Marketing Automation and the Online Sales Funnel
What is marketing automation and why is it being discussed on just about every business forum and business blog not to mention the significant number of articles and reports that have been appearing lately in the business press? We thought we would go peaking since we were also curious and interested in learning more about this trending topic. Our findings were most intriguing and that is putting it rather conservatively. We bring you the first in a two-part series on the subject. While in part one, we tell you what marketing automation is, in part two, we will share several strategies and show how to use marketing automation to generate more leads, sales and conversions for your organization.
Defining Marketing Automation –
Before we define marketing automation for you, a small lesson in marketing and CRM history is warranted. In essence, marketing automation has been practiced since the 1980s. DOS applications such as Wordstar, MultiMate and Word Perfect used automated processes to pull contact information such as names and addresses from a database and merge it with body copy to create sleek looking personalized letters. The same contact information was also used to print addresses directly on envelopes or on address labels. Utility companies, credit card companies and direct marketers all used this form of marketing automation, primitive by today’s standards, to generate inbound leads either through the mail or the phone with the help of toll free 800 numbers.
When several traditional CRM applications such as Salesforce, SugarCRM, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamic CRM became popular a decade ago, companies began to notice that although CRM was an excellent way to manage existing customer relationships and sustain them through long-term ongoing engagement, it left much to be desired when it came time to generating business. Subsequent upgrades introduced by CRM industry leaders continued to prove ineffective when assessed for frontline marketing effort. Several enterprising companies and startups such as Marketo, Unica, Aprimo, Eloqua, Neolane, Pardot, Silverpop and Sitecore sensed an opportunity and have taken the entire notion of automating the marketing process to the next level.
Marketing automation can be best defined as a software platform that simplifies and automates routine and sometimes repetitive marketing tasks to achieve sales and marketing growth. Like live chat service, these platforms are usually provided as a hosted or web-based solution. The technology makes it possible for marketing and sales teams within companies to create, deploy, and automate online marketing campaigns that enhance efficiency and increase revenue. This mission is achieved through intelligent lead generation, lead nurturing, customer segmenting and conversion, all of which are performed using automated or semi-automated processes.
What has contributed significantly to the widespread early adoption of marketing automation across geographies is the fact that most if not all marketing automation applications integrate seamlessly with existing CRM platforms. The integration enables companies to track prospects and activities with your marketing campaigns and on your website, generate real-time sales alerts when buyers are showing purchasing behavior, ROI reporting, and much more, as an expert has rightly put it.
What problem or problems does marketing automation address and subsequently resolve? To generate inbound sales inquiries and do timely justice to each and every inbound sales lead, companies need to process every lead individually, segment the lead, nurture it, and close the sale when it has completed its journey through the proverbial sales funnel. However, given the incredible volume of marketing campaigns today, it is practically impossible to treat each inbound lead with the care and attention it deserves. This is precisely where marketing automation steps in and provides amazing solutions that actually work with little or no manual intervention.
In our next issue we will tell you what features and attributes to look for in a qualitatively superior marketing automation application and how you can use it to experience exponential sales growth.