Marketing Automation: definition, challenges, tools and practical advice

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Innovations, creativity, analytical skills, critical thinking, artistic sense… marketing is exciting, especially in a context where MarTech giants compete with ingenuity to constantly push the limits of what is possible. But marketing is also punctuated by less glamorous, repetitive and low value-added tasks.

Automating them means boosting the ROI of the marketing action, allowing your teams to focus on missions that require reflection and a high degree of personalization, and freeing up time to get away from the operational side of things and focus on strategy. In this regard, a Harvard Business Review study explains that strategic thinking is the most important factor for business success for 97% of decision makers.

Automate to better rule? This is the promise of Marketing Automation, a competitive lever that is a must in the toolbox of the company that has successfully made the digital shift. What is Marketing Automation? What are the issues? Which tasks should be automated and how? How to build your automation technology stack? Twilead’s practical guide provides the answer.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation, more commonly known as Marketing Automation, is the mobilization of technology to streamline the marketing workflow by performing repetitive tasks automatically or semi-automatically. In concrete terms, this will involve mobilizing IT tools to relieve teams of tasks that can be properly executed by automation platforms. The user intervenes in the parameterization, the piloting and the analysis of the results.

Marketing Automation typically concerns lead generation actions (LeadGen) such as email campaigns, lead scoring, MQL transmission, etc. Conversational marketing via chatbot, algorithmic prospecting sequences triggered by the detection of the IP address of visitors to the company’s website, certain aspects of community management or the autonomous enrichment of databases are also part of the scope of Marketing Automation.

Besides this optimization function, which is summarized in the acceleration and automation of tasks that can be performed by humans, Marketing Automation also intervenes to perform actions that are difficult or impossible to do without the help of the machine. This includes the collection and analysis of large amounts of data on consumer (B2C) and buyer (B2B) behavior, purchase intentions, weak signals, etc.

Unlike in the 2010 decade, Marketing Automation is not limited to the middle of the funnel and the nurturing of generated leads. It is a powerful lever for “customer knowledge”, for optimizing marketing ROI and, ultimately, for competitiveness.

What are the main benefits of Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation makes two major contributions to the competitiveness of the company. First, it optimizes marketing workflows by automating repetitive tasks so that teams can focus on high value-added missions. It is then a solution to leverage Data, feed the customer knowledge brick and streamline decision making at all levels.

#1 Marketing workflow optimization

The automation of repetitive and low value-added tasks is the historical raison d’ĂȘtre of Marketing Automation. This will allow you to better utilize the time and talents of your marketing teams by relieving them of redundant tasks so that they can work on important issues such as audience personalization expectations, branding innovation, alignment with the sales team, creation of high value-added content, Account-Based Marketing (ABM), etc.

In addition to the obvious economic interest with the optimization of the cost of production and thus the marketing ROI, automation can eventually play a role in HR. Indeed, by allowing your marketers to focus on the missions that require reflection, you help them find meaning in their work, you feed their motivation, you promote their loyalty and you work your employer brand.

#2 In-depth knowledge of your customers

Customer knowledge is a major competitive advantage in the overwhelming majority of industries. In B2B, since the beginning of the 2020s, we have seen the emergence of a highly informed and more demanding “super buyer” persona. They want to find the same fluidity in the purchasing process and the same standards of customer experience that they find in their daily lives as B2C consumers.

Generic content, cold calling approaches and undifferentiated sales presentations are no longer the order of the day. You are now expected to personalize, or even hyper-personalize, the entire sales and marketing value chain.

Faced with the explosion in the volume of Data, it is humanly impossible to perform behavioral tracking manually. Marketing Automation is therefore necessary to cross a wide spectrum of data:

  • The different navigation elements of your audience on your website;
  • The engagement of your target with your various campaigns (emailing, SEA, advertising on social networks);
  • The performance of your LeadGen content (white papers, how-to guides, webinars, events…);
  • Intent data, etc.

By crossing these variables, Marketing Automation allows you to refine your Buyer Persona in absolute terms, but also to identify trends and changes in your target’s behavior in order to make data-backed decisions. The result: more relevant content marketing, better UI/UX decisions, better-timed email campaigns, etc.

According to Gartner, 65% of B2B companies will move to a 100% Data-Driven BI model by 2026. The stakes are high, as companies without a data analytics operationalization framework in place by 2024 will be at least two years behind on the tactical and strategic sides. Given the speed at which most industries are evolving, a two-year delay means a major, potentially irreversible loss of competitiveness.

