Have you ever struggled to manage all your marketing campaigns? Do you have no idea how to track which of your marketing efforts are working? I’m sure you’ve heard of marketing automation tools. Today, more than 500 companies offer some sort of marketing automation tool. If you don’t have one for your marketing activities, eventually you might need one.
The definition of marketing automation.
Marketing automation is a technology that manages marketing processes and multifunctional campaigns, across multiple channels, automatically.
With marketing automation, businesses can target customers with automated messages across email, web, social, and text. Messages are sent automatically, according to sets of instructions called workflows. Workflows may be defined by templates, custom-built from scratch, or modified mid-campaign to achieve better results.
Marketing and sales departments use marketing automation to automate online marketing campaigns and sales activities to both increase revenue and maximize efficiency. When automation is used effectively to handle repetitive tasks, employees are free to tackle higher-order problems, and human error is reduced.
Marketing automation helps with lead generation, nurturing, and scoring, as well as with measuring overall ROI on campaigns. The time- and cost-saving effects of automation increase as an organization grows in size and complexity. Good marketing automation systems are designed to scale alongside your business.
What does marketing automation do?
In its most basic form, marketing automation is a set of tools designed to streamline and simplify some of the most time-consuming responsibilities of modern marketing and sales roles. From automating the lead qualification process to creating a hub for digital campaign creation, automation is all about simplifying a business world that is growing far too complex, much too quickly.
Marketing automation lets you implement a digital marketing strategy without having to manually press “send” on every email, message, campaign, or post you create. Good automation tools help you identify your audience, design the right content, and automatically trigger actions based on schedules and customer behavior. Once your campaign rolls out, you can focus on other tasks, then analyze and tweak your marketing plan as results start coming in. An automated marketing strategy can save time and resources, driving revenue and ROI while you focus on growing your business.
How does marketing automation work?
You collect customer data through many interactions: emails, website visits, app usage, social media, and so on. This data helps create a 360-degree view of each customer.
From there, marketing automation does all the work: streamling segmentation and targeting processes to determine the right audiences, quickly and at scale. Tailoring messaging to each customer automatically based on their profile. Creating relevant and personalized messaging across email, mobile, social, web experiences, and beyond with a few simple clicks. Delivering personalized experiences for your customers, whether you have 100 or 100 million, efficiently and effectively.
What does marketing automation mean for the customer journey?
Customer journeys are the sum of individual personalized experiences with your brand. With marketing automation, you can tailor every interaction based on customer data to create ongoing, seamless journeys through every brand touchpoint.
Marketing automation creates relevant content and messaging at scale across many channels. Send email messages with dynamic content that personalizes far beyond sticking a customer’s first name in the subject line. Integrate mobile messaging with your email and social campaigns through SMS/MMS, push notifications, and group messaging. Generate digital ads that appear for the right person at the right time. Plus, recommend the right products on your website for each user — automatically.
With marketing automation, you can reach customers along their journey no matter where they are in the customer lifecycle — from acquisition to advocacy. Deliver timely, relevant content that reaches customers when, where, and how they prefer — converting prospects into lifelong brand advocates.
Best Marketing Automation Tools
So many choices. That’s what most companies face when selecting a marketing automation tool. Trying to understand the differences between the tools and industry landscape can be difficult. We know because we’ve been there.
A while back, we were looking for a marketing automation tool ourselves. We researched, talked to analysts, and we had deep dives with company reps. Since then, we’ve become very involved in the industry thanks to the complementary nature of analytics and marketing automation. We’ve even formed partnerships with several companies. Now finally, we present our top picks for marketing automation tools (in no particular order).
Marketo is perhaps the best-known marketing automation tool, and for good reason. It’s one of the most mature tools, with a full suite of features that not only help marketers manage email campaigns but also provide excellent tools for sales teams. Marketo also has a marketplace, called LaunchPoint, with dozens of integrations.
