What is marketing automation?

Matt Bradford-Aunger headshot

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1 min read

Marketing automation is about working smarter, using software to free up your teams’ time, helping achieve more value for your business and deliver a more personal experience for your customers. 

Automation software offers limitless potential, not only for optimising marketing, sales, and operational efficiency. It enables ultra-precise targeting of prospects and leads at every stage of the sales cycle, so that teams can deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

Over the past few decades, the software behind automations has come a long way, evolving beyond the fancy email marketing tools they once were. Now, software like HubSpot offers a complex suite of features that can help streamline almost every part of a business, from marketing and sales, to service and operations.

 

Automation is coming for your job...or is it?

It’s undeniable that the concept of removing the time-sucking yet essential tasks from the day-to-day workload is an attractive one. But when it first arrived, it got a bit of a frosty reception, stemming from fears that automation would replace real people.

Change is always met with resistance and a general wariness, and automation was no different. 

Personally, I blame old school Hollywood depictions of AI and robots. HAL 9000 and the Terminator(s) served as a foundation for a lot of mistrust in machines, and stoked the flame of the idea that automation would replace hard-working people.

I’d like to take a second to stop and think about what a crazy idea that is. 

Let’s set the scene, a world ravaged by war between man and machine. The landscape awash with chrome and the rubble of crumbling buildings. Flashes of piercing blue lightning punctuated by lens flare and the steady clang of heavy steel. A barrage of explosions providing the backdrop as armies of emotionless, skeletal machines with glaring red eyes flood into buildings through volleys of laser fire.

It’s too late for mankind. The machines are here and they have one purpose: To take all the work that requires repetitive, mind-numbing calculations, and free up sales and marketing teams to actually generate quality leads and make sales.

It seems silly, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, it was easy for automation software to be scapegoated as an antagonist against the last bastions of moral good that sales teams are. This was thanks, in part, to some pretty dubious and spammy practices from early adopters of the software.

It’s no secret that remnants of the general hatred of email marketing that those early bad actors garnered remains to this day.

So much so, that some sales and marketing teams continue to rail against every notion of automating even the smallest part of a sales and marketing process; despite the obvious unnecessary pressure piled on to their team, and the ironically “pro-forma” journey their prospects are often landed with.

The truth is, marketing automation software has evolved. And while legions of red-eyed, sentient T-800s aren’t on their way to your office to take your job, it can fundamentally change the way you do business, and drastically improve the way your teams operate.

 

The benefits of marketing automation

Focus on moving the needle and set your team up for success

At its core, automation software, be it HubSpot, Salesforce, Zapier or something else, was born from the need to free up every business’s most valuable non-renewable resource: time. 

We’re all aware of repetitive, time-consuming tasks that plague teams. Things like call tracking, email logging, meeting booking, updating database records. They are necessary to the smooth running of your business, but the time cost is disproportionate to the return on investment.

Let’s say 10% of your prospects hit your sales team, and your sales team closes a respectable 10% of those leads. For every 100 new contacts, that means only 1 will end up being a customer. All the time spent gathering data, booking meetings, logging calls and emails for those 99 contacts is essentially wasted.

No doubt it’s an oversimplification, but even so, it illustrates the time suck that automation alleviates. 

And what can your team do with all that time? How about delivering new campaigns, optimising the lead generation process, and generally improving your conversion rates.

Let’s face it, would you prefer to spend money on the number of rows employees update in your contact spreadsheet, or the number of qualified leads your marketing team’s optimised campaign has generated?

 

Keep your business in sync

While some believe it’s just marketing that benefits from automation, in truth, the whole business can get in on the action, whether they’re in marketing, operations, sales, service, or something else. 

At its simplest, automation can handle repetitive or data-heavy processes. But at a more complex leve, automation can be levied to bring together your entire customer journey from lead generation, through to sales, production, delivery, and after sales and support.

Everything in sync, working like a well oiled machine.

 

Make faster and more informed decisions

Data is the life blood of automating anything, and software like HubSpot is constantly gathering new data on your contacts. 

Everything from the contact's name, to the kind of products they are interested in.

For you, this means you have access to a wealth of contact-specific data that can be pulled into reporting dashboards with automatically-generated reports. All of which can help you decide where and when to deploy your financial resources.

For example, let’s say your sales and marketing team decide to heavily focus on the automotive industry, following a bumper financial year. After a few months, you notice the number of leads and closed/won deals shows a trend in interest from the aerospace industry. 

More than that, your reports show despite a great previous year, automotive consistently underperformed month-on-month.

Instead of waiting to produce reports and make reactive changes, your teams can investigate the trend and get ahead of the shift in interest. They can proactively pivot their focus on aerospace and avoid missing the boat while chasing automotive deals that won’t close.

 

Arm your sales team with accurate information

The irony of automation is that it tends to be sales teams who push back against it, but it’s also sales reps who benefit the most.

Contact data collected by automation software is now more comprehensive than ever. What’s more, it’s updated with up-to-the-minute accuracy, meaning sales teams can go into emails, conversations, and meetings armed with data that would be otherwise impossible to gather.

Calls, emails, chat conversations, and meetings are also automatically logged to contact, company, and deal records, which saves reps heaps of time doing basic data entry that, let’s face it, nobody really enjoys.

Add to that the fact marketers can also support sales teams through targeted nurture campaigns. Things like emails during the sales process that reinforce sales messaging, or tools like live chat that can re-engage target contacts, automatically connecting them with their contact owners on the sales team.

The result can be more engaged, actively interested leads who want to talk to your sales reps. Imagine that!

Of course, if you judge your sales reps on the number of calls and emails they’ve logged instead of the revenue they’re generating for your business, then perhaps automation isn’t for you, but if you’re focused on generating quality leads and delivering successful campaigns automation can work wonders for your business.

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