October 18 2016

Marketing Automation – A Powerful Tool Worth Planning For

marketing automationMarketing automation is an industry buzzword that most have heard of, but also don’t truly understand or know how to plan for. Undoubtedly, you have experienced marketing automation in action when you shop for products from top online retailers like Amazon, and get reminder emails about products you have in your cart, have viewed or have previously purchased. Done right, it can be an extremely powerful tool – combining website content management system (CMS) technology, content planning, analysis and continual nurturing. Explore what you need to know to determine if it’s the right next step for your business. 

What is Marketing Automation? 
As the term implies, marketing automation automates your digital marketing, but the term itself is misleading. Instead of sitting back and sipping your latte while your marketing goes on autopilot, it’s important to understand exactly what this term means, and how your job and department will need to change if you choose to dive in. Today’s sophisticated technology can track a lot of information about website visitors. Marketing automation simply takes this information and automates messaging to entice visitors to take action. This information is defined by attributes, such as a visitor’s geographic location (as determined by IP address), or any self-identifying information they’ve provided through a form. You can also gather information for automation through website actions, such as pageviews, time on site, and interactions with email campaigns and e-commerce. Through monitoring attributes and actions, website visitors have become a lot less anonymous. 

By employing marketing automation, a website manager can automate otherwise manual tasks, such as sending targeted emails to those visitors, driving them to special landing pages and even notifying a sales person of a “hot lead”. The end game is to create more relevant and seemingly personalized communication to help entice audiences into action and ultimately generate revenue for your institution. The secret behind this automation? A lot of planning and of course, powerful, scalable technology. 

Marketing Automation in Action
Marketing automation is best understood by example. Let’s imagine a really great fixed-rate mortgage offer that Bank A is promoting on their website. There are various outbound marketing tactics sending visitors to the landing page, but they want to get the promotion in front of qualified visitors already coming to the website. Now let’s take Joe Prospect, who visits the bank website three times in one month, and each time Joe views a standard mortgage offering page without taking any action. In their CMS, Bank A has created an automation process since they’ve determined this type of repeat activity is likely to convert. After that third mortgage pageview, Bank A’s marketing automation process is triggered and Joe Prospect receives an email message informing him of the can’t-be-missed fixed-rate mortgage offer. 

Let’s say Joe Prospect doesn’t open his email; after all the average email open rate in the Finance industry is 21%*. Bank A has set up an additional step in their marketing automation process in the event that the user doesn’t open the e-mail. If it isn’t opened, a second reminder email is sent out a week later reminding Joe of the great offer and also including a link to a helpful article showcasing the benefits of fixed-rate mortgages. In an ideal world, Joe takes the bait, visits the site, and fills out an online mortgage application. The reality is that the automation process can stop when you tell it to stop, and can be as simple or as complex as your marketing needs require.

Marketing Automation and Email
Email is the most popular marketing automation tactic because it has been so effective for so many businesses. Email marketing, when done properly, has been shown to deliver higher levels of engagement and return on investment. Email allows businesses to reach audiences directly in their inboxes with messages tailored to specific interests, as well as increasing pageviews for their various campaigns and ideally resulting in a higher conversion rate. Email analytics allow businesses to track audience behaviors, including tracking whether recipients have opened an email, when they opened the email, and which links they clicked. All of this data can be leveraged in a marketing automation plan. 

Marketing automation reworks the method behind a regular “blast” email campaign and instead sends emails based on specific actions or behaviors. While using marketing automation to deliver highly relevant messages to a qualified audience might sound like a great idea, there are certain steps that need to be taken first. These include ensuring that your email is fully integrated with or built into your CMS, building out all relevant emails templates and copy, and defining the proper triggers that will start your automation process. 

Marketing Automation Beyond Email
It’s likely that if your CMS offers marketing automation, there are even more tools you could be using to drive more qualified visitors to your campaigns. These include features like content personalization and lead scoring. Content personalization involves customizing content on a page – such as banners or call to action text - based on a visitor’s attributes and actions. This creates a more personalized experience so that visitors are more likely to convert. Similarly, lead scoring technology allows your business to rank prospects against a self-created scale that represents perceived business or conversion value. In your marketing automation workflow, you can incorporate these marketing automation tactics in much the same way as you would use email marketing. If a site visitor identifies as being part of a target demographic for an investment service, but has never visited an investment page, you can use marketing automation to trigger relevant personalized content and imagery for them. Similarly, you can add lead scoring steps in your automation workflow to increase or decrease a visitor’s lead score based on their on-site actions. 

Getting Started with Automation
Every business’ marketing automation workflow is going to be unique, based on the type of audience they’re targeting, the complexity of the various steps, and the intended end point of conversion. For marketers ready to enter this complex yet rewarding world, it begins with a large amount of strategic planning. You will need to plan and produce great content and landing pages to drive visitors to, define your key audiences, strategize and build emails to support automatic tactics and potentially more. While not a small task, the results can be extremely effective. 

If you are ready to take your marketing to the next level, let’s discuss how we can help you get there.

* Source: MailChimp
  • Content
  • Email Marketing
  • Personalization

posted by
Patrick Trayes
Patrick Trayes
Associate Director of Client Analytics

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.
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