Among the biggest buzzwords in the business world today is marketing automation. But what is it – really?
Marketing automation is really just a software application that helps automate repetitive marketing tasks, based on specific input criteria. It is frequently seen in demand generation campaigns, with tools such as Eloqua, Affinium, and E.6. The idea is two-fold. First, most companies engage in demand generation campaigns such as email marketing campaigns somewhat irregularly. They’ll send an email today, then they’ll try to send another one next month or next quarter – whenever they get to it again. Second, when the follow-up communication is developed, no notion is given to if or how the prospect responded to the first one. Instead, everybody simply gets the same message.
With marketing automation tools, any action on the part of the prospect is recorded by the software. If he downloads a white paper, visits the Website, selects the full article, or inquires about the offer, the software logs it and provides a pre-determined “score” for the behavior. Based on the behavior and/or the score, a different email can be sent at the next scheduled interval, to coincide with the prospect’s behavior. The system can also be programmed to send an immediate correspondence, based on a particular action taken by the prospect, rather than necessarily waiting until the next scheduled communication. Most importantly, however, the scoring system will identify those who are more likely to purchase in the near future, and export those leads to the customer relationship management (CRM) system for telemarketing or sales follow-up.
If used properly, marketing automation can help companies develop a closer relationship with their current and prospective customers, and consistently deploy more fruitful outbound marketing campaigns. It’s important to remember, though, that marketing automation software requires programming at the front end, to be of any value. And, as with any sort of programming, the garbage in, garbage out rule applies. Companies employing a marketing automation system must determine the actions, demographic traits, and other identifiers that distinguish their key target market from the rest of their lead database, then assign those attributes the highest point value.
If the scoring mechanism is developed correctly, the most qualified leads will rise to the surface relatively quickly, and be sent to sales for a rapid close. But if it is not developed correctly, the marketing automation software will just be a wasted investment that delivers unqualified leads to waste the time and energy of the company’s valuable sales force.
So the lesson is this… When considering a marketing automation tool, make sure it’s robust and flexible enough to meet the particular needs of your industry, and that it can be programmed to score leads based on the specific attributes that are important to you. Then, make sure you take the time to truly understand how your ideal customer looks and acts, and develop a scoring system that will help you highlight them – and only them. Finally, have an open mind. You’re unlikely to get it perfect the first time. So talk with your sales people to determine the quality of the leads, versus the “ideal”. Then, modify your scoring criteria to deliver that ideal.