I remember back when I was a kid and my grandfather taught me how to use a hand saw. I was so excited I got to use one of his tools. It did seem to take a really long time of sawing back and forth to make the cut.
I remember getting tired and wondering how long this was going to take. The cut wasn’t perfectly straight, but I did finally cut that board.
Years later I had a project to do, and I bought a circular saw. Wow, it was dramatically faster, and took miniscule effort compared to using the hand saw. It definitely made a much straighter cut too. Digital marketing is like this. While there are a lot of really basic tools you can use to execute your marketing plans with, taking advantage of a robust platform will allow your marketing efforts to become much more efficient and easier to execute.
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First, so we are the same page, let’s define marketing automation as using software to automate marketing activities. The marketing automation platforms I am referring to are larger platforms that let you automate a wide variety of digital marketing processes. Some key platforms you might be aware of are Marketo, Eloqua, HubSpot, Pardot (now part of Salesforce), Constant Contact, Act-On, and Mailchimp.
These platforms let you automate a wide variety of digital marketing efforts, as opposed to tools that just focus on one effort such as social media, data management platforms (DMP), customer data platforms (CDP), digital asset managers (DAM), and I could go on and on listing all the specialty platforms.
There are many reasons why your business should consider using a marketing automation platform, but I am going to focus in on 5 key reasons:
- Database segmentation
- Email Marketing
- Email automation
- Landing pages
Whether your customer data is stored in a CRM (preferred), in a spreadsheet, or lists, you do yourself a favor by being able to segment your contacts into similar groups. This allows you to target and send unique messaging to individual groups.
As an example, if you are a software company with a SaaS product that works for both businesses and for consumers, you most likely don’t want the same messaging going to both groups. To your business prospects, you want to focus on the benefits that appeal specifically to them and same with the consumer benefits. Let’s say you have been able to identify that different sized businesses get different benefits from using your product, wouldn’t you want to segment that list to focus on benefits for each group?
Segmentation can also provide basic A/B testing as well. Want to test subject lines, content, or imagery amongst your contact lists? Segment them into different groups.
I define email marketing as being able to do a bulk email send to a list all at once. This is quite a bit different from trying to send out email directly from your mail client (Gmail, Outlook, etc.) or CRM. Those tools have send limit caps, and don’t allow for advanced imagery or formatting, and are extremely difficult to send bulk email out of.
Email marketing platforms have come so far. I remember not long ago having to use HTML to code each email. Thankfully most modern email marketing platforms, like HubSpot and others, take advantage of drag and drop template building and design. They are designed for modern digital marketers to focus on the look and the message of the email, without having to be coders.
Email marketing platforms also provide detailed email analytics allowing for tracking of opens, clicks, subscribes, unsubscribes, and engagement rates. They allow you to see if your audience is engaging with your messaging and let you track your success rates over time.
In this case, I am defining email automation as sending automatically based on a trigger event. All the different mainline marketing automation platforms offer some version of this, typically based on the package level you get. For instance, with HubSpot, you get a hint at the capabilities with their Starter version and really robust email automation with their Pro and Enterprise level packages.
Email automation can be used in a wide variety of circumstances. If you have a newsletter subscription you can have an email confirmation go out when someone signs up for a subscription on your site. Or you could tease out an onboarding program to your customers with a series of 5 or 6 emails spread out over so many weeks.
Or far more advanced campaigns could be set up. A qualified lead comes into your system and automatically gets put on a workflow path. Maybe they get sent a series of specific emails until they become a paying customer. At that point, the system would remove them from that prospect email workflow and perhaps automatically move them to a customer onboarding program.
Forms are amazing! They allow contacts to let you know they have a level of interest in something. Whether they are subscribing to your newsletters, requesting a content offer, or registering for your latest webinars, forms are a safe way for your audience to move down your sales path.
A solid marketing automation system, like HubSpot for example, allows you to easily embed forms into whatever site you are working on. Whether you are using WordPress, HubSpot CMS, or any other content management system (CMS) you should be able to add forms to it easily. And these forms, when submitted, will add contact data directly to your contact database.
Forms allow contacts to demonstrate higher levels of engagement with your products or services.
Your better marketing automation platforms will include the option to create landing pages on the fly regardless of what content management system (CMS) you use, or where your site is hosted. A landing page is different from a static website product or service page. A landing page is typically used for some sort of marketing campaign. There are a host of different uses such as an eBook giveaway page, lead magnet offer, webinar registration, event registration, or sales campaign page, to name but a few.
A key aspect of landing pages is they all have forms embedded on the page to capture the contact data. Tools like HubSpot make this super easy to create from a single area, with drag and drop features and a load of built-in templates to choose from.
In HubSpot they are so easy to create that I create a thank you page for every event I speak at. I send the audience to the page to download my presentation and other materials — thus capturing my audience’s contact info and adding new leads to my customer database.
The Right Tool for the Job
Using a robust marketing automation tool makes digital marketing so much easier today than it has ever been in the past. I remember the giant time suck it used to take manually coding a marketing email with HTML, or creating SQL scripts to pull the right customer data to send the marketing email too. Today’s tools are efficient and save a tremendous amount of time. They let marketers focus on marketing and not coding.
But, most of all, they allow all users to become digital marketers and take the next step to improving your digital marketing efforts.
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