Marketing automation is the process of using software to manage repetitive marketing tasks. Examples include automated emails based on a user’s action and automated social media posts. Offering relevant cross-sells and upsells based on a shopper’s activity is a form of marketing automation.
Marketing automation requires data, such as a user’s email address, purchase history, or social media activity. Thus a marketing automation tool must integrate with a data source — perhaps a customer management system or an ecommerce platform.
Marketing automation is the process of using software to manage repetitive marketing tasks.
Many email service providers offer marketing automation features, such as customized segmentation and triggered transactional notices. For smaller businesses, that is sometimes enough. However, comprehensive automation tools are much more sophisticated.
- Nurture campaigns create a journey for email subscribers. A nurture campaign could take into account opens, clicks, website visits, and purchases to automatically deploy customized emails.
For example, a merchant could automatically deploy a welcome email with a special offer when someone signs up. If the subscriber does not respond to the offer, the merchant could send a second email a week later with another offer. If the subscriber responded to the first email and purchased something, the merchant could send a related offer a month later.
- Dynamic content is perhaps the most important feature of marketing automation: changing the content of an email automatically for each subscriber. For example, you could dynamically insert a user’s city, or dynamically insert offers that are relevant to a user’s region. It eliminates having to create hundreds of variations.
- Segmentation. Segmenting email campaigns based on users’ purchase history will enable relevant product updates, targeted discounts, and recommendations. For example, customers who have purchased bicycles could respond well to promotions for bicycle accessories, such as helmets or clothing.
- Analysis. Instead of analyzing sales reports, website traffic information, and email marketing statistics, you can see all of that information in one place on a marketing automation tool — assuming you have set up all the integrations.
- Dynamic product offerings send subscribers an email based on the products they have browsed on your website. (Not every automation tool offers this feature.) Do you wonder how Amazon sends an email with products that you viewed only an hour earlier? It was via a marketing automation tool!
While there are many advantages to using marketing automation tools, there are some obstacles.
- Price. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for many businesses is the price. Marketing automation tools can cost as much as $2,000 per month. There are less expensive options, but they may not have all the features to justify upgrading from your current email provider.
- Complex setup. Marketing automation tools can be complex to set up. It could require hiring a consultant to integrate your existing platforms and create basic functionality. It might take a few months to be fully operational.
- Expertise. While marketing automation tools have been around for roughly 10 years, not every marketer knows how to use them. Training staff could require a lot of time and money.
How to Choose
Here are a few things to consider when selecting a marketing automation tool.
- Total cost can include monthly platform fees, setup expenditures, and outlays to integrate with your existing systems.
- Integration options. Can the tool easily integrate with your ecommerce platform, customer relationship software, and other marketing tools?
- Capabilities. What can the tool do and not do? List your marketing automation goals and confirm that the tool can deliver.
- Support. What kind of support does the provider offer? Telephone, email, live chat? Business hours only or 24/7? Some marketing automation tools provide a dedicated “success manager.”
- Migration. Can you easily migrate data from your current platform to a marketing automation tool? How will you prevent data loss? Some automation tools provide migration assistance. Inquire before making a final decision.
Worth the Effort?
A marketing automation tool is typically a large investment. It can take time and money to set up. The staffing needs can be expensive. However, in my experience marketing automation can easily be worth the effort. It can decrease your marketing workload and greatly improve conversions.