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2022 Guide to Marketing Automation (+ Tips & Best Practices!)

If you want to knock a whole bunch of tasks off your digital marketing campaign to-do list, marketing automation can take that workflow off your back.

You don't need to be a marketing superhuman anymore to create an amazing customer experience.

Those flashy lead generation and conversion rate jumps are real. The studies on productivity gains are true.

Your competitors are already using a marketing automation solution, and you need to use one too.

Keep reading to find out why, and how marketing automation can change how you do business.

What is Marketing Automation?

Are you wondering what marketing automation is and how it helps marketers?

If you're already a marketer, chances are you're already using it without even realizing it.

Marketing automation is that email you send automatically to a reader who gives you their email address.

Or that social media post that gets published without you pushing a button.

But these examples are only the beginning.

You can automate sequences of tasks in your digital marketing campaign that help you build relationships with your website visitors, email subscribers, and social media fans.

The end result is you with more qualified leads for your salespeople, more sales for your eCommerce site, and one central marketing hub where your marketing team can collaborate effortlessly.

Most marketers say automation saves time. And it does. But let's dig deeper. What is marketing automation primarily used for?

Check out these examples of what marketing automation can do:

  1. It keeps track of and executes all the little tasks you might forget to do. Tasks that individually rarely get you conversions, but all together, they build that treasured customer relationship.
  2. It sends or shows each person the right information at the right time. No more generic or impersonal messages. Your readers won't be annoyed by your messaging.
  3. It keeps track of all the customer data for each individual in your CRM. Your marketing automation tool is making note of your prospects' actions.

Marketing Automation Is Crazy-Easy!

If you're wondering how you'll ever learn to use complicated marketing automation tools, please stop.

You likely already know how your easy-to-use, intuitive social media management tools, and email marketing tools work.

The simple trick to most sales automation tools: if you know how to use one of them you know how to use them all.

You can schedule email sequences with easy drag and drop visual editors.

Figuring out which headline, subject line or call to action works best is a simple process with automated A/B testing.

Lead scoring is a simple matter of choosing how much weight to give your prospects' actions. The tools do the rest.

How Does Marketing Automation Work?

Once you've got a prospect's email address, your marketing automation system and CRM software keep track of their reactions to your content.

Sometimes your contacts will be ready to buy almost immediately. Jackpot! You'll know you've got a red-hot lead.

But what if they're only checking you out?

Your automation tool will help them build their curiosity about you and your products or services.

You can send automated emails to create a personalized experience, create a social media strategy or Google ad based on your prospect's specific actions, or use content marketing to create content based on their browsing history on your site.

Marketing Automation Solves Common Problems

Marketing Automation Solves Common Problems

Which of these marketing problems do you need to solve?

1. You don't always know when your leads are ready to buy

Marketing automation can help give each contact an accurate lead score based on their reactions to your content.

Deliver the right message at the right time for your lead nurturing. And get notified when they reach hot lead status.

2. You're chasing unqualified prospects

Stop wasting your valuable time and use marketing automation to make sure your leads are ready to buy. And if they're not, nurture them until they show clear signs that they're ready.

3. You're wasting valuable time doing it all manually

Automation can do marketing tasks you can't. You simply cannot serve up unique relevant content on your website to each visitor manually, for example.

These tiny but extremely effective marketing efforts are strictly marketing automation territory.

4. Your marketing isn't converting well

Targeted messaging based on your potential customers' interests and actions works much better than blanket messages. Stop sending irrelevant messages that don't convert well.

Marketing Automation Features

Let's talk about the features you'll need to make your marketing automation work its magic.

1. Central marketing hub

You'll soon have more team members, more moving parts in your automated marketing, and more prospects. Keeping everything in one place will guarantee everyone's working with the same information.

2. Email triggers

What if you could send a message to a prospect only when they visit a certain webpage, click a specific link, or push a certain button? You can send them the information they're looking for only when they want it.

3. Automated sequences

Imagine your prospects' entire customer journey with messages that arrive when they take actions that show a need or desire for that message. You can build these automated sequences with marketing automation tools.

4. Dynamic content

Dynamic content

If your automation tool has dynamic content capabilities, you can customize parts of your web pages and emails to show content that changes based on who is looking at it.

5. Segmentation

Each action your customer lead takes can put them in a group (or remove them from a group).

For example, marketing automation can create groups like name of the product owner, interest in a certain product or topic name, warm lead for name of the product, or inactive prospect.

6. CRM

Having a CRM (customer relationship management system) hooked up to your marketing automation tool will only help your sales and marketing teams work better together. Make sure everyone's on the same page talking about the exact same data.

7. Lead scoring

How much more easily will you see who the hottest leads are when you're tracking everything your prospects are doing with your messages? Automation tools can make sure you don't miss anyone when the time's right.

8. Lead management

Most of your prospects will enter your marketing sales funnel before they're ready to buy. You need a way to keep track of them while they get to know you. Help them find the information they want. Keep track of what they're looking for until they're ready to buy.

