The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.
~ Bill Gates
According to an infographic created by Impact Brand and Design, marketing automation started in 1992 with a tool called Unica. For more than roughly 25 years marketing automation has been growing and evolving. So it raises the question if marketing automation is right for you and your company. Here are some pros and cons of marketing automation as well as what marketing automation is and is not.
What Is A Marketing Automation Tool
In simple terms a marketing automation tool allows a marketer a way to create a holistic marketing campaign all in one place.
Marketing automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions. Many marketing departments have to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions. The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier.
What Is NOT a Marketing Automation Tool
A marketing automation tool is not just an email tool. So many time people think of marketing automation as a tool that can just schedule emails. While this is true it is so much more than that. It is like saying an iPhone is only used to make phone calls. I truly think once people start looking at marketing automation tools as more of an all-in-one marketing tool and not just an email service provider (ESP) we will really see the tool take off and do amazing things.
Automation - Marketing automation gives a company/marketer the ability to work more efficiently. Most marketing automation tools have the ability to automate a path a lead takes, lead scoring, and create data driven (personalization) pieces of content. Back in 2015 Paychex Sr. Marketing Manager Chris Muller and Paychex Marketing Communications Manager Matt Sitler called a nurture campaign using marketing automation a "choose your own adventure" campaign. This was a perfect way to describe it. What they meant by this was marketing creates all the assets for a nurture campaign and through automation the lead's actions will tell the tool which content to give to them. Reactive content.
It's a choose your own adventure marketing campaign.
All-In-One - A marketing automation tool (MAT) allows a marketer/company to have everything in one spot. A MAT can handle all aspects of emails, host landing pages, host microsites, host images and documents, be a database, help with SEO, and can host a range of analytics just to name a few features. At one point in time all these things needed to be done in separate tools which may have caused one or multiple people to learn multiple tools. With marketing automation it is all in one spot saving time and money.
Analytics - According to an article written by Daniel Newman for Forbes, 8 of the 10 things to watch out for in 2017 that will drive marketing are driven by analytics. MATs are still young and with the power it already has to track it is a great sign for the future. Most MATs have the ability to track a lead from the second they hit your website till the second they buy your product. Being able to track the lead from prospect to client and looking for patterns in that data is very powerful, especially when it is all in one place. MATs can track website visits, email opens, clicks and form fill outs just to name a few. With a little development and creativity MATs also have the ability to track even more, including SEO, SEM and GA data points.
Ease Of Use - I have been using MATs and email service providers (ESP) for over 7 years. I have used some tools that are amazing and some that have a lot of room to grow (trying to be nice here). Most of the tools are very easy to use and learn. I have trained college interns, web developers, content creators, and people who are experienced marketing professions who have never used MATs on how to use them and they have all picked it up quickly and used it successfully. Learning how to use the tool is not what makes a MAT great or bad but learning how to use it to best suite the need of your client/business is what makes the tool great. Anyone can learn how to use a MAT but the people using it are what really makes the tool great.
It's Not Magic - A marketing automation tool is just that, a tool. Just like a hammer or ***** driver it is there to help get the job done successfully. If the tool is being used incorrectly then it might not be the right tool for your company/client. Marketing automation tools can not automatically take your campaigns from a dumpster fire to a 5 star resort. Just like with any other tool a MAT helps take what you currently have and use that to try and market to sell your product or service. Don't think just because your company goes out and spends money on a MAT that your marketing will go from zero to hero.
Price - Everything costs money and MATs are no different. There are some really expensive MATs in the industry. But there are also some very affordable ones. The important thing to remember with price is get what you can afford but more importantly get what fits your need(s).
It's Still Young - Even after 25 years marketing automation is still evolving. To think you can purchase a tool and it won't change is ludicrous. The point is to be patient and pick the tool that best fits the needs of what you want to accomplish. Some tools will offer services that you might not need and those could cost extra. Marketo does a great job at always looking to evolve. They have what is called The Marketo Community where customers and customer service and interact. It gives the customer the ability to suggest improvements and Marketo has added things to the tool based on what customers want. The community also allows customers to suggest solutions to issues other customers are having. Other MATs have this as well but I am just a fan of Marketo's community.
Should It Rock Or Should It Roll?
Rock! Marketing automation tools are doing great things and making things easier for marketers. The trick is to find the tool that works for you and use it to the fullest.
Note: I want to point out the products and references I used in this article along with all my articles are used because I want to. I am not getting paid to use any content or talk about any product or service.