A recent report by Software Advice, a division of Gartner, shows that 98% of businesses they spoke with are looking for a marketing automation solution. And, before you start thinking that these businesses are all the “big guys”, it’s important that you know that 84% of these businesses they spoke with have an annual revenue of 5 million or less!

Yup, I know, you’re already using email to market to your prospective customers. Everyone is, right? In this post, I’m going to attempt to highlight the differences between marketing automation and email service providers (ESP) and how to know if you should be looking at marketing automation for your business.

Email Marketing Was Revolutionary

Back in the day, email marketing was the killer digital marketing channel. Batching and blasting messages to a faceless and often nameless list of people was the trend of the time. In fact, marketers have actually been happy with less than 2% of the people that received their email actually took action on the message. Really, less than 2%! We certainly need to do better than 2%.

Most of you are aware of how email marketing works and the analytical metrics that are available from your ESP. You write a message and then you schedule the day and time that you want your list of recipients to receive this message. Once the message has been delivered, you check your analytics report for those 2 metrics that everyone focuses on, the open rate and the click-through rate.

In the vast majority of instances, every person in your list will get the same message, with the possible exception of maybe their name in the subject line. Then we wonder why less than 2% of people, on average, take action on our marketing message.

The other option would be to send out a unique message to the different types of people that you have in your list. This would be a much better way to have your message be more relevant, which in turn will get the recipients to engage more with your message. But, who has that kind of time or a marketing department large enough to pull that off?

Let’s just say that you were ready to do this, send more relevant emails and let’s assume, for a second, that you have 5 segments of customers in your list. We’re also going to say that you’re going to send out an email to each of these segments twice a month. If you or your marketing people spend 1 ½ hours writing the message, gathering images, and setting up links and key-phrases followed by another ½ hour getting this message setup and scheduled in your ESP platform, you have now spent 20 hours on a marketing communication which, based on national averages, less than 20% of the recipients will even open the message. Even worse, the ones that do open the message will spend less around 15 seconds looking at it. We can do better!

Do Better

The promise of digital marketing from the beginning has been to enhance a company’s relationship with its customers. If we go back to one of the first studies on this topic, customers.com by Patricia Seybold back in 1998, we see that the whole point has been to improve the customer’s experience while decreasing the labor obstacles that were standing in the way of an excellent experience opportunity.

So, how can your business deliver a better experience for your customers and prospective customers and reduce your time, effort and money at the same time? Marketing automation!

Personal & Relevant

If you’re like every other business person that I talk with, you get a lot of email messages that you have to make a decision on; delete or read. You don’t delete all of them, so what is your criteria for reading the messages that you read?

Some are real obvious: your customers are first, but where do you go from there? Generally, the next group of messages that you will read contain information that you are interested in today. Messages that are highly relevant to you at the time you receive it.

Getting the right message to the right person, at the right time automatically is quite possibly the biggest reason that marketing automation solutions are seriously being looked at by marketers across all industries.

How it works

Based on the behavior of a customer, a workflow, or campaign, is triggered to move this sales lead through the sales process. This workflow could be a series of drip communications that nurture the lead as they make their purchase decision. The workflow can also help qualify the lead or even score the lead in terms of how close they are to needing a call from one of your sales people.

These workflows are created based on your customer segments, conversion types, position in the buy cycle, and many more possibilities. Once created, the behavior of the person triggers the relevant workflow and it goes into action, automatically.

Multi-Channel Triggering

Here’s the real beauty to marketing automation that ESP’s can’t offer. The behavioral triggers that start the marketing automation workflows can come from literally any marketing channel, online or offline. As an example, let’s say that you have a billboard promoting a new product that your company is selling. On that billboard you are using a domain name that will take a prospective customer to a landing page on your website that talks about this new product. On this page, there is a form that the person fills out to receive more information about this new product. This behavior will trigger a workflow that will market your company and this new product, specifically to the interest of this person.

The right message, to the right person, at the right time.

How Do You Know

Now, admittedly, this is a pretty simplistic view of the differences between marketing automation and an ESP and there are a lot more topics that need to be discussed before you jump into a commitment to use marketing automation. However, there are a couple things that you can look for as indicators that you should start looking at marketing automation for your company.

  • Do you have a complex sell cycle? In other words, does your customer typically take more than a couple of days to buy your product or service?
  • Are your marketing people already busy with your other marketing campaigns, lead generation efforts, and promotion efforts?
  • Do you sell different products or services to different customer segments?

If any of these are relevant to your business, marketing automation should certainly be on your radar.