9. Social media

Having your information all in one place will make your business life so much easier. Adding in your social media analytics will help your marketing and sales team make even better decisions.

The ROI of Marketing Automation

The ROI of Marketing Automation

Instead of giving you some vague descriptions of what kind of ROI you can get using marketing automation software in your business, let's look at some numbers:

Ian Campbell of Nucleus Research said, "We published research that showed a $6.66 return on average for every dollar spent on marketing automation technology. That's impressive ROI."

That sounds pretty fantastic, but let's dig a little deeper.

Does marketing automation generate more sales?

According to Invespcro, "80% of marketing automation users saw an increase in the number of leads, and 77% had an increase of conversions."

91% of those same users said it's "very important" to the success of their marketing strategy.

How much can automation reduce costs?

Again, Ian Campbell of Nucleus Research said, "As if a 20 percent productivity boost and an average return of $6.66 per dollar spent wasn't incentive enough, costs are down 85 percent over last year based on our latest research."

Marketing Automation Strategy

If you're wondering where to start with setting up marketing automation, think about what you need most.

1. Marketing automation goals

Whatever your most important goals are, make a list. You'll need them to choose what is the best marketing automation software based on your business goals.

2. Rev up your marketing automation

Talk to all the people who will be using your automation platform. Get their feedback on what's needed. Make sure they're on board.

These tools work best when everyone's collaborating and using the tool. Also, get everyone the training and support they need.

3. Keep track of what's working

Now that you've got this amazing automation tool running, you should have a little more time to dig into your analytics and see what's working. Use your newfound extra time wisely to monitor your campaign performance and learn more about your prospects.

4. Make your marketing better

It won't take long for you to find ways to improve your marketing plan and messaging with all that wonderfully useful data you've got.

What gets you the best-qualified leads? Which market channels are best for nurturing those leads? You'll have answers and know what to do with them.

Marketing Automation Best Practices

Let's get the most out of your marketing automation tools. Here are some results-boosting best practices:

1. Have more than a goal

Your colleagues will want to know your goals are realistic. Show them the numbers, the stats, and the research. But also show them how these tools will save money, speed up processes, and create more leads and clients.

2. Get people talking

Listen to the people who will use the marketing automation platform. Chances are they know things that can help you hit those numbers you just presented. Work with them to create your plan. The more excited they are about this new platform, the better.

3. Show them what they can't see

Automation results are easy to see, but the processes that create those results are not. Create flowcharts that show your customer journey.

Not everyone's a marketing automation specialist who can visualize workflows in their head.

Show everyone how your plan works together to get more leads, qualify them, nurture them and make sales.

4. Take it slow

Your new marketing automation plan is probably huge, with hundreds of moving parts. Everyone's going to be blown away by the results.

Hold on there, cowboy. Let's take this step by step.

Do some test launches. Make sure everything's hooked up and working properly.

What Marketing Automation Tools are Best for B2B vs. B2C?

What Marketing Automation Tools are Best for B2B vs. B2C?

Let's talk about what marketing tool you need to match your products and services.

B2B marketing automation tools

For a B2B marketer, the more expensive and customized your product or service, the more nurturing and educating you'll need to do. If your clients' decision-making process has more steps (and people to convince), your buying cycle will be longer too.

Your B2B offer will probably need more lead management. Marketing automation can help you keep track of everyone and get them the info they need to book that hallowed sales call or demo.

If you've got a customer's journey that's a few months to a few years long, good lead management's a tremendous time-saver.

You may not need a massive prospect database and an automation tool that manages hundreds of thousands of micro-nurturing moments every day.

But you absolutely need to know what will move the needle on (and maybe even speed up) your lead's decision-making process.

Marketing automation companies like Hubspot, Marketo, and Eloqua specialize in B2B automation tools for long lead management needs.

B2C marketing automation tools

B2C products and services can have lightning-fast sales cycles (think coupons and flash sales).

If you're selling lower-priced eCommerce products, you might need a monster-sized database and automation tools that keep giving your visitors and buyers irresistible reasons to come back and buy something.

Suddenly those hundreds of thousands of micro-marketing touchpoints every day make a huge difference to your bottom line.

Marketing automation services like Mailchimp, Drip, and Yotpo specialize in B2C marketing and especially eCommerce with a need for speed.

What's Your Marketing Automation Future?

Got one question for you: Are you ready to let your competition build better relationships with your prospects?

They will if you don't.

And marketing automation is only going to sharpen its extraordinary effectiveness.

It's getting easier to do. These user-friendly tools let you do all the things you need to build relationships with your prospects and close more sales.

Time to start creating your automated future now.

Suzanne Berthuy is a B2B business and marketing freelance writer with 15 years of blogging, SEO writing, and content creation experience. She’s happily eating her way across France and geeking out on marketing (and talking about it on Linkedin). And loving the heck out of her Smart Blogger content marketing certification.