#3 Streamlining the sales process

This is a decisive indirect advantage. You are well placed to know that the commercial is a rare and expensive resource, especially in France. According to Michael Page figures, there is a shortage of more than 200,000 sales profiles in France. Optimizing the time of your sales force is both an economic and HR issue:

  • At this level, Marketing Automation acts on two levers: improving Lead Scoring to avoid drowning your sales people with poor quality leads, and strengthening Sales – Marketing alignment to activate synergies between the two teams;
  • According to McKinsey, salespeople spend up to half their day on non-sales related actions. Automated lead scoring, for example, relieves them of this work and allows them to focus on what they do best: growing your business;
  • By allowing your salespeople to focus on the actual selling, you give them more opportunities to generate commissions, which helps retain this rare talent in your company.

#4 More rigorous reporting

Marketing Automation promotes the deployment of a policy of continuous improvement in sales and marketing activities by systematizing reporting and monitoring. The best marketing automation tools allow you to create personalized dashboards and generate automated reports to better manage your actions, identify best practices and generalize them.

Real-time reporting also allows for the detection of aberrations and underperformance in order to take corrective measures as quickly as possible. In particular, you will be able to accurately identify the problematic stages of the purchase path: the content at the top of the funnel? Nurturing campaigns? The Sales Pitch (analyzing by elimination)?

In short, all automated processes are traceable, scalable and controllable in real time.

How to do Marketing Automation?

#1 Automate email campaigns

This is, by far, the most common application of Marketing Automation. Unlike one-off campaigns, automated campaigns are launched automatically each time atrigger event occurs: first purchase for a customer, download of a white paper, filling out a contact form, cart abandonment, etc.

Twilead has a wide range of built-in triggers to make your job easier. More advanced users can also create custom automation sequences to address sales and marketing challenges specific to their market.

So all you have to do is add your content, set triggers and smart sequence and Twilead will send the right emails to the right people at the right time. Once the prospect has performed the action expected by this automated campaign, he will switch to another nurturing or retention sequence. The possibilities are numerous:

  • Welcome new subscribers with an automated email or series of emails as part of an onboarding program;
  • Maintain the customer relationship with small gestures, such as wishing happy birthday;
  • Thanking new customers and rewarding repeat customers;
  • Respond quickly to changes in customer status to curb the Churn Rate;
  • Win back former customers;
  • Follow up on abandoned carts, etc.

Objective: nurture and feed your pipeline on autopilot to accelerate your growth. To go further, you can consult our practical guide on Email Automation.

#2 Automate part of your Community Management

According to a study by Adweek, Internet users have on average an account on five different social networks. If your target is in this category, you’ll probably need to have a presence on three, four or five different social media channels. The goal here is to gain visibility and awareness and maximize the reach of your marketing communication and LeadGen campaigns.

Have you ever tried to manually publish the same content on five different social platforms? It’s both redundant, frustrating and time consuming… and this is where Marketing Automation comes in.

MarTech has some free tools to avoid wasting time posting the same content multiple times a day. The functionalities may differ from one tool to another, but some are essential:

  • When publishing a post on a social network, you can click on a button to trigger a simultaneous publication on other social networks;
  • The ability to schedule posts on different social networks in advance;
  • The most advanced tools offer thematic content libraries and can pick from each category to publish a thematic post according to a predefined schedule;
  • Finally, you can link your Social Media Automation tool with the RSS feeds of some websites to do automated curation in real time.

You can also automate the development of your community on social networks. These tools usually work by automating follow and follow backs and giving you an overview of the users who follow you but you don’t and vice versa.

We are here rather in semi-automation, insofar as the marketer will still have to perform manual tasks in the process. Finally, you can automate the sending of a welcome or contact message when a user follows you or accepts your invitation.

#3 Automate Lead Scoring

Your Marketing Automation tool can assign a numerical value to a lead by scoring each interaction between the prospect and the company, weighting the scores based on demographic or firmographic variables, and comparing the result to a benchmark value. The objective here is to streamline the processing of leads by prioritizing them.

Before automating this workflow, you will of course need to build a model, test it and improve it over time manually. Given the sensitive nature of this part, there is bound to be a human element in the loop. For example, lead scoring will evolve as your funnel develops. A company that is crunching under leads will have a much more demanding scoring system than a company that is just starting out.

Note: in addition to the Lead Scoring automation tool, you will need a data integration solution to automatically enrich the records of each prospect (demographic data in particular).

