HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, etc. are all powerful marketing tools. These are the marketing automation usual suspects. There are lots of different solutions out there to choose from.

What is marketing automation? Why is it so prevalent in marketing today? Marketing automation is as it sounds, you automated marketing practices such as…

  1. Email – automated email thank you notes or purchase confirmations or event updates
  2. eCommerce – remarketing display ads for abandoned carts or email enticing additional purchases
  3. Landing pages – driving targeted traffic to pages that convert
  4. Social media marketing – steady and useful automated campaigns that build a base of engaged fans or followers
  5. CRM integration and lead management – making sure all of this automation is tracked and managed

Marketing automation is a way to ensure that you are connecting with your audience throughout the entire marketing funnel in some meaningful way. You are there in their zero moment of truth, research (the tire kicking phase), at the point of purchase, and post purchase.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a marketing funnel, here is a simple but illustrative graphic from Aweber

marketing-funnel

Source: blog.aweber.com

This efficiency can prevent you from losing sales, leads, and contact with your target audience. Who doesn’t like efficiency? Well, with all this automation, are you missing the human element… trust?

Can you automate too much?

The Human Side of Marketing Automation

marketing-automation

Robots are taking over! We can now automate everything! The soft drinks at McDonald’s are poured by a machine now because it was so hard for people to pour the most efficient super sized coke. Kidding, sort of.

If you can automate something, should you? And if you do, are you losing your human connection?

Email marketing without a human connection is just another email waiting to be deleted. Consider your organization’s culture. What kind of relationship are you trying to build with your audience?

If you send out some boring form email after a purchase, think it has any impact? Not as much as it could or should.

A purchase, signup, or download are all great opportunities for you to create a deeper connection with your audience. This deeper connection means someone can go from casual browser to super fan and repeat customer.

Answer these questions before setting up an automated email…

  • Who are these people you’re emailing?
  • What’s important to them?
  • Why did they purchase, signup, or download?
  • What would they expect or need next from you?
  • What do you want them to do next?
  • Is this a brand building opportunity?
  • Can you use this opportunity to build a “fanbase?”

Don’t just say thanks for buying, joining, or downloading. If you’re brand is built on humor, try adding some into these emails. Or maybe you’re championing a cause. Is there more they can do to help? Tell them about it in your email response.

Check out this case study from Jason Falls on an outstanding use of email automation.

And it’s not just emails, this goes for all marketing you’re automating. Social media should be an extension of your culture, even when automated. Landing pages should convert but still need to be on brand.

And are you tracking this data so you can improve on the successes and minimize the failures?

Marketing Automation and System Integration

Marketing automation can get a bit scattered, especially for smaller businesses and organizations. You might handle automated emails through a platform like ConstantContact or MailChimp.

Maybe the post-purchase emails are done through WooCommerce, Shopify, or some other eCommerce platform. And maybe you’re using Buffer of Hootsuite for social media automation.

There is nothing wrong with any of this. Not every business is a candidate for platforms like HubSpot or Marketo. And this isn’t solely because of price.

Sometimes a fully integrated marketing automation solution is like using a hammer to kill a fly.

But whatever you’re using, you need to track your successes and failures. Take some time upfront to determine what data is important. It could be any or all of the following:

  • Conversions (sales, signups, downloads)
  • Opens, clicks, shares
  • Pageviews (traffic)
  • Rankings (SEO)
  • Ad spend vs. conversion rates

Brand awareness is important but only as it relates to measurable outcomes like increased sales or traffic. And something like increased traffic needs to be meaningful. Is this the right kind of traffic coming from the right sources? Are they visiting the pages you want them to?

CRM Integration

The easiest way to track activity along a marketing funnel is by integrating your marketing automation with your CRM, like SalesForce or Zoho.

If you have a CRM, do a little research to see if there is an API or some other integration method for integrating your eCommerce platform, social media efforts, or email marketing.

And if you’re spending more money on something like HubSpot, Pardot, or Marketo, make sure the provider works with you to set this up. You want to determine, with their help, what a reasonable outcome looks like.

If you go into marketing automation with the sole purpose of building traffic, you’re missing the point. Marketing automation is about efficiency throughout the marketing funnel. And that efficiency needs to result in predetermined outcomes like leads, sales, signups, etc.

All of those things can be assigned a value. It’s a formula. (Check out this Forbes article determining your marketing return on investment or MROI)

To know if the money you’re spending is worth it, you need to see the ROI. If you’re spending 3k per month, for example, and you have no idea if you’re getting any reasonable return, you need to correct this ASAP.

  1. Define your designed outcomes
  2. Determine how automated client interactions will lead them through the funnel
  3. Track data and analyze it against desired outcomes
  4. Make adjustments as needed when outcomes are not met

Do You Own the Content?

Here’s where I get a little preachy. You work very hard to build your online presence. Your website is your marketing homebase. Make sure you own and control this base.

Sometimes marketing automation systems will force you to work within their system. For example, you might be running ads or a content marketing campaign driving traffic to a landing page within the system.

That landing page is setup for one purpose, to convert the visitor into a client, member, whatever you’re looking for.

From that conversion, the system can track where they’ve come from and if they convert it can also move them even further along in the marketing funnel by offering more deals or conversion opportunities after their initial conversion.

These landing pages are your own little kick butt sales robots. Building your pipeline and sometimes even closing deals. This is classic marketing automation.

Content Marketing and Marketing Automation

What about your content marketing efforts? Maybe you’re doing a content series in conjunction with a promotion. Great!

But, what if these posts are forced to live within the marketing automation system? What happens if you stop using that system? All of the SEO value of those posts is lost.

You’ve placed your greatest asset – utility content – on rented land. It might drive traffic but you don’t own the space.

It isn’t part of your domain authority. All the inbound links will have to be redirected. It’s not the system’s fault. That’s how some of them work.

Here’s a good rule of thumb. If it’s evergreen content, make sure it lives without your domain and not on rented land.

So, the next time a marketing or PR firm says “you need <insert marketing automation company name here>!” Ask them “why?”

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.