Marketing automation: how it works and why it’s important for modern marketers

Marketing automation is a powerful tool for brands as it allows them to create a rich profile of their audience and use targeted marketing messages to help drive conversions.

In order for automation to work effectively data must be turned into insights that help to create strong customer lifetime value models and optimise marketing messages.

Digital channels provide new and valuable sources of data and customer insight that can be acted upon in real time.

This is one of the central themes in our new Modern Marketing Manifesto, which forms the basis of the upcoming Festival of Marketing. The Festival begins on October 8 and includes a number of exciting events that will help marketers get to grips with new trends and disciplines.

So to find out more about how businesses can better understand marketing automation, I spoke to Oracle’s EMEA marketing director Sylvia Jensen…

What are the main benefits of marketing automation and why is this important to modern marketers?

Marketing automation is becoming the system of record for modern marketers. It’s the place where they can manage all their data and create a rich profile of their target buyers. With this intelligence they can send out the right information at the right time to move prospects along on their buying journey.  

It enables marketers to gather all the digital body language their prospects are leaving through digital interactions and identify when a prospect is sending buying signals so that a marketer knows that prospect is ready to speak to sales.  

The fact that marketing automation systems can link into CRM systems also allows marketers to give sales visibility into all that digital body language so sales can do a better job and close more deals.

What do you think are the main challenges facing businesses that want to adopt marketing automation?

The technology by itself is only an enabler. Although a marketing department can use automation to manage their database, send out campaigns and review reporting, companies that get the most out of marketing automation also align with their sales departments.

Working together to establish common definitions of leads and stages in the funnel so that lead scoring can be set up means that marketers know which leads still need nurturing before they are ready to speak to sales.

Marketers typically have a hard time proving ROI. How does marketing automation help overcome this challenge?

As the platform where all marketing data and campaigns are created and executed, marketing automation allows marketers to see what is working and what is not working in terms of response. Once the marketing automation system is connected to the CRM system, marketers are then able to see how marketing is influencing pipeline.  

With a good model and alignment with sales, marketers can get to the point where they can predict where certain investments in programs at certain stages of the funnel can create pipeline.

How can marketers overcome budget holder concerns about investing in potential costly marketing automation platforms?

It really depends on how a company is currently doing things, but what marketing automation gives both sales and marketing departments is efficiency both in marketing investment and time.  

If you take lead scoring as an example. For most companies, once a lead scoring system is implemented the overall volume of leads handed over to sales goes down. That sounds like a bad thing, right? But actually, what lead scoring allows companies to do is give sales better leads. Leads that are closer to an ‘ideal’ buyer than just someone who downloads a whitepaper.

This saves a lot of time for the sales team as they are not following up on ‘rubbish’ leads and helps accelerate the velocity of deals through the pipeline. This directly contributes to the bottom line.

Which internal teams should be involved in implementing marketing automation, and who should lead the process?

Definitely sales and marketing, and it should be supported by top management in both departments.

In terms of the marketing automation part, marketing should lead and bring sales along for the key component of the lead management process but once it is time to integrate with the CRM system, sales should be very active, understand the marketing requirements and make sure the system works for both departments.

What are the most important processes to have in place before businesses implement marketing automation? Is it all about ensuring data quality?

It’s not all about data but it’s a really fundamental part. I’d say that one step before thinking about the data is really understanding who your target buyers and influencers are and creating personas.  

Once you know who you are looking for, what data and how your data should look becomes much clearer and you can focus on what’s important in terms of data quality.

What steps should be taken to ensure data is standardised within an organisation? Again, which departments need to be involved?

We like to say that everyone is responsible for data quality within an organisation. From marketing, to sales and client services. Anyone who touches a prospect or customer needs to help maintain that data.

Each department may have special requirements. For instance, marketing would be very interested in standardisation of job roles, industries and turnover so that they can effectively target certain contacts. Multiple departments need to take responsibility for data and work together so that specific requirements can be met.

What kind of user data is most valuable for marketing automation, and what data collection should marketers prioritise?

Traditionally, demographic information is all that marketers really have available to them. Today, the most valuable information a marketer can have is behavioural data.  

The combination of ‘who they are’ and ‘what they do’ is what gives marketers the information they need to feed prospects with the right content to educate them along their buying journey.

In general, how steep is the learning curve for your clients? Do you find that people are generally quite uninformed about what’s involved with marketing automation?

It really depends. Most marketers can probably benefit from all aspects of what marketing automation can offer them. Normally, there are one or two real ‘pain points’ they feel that compel them to buy.

The beauty is that once they have the system in place they can continuously improve and extend how they are using marketing automation. Most customers follow an adoption curve where they add sophistication as they master the basics. 

Oracle is the Marketing Automation Partner at the Festival of Marketing

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Marketing automation: how it works and why it’s important for modern marketers

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