Marketing Automation

What is it?

Marketing automation is a generic term for utilising software to help deliver a process of generating and capturing revenue through both outbound and inbound marketing activity.

Marketing automation has come a long way over the past decade and the myriad of companies that were around in the early days have now nearly all been acquired by the big software technology brands.

How does it work?

Marketing automation takes away the tedium of having to manually create, deliver and monitor content, stimulate engagement and encourage purchase. It is not a silver bullet for success but once implemented it focuses the way you identify and nurture your potential audience.

It works for both Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Consumer (B2C) organisations although processes and terminology are slightly different.

Suspects, Prospects (Visitors) and Customers

What is a suspect? This term is used in a B2B environment when describing people who are potential customers, but you know very little about them. You may know their name, what company they work for and possibly their LinkedIn profile and an email address. Suspects are rarely found within a B2C environment although the practice of purchasing mailing lists (now frowned upon thanks to GDPR) could have been classed as suspects. Target contacts within a target account are an alternative name for suspects in B2B.

A prospect is also a B2B term but can be substituted with the term visitor when you are a B2C organisation.

A customer is someone who has purchased from you at least once within a given time frame.

Prospect to customer lifecycle

When describing marketing automation, the below image represents the different stages that make up the customer journey, from unknown suspect through to premium customer. The blue dotted line denotes the customer lifetime value which increases over time.

At many stages of this journey Marketing automation has its place.

From Suspect to Prospect

Driving visitors to your site through SEO, Pay Per Click or targeted email in a B2B environment, means that you should track where your visitors came from. By using Marketing automation software, you can identify the ‘lead’ source and monitor the behaviour of the pages they visited. In conjunction with your Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) solution the landing pages need to be tested to maximise conversion to the next step.

Marketing automation software also ‘scores’ each page they visit, and this score can be measured to understand the overall engagement of the visitor. 

In a B2B world the score has a threshold, where once reached, the lead is passed from the marketing automation software to the CRM. These are defined as Marketing Qualified Leads. With further in-person qualification, these are then passed to sales as Sales Qualified Leads.

From Prospect to Customer

If the visitor has accepted cookies and leaves the site their browsing history is logged against that cookie ID. If and when the visitor returns, any new browsing data will be added their previous browsing history in the Marketing automation software.

If the visitor registers or purchases, all of their browsing data is then linked to the details they have completed. You will then have a profile of the visitor which could include their name, address and email, which can be used (having gained GDPR permission) to start to nurture that visitor further.

Most Marketing automation solutions can send emails, both regular and transactional (triggered), to keep the registered visitor coming back to the site. However not many can provide AB testing or manipulate content based on previous browsing history.

From Customer to Repeat Customer

Here is where Marketing automation becomes less effective and rigorous content testing and delivering personalised content really starts to make a difference. Whilst the Marketing automation software can engage with the customer via email, it does little to tailor the user experience.

Just like with marketing automation solutions, CRO solutions such as Webtrends Optimize capture browsing history but then use that information to deliver a different, potentially individualised, experience.

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