radio advertising, some of the most difficult channels to accurately report ROI on.

None of these tactics by themselves are bad — but the lack of cohesion and strategy behind them can make core business goals, like generating more leads and closing more sales, really difficult to achieve.

So, before this turns into a lengthy blog post on the importance of a digital marketing strategy, let’s shift gears a bit.

How can you bring your various marketing tactics together to better engage and generate leads, close deals, and deliver a better ROI? I present to you, Marketing Automation.

marketing-automation

Marketing Automation and You

Marketing automation is quite literally what it sounds like: the process of automating your digital marketing efforts through forms, lists, workflows, and dynamic content. To do this, you’ll need to invest in a marketing automation platform, like SharpSpring, HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, or many others (seriously, no shortage of marketing automation tools out there).

The main idea behind marketing automation is that once you invest the time and strategy required to create a well-oiled machine, your lead generation process is (relatively) hands-off. You set your website up to capture leads, the leads are automatically added to a CRM and sorted into marketing lists, and then receive custom marketing emails based on their unique interests, goals, challenges, or any other lead data you’ve collected.

This process helps in three main areas:

1) Quantity of leads generated – by creating engaging content, and setting your website up to drive lead generation, your site will be found by more potential customers.

2) Quality of leads generated – by putting leads through an automated workflow, you can “weed out” unqualified prospects, and only pass on the best of the best to the sales team.

3) Ability to effectively close sales – by qualifying leads through automated workflows, and studying their behavior, your sales team will be better equipped to close more deals.

All of these elements help grow your business, and deliver a clear (and better) digital marketing ROI, since you can easily track how much of an investment you have in your marketing, track the value of each lead, and see how well you close deals.

Sounds awesome, right? It is – so keep on reading, friend.

Four Key Components of Marketing Automation

I could easily talk about marketing automation for hours (not my wife’s favorite topic of conversation, I’ve learned). But when it comes to summarizing it all, there are four major components you should know about: Contacts, Forms, Lists, and Workflows.

1) Contacts

A customer relationship management (CRM) tool is invaluable to today’s marketer. If, for some reason, you are not using a CRM, don’t fret – most marketing automation platforms come with one built in (and, to be candid, if a tool does not include some form of a CRM, don’t bother using it).

The CRM – often referred to as “Contacts” or “Contact Records” in the world of automation – organizes and stores all of the lead data you collect. When a new lead comes in, whether through your website, a trade show, or anywhere else, it is either automatically or manually added to your CRM, depending on the source. For the sake of this post, assume the lead comes through a contact form on your website.

Once a lead provides their name, email, and any other information you requested, they are given their own unique contact record. In this record, you will be able to important information about the lead, their organization, and in some cases, their behavior. Regal uses SharpSpring for our own (and many clients’) marketing automation, and the individual contact records in this tool specifically show you which pages a lead visits on your website and when.

All of the data found in these contact records will come into play when you talk about lists and workflows, which we will discuss in a few.

Tl;dr: Marketing automation uses a substantive CRM to house all lead data.

2) Forms

The primary function of forms is to collect lead data that you deem important. In marketing automation, you will typically have a handful of forms on your website: a general inquiry or contact form, an email newsletter / blog updates signup form, and a series of forms for premium content (things like eBooks, whitepapers, exclusive content, etc.)

When a lead completes a form, all of that data is now entered in the aforementioned “contacts” area of your tool.

Tools like SharpSpring and HubSpot, along with others, allow you to create native forms directly in their platform. This is a huge bonus for those who want to study the effectiveness of forms on your website. For example, you can see how many times a form has been seen VS how many times it has been filled out and submitted. If that number seems a bit low for your liking, you can redesign the form, or change the quantity of information you are asking for.

Tl;dr: Forms are the gateway to your automation efforts, as they capture lead data and send it into the tool for storing.

3) Lists

In the case of marketing automation, nearly everything you do revolves around lists. Lists come in two forms: static and dynamic.

Static lists are those that you manually import or add to. They are helpful for things like adding a bunch of leads you met at a trade show, for example. These are great for staying organized, but the power of automation truly comes through in the other type of list.

Dynamic lists automatically populate per a set of rules or conditions that you set. For example, want a list of leads who have viewed your Services page in the last week? No problem. Interested in seeing how many leads have downloaded one of your marketing pieces (say, an eBook) and went on to become a customer? That information is seconds away.

Lists are also used to drive the key part of marketing automation – workflows.

Tl;dr: You can use dynamic lists to automatically sort through contacts for important data and segmentation.

4) Workflows

The holy grail of marketing automation! A workflow is a series of actions that automatically occur depending on rules that you set. The best example here is using email marketing as a lead nurturing strategy.

Let’s say Bryce Mikkelson comes to your website and downloads one of your whitepapers (that sounds like something I’d do). To do that, he needed to fill out a form, and was then entered into your CRM, and subsequently added to a dynamic list called “Whitepaper Leads.”

Through your research, you know that your sales cycle is roughly four weeks from the first contact. So, you create an email workflow that automatically sends specific marketing emails to Bryce at specific times (i.e. “every five days, send the next email”). Once Bryce completes your workflow, he will ideally be sales ready, and either reach out to your team on his own, or be ready to be contacted by sales.

Workflows can be used for a lot of different things, including email marketing, lead nurturing, internal notifications, lead scoring, and more.

Tl;dr: A workflow is a series of actions that automatically occur depending on rules that you set.


Next Steps

Marketing automation is one of the most important elements of an effective digital marketing strategy, and it takes some time to fully understand how it works. If you’d like to learn more about how it could work for you, we are kind of experts on the whole thing, and we love to talk about – can’t you tell? Tell us a bit about yourself and we can set up a time to talk! 

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About Bryce Mikkelson

Bryce Mikkelson

I'm the Digital Strategist here at Regal, which basically means I help cast the vision for all things web and digital marketing. Sometimes, I write about my experiences doing just that.

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Bryce Mikkelson
Bryce Mikkelson

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