Some people fail in understanding marketing’s automation essence and it’s not entirely their fault. If you want to prevent yourself from misinterpreting this profitable tool, prepare your business as the best student for the marketing automation exam, and get to know what Harry Potter has to do with it, keep reading.
I have worked in digital marketing at least for 10 years already and, as I observe in work situations with clients, marketing specialists, or high-level managers, there’s no tool name that spreads more confusion in the digital/tech/marketing world than marketing automation. Since its beginnings, a decade ago (around 2010-2012), the market for marketing automation software has risen up like a yeast cake* in the oven. “In 2020 it was estimated at USD 3.60 billion and is expected to be USD 11.46 billion in 2027” (Mordor Intelligence, 2021). With great money of course comes great PR, or even greater since the tool has such a promising name as ‘marketing automation’ – sounds effortless, doesn’t it? The recipe for unrealistic expectations has been cooked by itself. Well, no surprise for me – it’s what we in marketing do best, light up imagination and expectations (sometimes no matter the value of the product, service, or tool).
“Marketing automation is 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.” Salesforce
Money for nothin’ and leads for free?
Let’s be fair. The PR of marketing automation and the money that is invested in this segment have not come up without a reason. No marketing or business manager spends their budgets on it if it does not bring a boost to business revenue. Marketing automation “increased up to 14.5% sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead. 80% of marketing automation users saw an increase in the number of leads using marketing automation software, and 77% had an increase in conversions” (Invesp, 2018).
The problem usually hides somewhere else. Some who haven’t dived into marketing automation topics enough see it as an easy, rapid way to bigger income and as something extra to their marketing strategy. Unfortunately, they are wrong. A properly prepared and implemented marketing automation strategy is resource-demanding and it will define your marketing and your sales in a completely new way. If you want to enjoy the revenue-boosting benefits of marketing automation you will have to shift your perspective by putting marketing automation at the core of your digital strategy. This will require:
- Seeing the process of shifting to marketing automation as a marathon rather than a sprint. However its first results show up early, usually are truly satisfying, and encourage further efforts.
- To open a new position in your marketing team or to hire a specialized agency. Which of them costs less time and money and which is more suitable for the business strategy you need to decide by yourself.
- More access for this person/agency to the IT department, their support, and resources. If your IT department is already a bottleneck in your company, then oh boy… You’ll struggle very much to finish this run. It’s not worth it to carry such a burden on the way so try to resolve the issue before the start.
- To include other departments in the cooperation with the marketing team on a new engaging level, especially when it comes to sales-marketing cooperation and sometimes with product owners or purchasing team as well (when you run e-commerce). And I must tell you, not everyone will be happy about it. Sales and marketing have a lifetime love-hate relationship anyway but be prepared for brand-new tensions in your team.
Harry Potter doesn’t work here
Nothing in my work field frustrates me more than people who are eager to use marketing automation and yet have very little knowledge of how complex it is to build marketing automation pipelines and the range of skills this demands. I speak about those who think it works like setting up autoplay on YouTube, saving plenty of time that could be invested in ‘more strategic’ marketing actions, and those who see marketing automation specialists as Harry Potter saying his magic spells and puff! Job is done, then we go to a 5 hours lunch break.
Hopefully, it’s not a big group of people who think so but it won’t hurt to explain to everyone that reality is quite different. Marketing automation should be one of the crucial parts of digital strategy, otherwise, its benefits are barely visible and the whole investment is pointless. Surely it saves some time in everyday work but mostly it saves time on tasks, that if they were provided by human work they would take an eternity. In other words, it allows what before marketing automation’s rise simply wasn’t or was very little possible. It definitely does not make less work for anybody. And meanwhile, before someone would establish Hogwart for marketers (that actually would be so cool!), GOOD marketing automation specialist on a daily basis:
- Provides solutions suitable for business goals.
- Uses logical & analytical thinking to create workflows and maintain the workflows environment. That’s easy when it’s based on one or two basic workflows like cart abandonment or welcome email scenarios but when it expands to supporting numerous campaigns for a few client segments at once, things can become quite tricky.
- Applies marketing, psychological and technical knowledge.
- Takes complex conclusions based on numbers and reapplies them to workflows if it’s needed, uses them in the future, and adds them as an insight to marketing/business strategy.
- Maintains a customer database and applies corresponding law rules.
- Is very detail-oriented and keeps things in order in the system they use.
- And as a bonus: if she/he has creative copywriting and/or coding skills, congratulations! You found a unicorn.
It doesn’t sound like autoplay and plenty of free time anymore, right?
Studies say that 76% of companies that have implemented marketing automation systems see a return on investment in less than one year (Marketo, 2011). Also, I’ve never heard about a company that resigned from using the marketing automation system. Yup, so far since 2010 no divorces yet. And, saying from experience, most of the struggles during the process are followed by juicy rewards. That is what I like the most about this job, the possibility to achieve countable goals and directly influence the business.
* Yummy traditional Polish cake. The best ones are made by grandma, obviously.