#4 Automatically measure the success of marketing campaigns

Measuring the ROI of the marketing action is without a doubt the brick that poses the most problems for marketers. An Ascend2 x Oracle study explains that omnichannel is now the top priority for 38% of marketers. Of course, the multiplication of channels complicates marketing attribution and ROI measurement. Several studies document this difficulty:

  • According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 65% of companies do not calculate the ROI of content marketing, and 27% of marketers say they “don ‘t know how to do it“;
  • According to Annuitas, 61% of CMOs do not include the ROI variable in their marketing strategy development.

ROI calculation is the major pillar of the Data-Driven shift. In addition to providing a technical advantage by collecting KPIs across all marketing channels, automation allows you to establish a measurement mindset and systematize benchmarking to refine campaigns in real time and streamline all sales and marketing decisions.

What are the criteria for choosing a Marketing Automation solution?

As with all MarTech choices, you must first identify the non-negotiable automation features according to the specificities of your business: emailing automation? Community Management Automation ? Lead Scoring ? Data ?

As a general rule, it is the power of email campaign automation that determines the choice of a marketing automation tool. Of course, the more versatile the tool chosen, the faster it will pay for itself.

At Twilead, we have chosen to develop an all-in-one automation solution with a wide range of features focused on business performance. Let’s start with the CRM features:

  • Contact management with the possibility to tag them, send them emails, SMS, change their status, etc. ;
  • Lead and pipeline management according to the different stages of the journey. All data is visible on the fly (upcoming appointments, tasks to be completed, notes taken during the previous exchange, etc.);
  • Creation of landing pages, contact forms, synchronized calendars for appointment scheduling and a Live Chat widget;
  • Centralizing all conversations in one interface: email, phone, SMS, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google My Business (GMB) reviews;
  • Management of emailing campaigns with a large choice of templates and a powerful tracking system;
  • Management and monitoring of the company’s e-reputation (customer reviews);
  • Native integrations with Zoom, Google Meet, Calendar, LeadIn, Adwords, Facebook Ads, etc. ;
  • A powerful mobile application.

Twilead is also an automation tool designed for a quick and smooth learning curve. When a lead fills out a form, for example, Twilead creates an opportunity in the CRM, indicates the source of the lead, notifies the relevant sales person, sends an automatic confirmation email to the prospect, triggers a reminder one hour before the appointment by email or SMS, for example, to limit the risk of a No Show, etc.

Who can use a Marketing Automation solution?

All companies practice a more or less advanced form of marketing, from the self-employed entrepreneur to the large multinational group, via the small and medium-sized business.

Marketing Automation being a technique (not a strategy), all marketers can activate this lever to speed up the execution of redundant tasks (at a minimum) and/or activate Data to accelerate growth. Once this is said, Marketing Automation must be activated in the right scenarios:

  • Good practice: automate your emailing campaigns when you have already identified the target, its preferences in terms of content, timing, etc. Marketing Automation puts proven campaigns on autopilot to increase the number of potential leads, reduce human error and generate more data to refine subsequent campaigns;
  • Bad practice: automating when the context clearly requires a highly personalized approach. In B2B, accounts with very high sales potential should be approached with an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) approach rather than with mass emailing. You can of course incorporate automation into this approach, but human intervention will be more pronounced.

Steps to follow to launch your first automated email campaign

  1. Ensure the quality of its database. Beyond the notions of Data Cleaning, you will have to segment your leads according to their interests, their maturity level, etc. This is the only guarantee of a relevant automated emailing campaign;
  2. Create content that is sufficiently personalized, human and authentic. The best automated campaigns don’t feel like generic, robotic content. Use the personalization variables (first name in particular) to create proximity;
  3. Define the right timing of your campaign: immediately after the lead or customer action? A few days later? You know your customers better than anyone. It’s up to you to make the right choice. If you’re not sure, you can use deliverability or engagement data from your previous campaigns, or check industry averages;
  4. Define the timing of the workflow if the sequence consists of sending multiple emails;
  5. Identify and implement the right email triggers. Twilead includes predefined triggers to make your job easier (order, click on a CTA, an “inaction”, etc.). You can also set up custom triggers to suit your needs;
  6. Launch and monitor your campaign in real time to make adjustments as needed;
  7. Analyze your campaign data and identify best practices to generalize them.

Marketing Automation FAQ

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation consists in mobilizing technology to streamline the marketing workflow by automating the execution of repetitive tasks (emailing, lead scoring) and/or those that cannot be performed by humans (massive data collection and analysis).

What marketing tasks can be automated?

Automation solutions can support email campaigns, lead scoring, reporting, data analysis, social media post scheduling, etc.

Why use a Marketing Automation solution?

By streamlining workflows, automation reduces the cost of marketing, frees up marketers’ time to perform higher value-added tasks, and enables data-driven decisions.