Whom it’s for:
Marketo is great for companies who are going to make use of the tool’s many features that go beyond basic marketing automation. It’s not the most expensive tool, but it’s certainly not the cheapest either. If you’re not going to use the advanced functionality of the system, you can get similar results with one of the less expensive tools. However, if you want to start with the basics and move into the more advanced functionality shortly, it could be a good idea to start with a tool like Marketo so that you don’t have to switch over all your data and campaigns down the line. We also like that Marketo has a very large and active knowledge base, which is a great resource for new users.
You can think of Eloqua as the Ferrari of marketing automation. It’s fully loaded, provides an exceptional level of service, and comes with a matching price tag. One of Eloqua’s key differentiators is the amount of time they spend teaching and helping their customers get the most out of the product. Like Marketo, Eloqua also has a great marketplace with plenty of integrations with third-party services.
Whom it’s for:
Don’t look at Eloqua unless you’re going after enterprise-level software and you have the budget for it. Now, if you do, Eloqua is a great option, especially if you like having a lot of guidance from your technology vendors. You should also consider Eloqua if tight CRM integration is important to you.
The main reason we love Customer.io is its flexibility. This is a tool that will let you get what you want out of it. While it’s not all out of the box, if you’re willing to put in some developer time, you can customize your Customer.io experience. Another great thing about this tool is its lightweight UI and fast, personal customer support. Customer.io is one of the newer players, but they’re growing very quickly and are a company to watch. Unlike most of the older tools, Customer.io is built to trigger emails based on events, rather than just pageviews.
Whom it’s for:
Customer.io is great for two kinds of uses: 1. Companies that are looking to get started with marketing automation and appreciate a lightweight UI (i.e. not your typical enterprise software) and 2. Companies that are looking for some more advanced functionality that requires flexibility and customization, and are willing to devote the developer resources to implement it. We happen to fall into the second category, which is why we chose Customer.io for our marketing automation needs at Woopra.
Constant Contact is a well-known email marketing tool for small businesses. It does a great job of providing basic functionality in a way that is very easy for even non-technical users to take advantage of. The ease of use and affordable cost are its biggest differentiators.
Whom it’s for:
Constant Contact is for the small business owner who wants to quickly get started with organized email marketing and doesn’t anticipate needing any advanced functionality down the line. The tool is a great choice for you if you fit this description, but if you plan to expand your marketing automation efforts shortly, this isn’t the tool for you.
The advantage and disadvantages of using HubSpot are the same: the system does a little bit of everything but doesn’t do any one thing at a deep level. HubSpot describes itself as “inbound marketing software”, which means it offers a variety of tools, one of which is marketing automation. This all-in-one approach can be convenient.
Whom it’s for:
Like Constant Contact, HubSpot is great for the small business owner, but where HubSpot beats out Constant Contact is in the additional functionality it provides beyond email marketing. If you’re looking for an “all-in-one” tool that gives you the very basic functionality of several different marketing systems, HubSpot is a good option for you.
We were impressed by the ExactTarget demo at Dreamforce (the company was recently acquired by salesforce.com). One thing that stood out to us about ExactTarget is the system’s ability to target communications over multiple channels. Most marketing automation tools focus on email, but ExactTarget goes beyond that and lets you target mobile app notifications, or even messages to the dashboard of a customer’s car (if, for example, you were a car manufacturer).
And if you’re wondering what the difference is between ExactTarget and Pardot (acquired by ExactTarget), the former is meant for B2C companies while the latter is designed for B2B companies.
Whom it’s for:
ExactTarget is for the company that has the desire — and the resources — to go above and beyond with their marketing automation. It’s for the company that is looking to the future of marketing automation and wants to connect with its customers over many different channels.
(Edit: Acquired by AdRoll)
Userfox is another new player in the marketing automation space, and they were just acquired by AdRoll. We’re hoping the combined power of the AdRoll and userfox teams mean exciting things for the future of their product. And we know the userfox team has some amazing talent because one of their co-founders previously worked with us here at Woopra.
Marketing Automation is one of the most obvious ways to keep your business ahead of the game. This is because automation allows you to set up systems that run without you needing to sit at the controls.