Marketing automation software is proving to be an indispensable tool for online marketers by helping to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their programs. It’s been said that marketing automation is to online marketers what QuickBooks is to accountants.

Marketing automation provides marketers a powerful and easy way to integrate all the components of an online marketing program into one system, helping to more intelligently manage the customer experience across online channels. And over the last several years, the software has seen enormous growth, fueled by the likes of Act-On, Pardot, Marketo and Hubspot among others.

According to research from Frost & Sullivan, the marketing automation industry is expected to be a $1.9 billion industry by 2020—proof that the valuable tool will continue to gain more widespread exposure and adoption. But while marketing automation is rapidly growing in popularity, the majority of companies are still not taking advantage of it. In fact, Salesforce’s 2015 State of Marketing report found that only 22% of companies are using marketing automation software today, trailing far behind more mainstream channels like social media or the corporate website. Which means that many companies have an opportunity to get ahead of the competition by leveraging the power that marketing automation can bring to their online marketing efforts before others jump on the bandwagon.

Marketing automation is more than just hype, more than just a shiny new tool for marketing and not just another line-item expense. But what makes it a necessity for marketing and a worthy corporate investment? Here are some thoughts.

Marketing automation enables smarter marketing

As today’s buyers (B2B and B2C) have become increasingly sophisticated and research oriented, marketing and sales simply have to change their approach. Customers are in control and want to make informed decisions. And they seek out information that is educational, insightful and helpful, not the in-your-face sales messages that dominated marketing of the past.

“Smarter companies that want to take charge of their lead generation and lead-nurturing efforts across all relevant channels are increasingly using [marketing-automation software] for a strong competitive edge in the market.”
Hiral Jasani, Frost & Sullivan

So naturally, it has become critical for marketers to communicate with prospects and customers with targeted, relevant content that meets them where they are in the customer lifecycle. That’s where marketing automation comes in. One of the core strengths of marketing automation is creating a digital infrastructure in which marketing and sales can understand and interact with buyers throughout the entire lifecycle. It tracks and aggregates valuable behavioral information, allowing marketers to see where contacts are in the lifecycle, determine what is or isn’t working and then optimize customer engagement accordingly.

Marketing automation saves time and increases efficiency

The digital landscape continues to expand and become more complex and fragmented. Marketing automation gives marketers one integrated multi-channel platform that makes the many facets of online marketing (e.g. email, social, search, lead generation, lead management, web analytics, webinars and CRM) much easier to manage. While many online marketing functions can be accomplished using many disparate tools, marketing automation makes it simpler, faster and ultimately more efficient.

Marketing automation helps align marketing and sales

As buyer behaviors have changed, the relationship between marketing and sales (or business development depending on your industry lingo) has changed or is changing as well, making the need for increased alignment and closed-loop communication absolutely critical.

successful marketing automation implementation can help align marketing and sales through increased communication and transparency. Additionally, marketing automation has the ability to integrate with CRM, providing internal sales and business development teams with real-time, actionable intelligence on what prospects and leads are up to—all inside their CRM. Once marketing and sales have come to an agreement on what defines a qualified lead, the entire process can be fully automated and marketing can adjust both the quantity and quality of leads being pushed over to sales.

Marketing automation provides marketers with essential tools

Marketing automation is a virtual playground for online marketers, providing a toolbox full of valuable and “must have” solutions necessary for moving the needle in the chaotic digital landscape we find ourselves in.  Here are just some of the essentials tools that a solid marketing automation platform will give you:

Website Visitor Tracking/Analytics: Allows you to know who is visiting your website, when they are visiting, pages they are viewing, content they are downloading and what brought them there.

Email Marketing: Go beyond the limitations of a typical email marketing platform (e.g. Constant Contact) and leverage the power of other automation features such as list management, lead scoring, behavior history, A/B testing, subscription management, automated programs, etc.

Lead Scoring: Each lead gets profiled and their actions tracked in order to assign a score value to each one in real-time. Determine sales-readiness and know which leads might be the best opportunities to focus on.

List Management: Segment leads and messages based on profile attributes, buying cycle stage and/or observed behaviors to boost your click-through rates and ultimately lead to higher conversion rates.

Lead Nurturing: These “drip” campaigns send a series of automated emails that are at scheduled intervals to qualified, but not sales-ready, leads.

Social Media Management: Integrate your social media activities with your other online channels for increased consistency and measurability.  Leverage the power of social media to drive traffic and action and know when it does.

Landing Pages and Forms: Create highly trackable destination pages for your content offers, surveys, events and campaigns using landing pages complete with lead capture forms that utilize progressive profiling.

Reporting: Measurement is critical to your online marketing program. With marketing automation, you can see results in real-time, gain insight into campaign performance and make adjustments and refinements on the fly.

The stats: marketing automation is a difference maker

More than just hype and another line-item expense, companies that have successfully implemented marketing automation are seeing the value it brings. Here are just a few stats we’ve compiled to offer proof:

B2B marketers who implement marketing automation increase their sales-pipeline contribution by 10%. (Source: Forrester Research, The Forrester Wave™: Lead-To-Revenue Management Platform Vendors, Q1 2014, Jan 2014)

63% of companies that are outgrowing their competitors use marketing automation. (Source: The Lenskold and Pedowitz Groups, 2013 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study)

Companies that use marketing automation are 3x more likely than companies without automation to track and attribute their content-marketing efforts to multiple touchpoints (36% to 11%).  (Source: The Lenskold and Pedowitz Groups, 2013 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study)

Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads. (Source: The Annuitas Group)

Companies that automate lead management see a 10% or greater increase in revenue in 6-9 months. (Source: Gartner Research)

Marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead. (Source: Nucleus Research)

Relevant emails delivered through marketing automation drive 18 times more revenue than email blasts. (Source: Jupiter Research)

Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Source: Forrester Research)

Companies that use marketing automation are nearly 2X more likely to capture intelligence for the sales team than companies without automation. (Source: The Lenskold and Pedowitz Groups)

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Leveraging marketing automation software can provide your online marketing program a much-needed boost. It saves you time, cuts costs and increases reach and engagement by sending relevant and timely content to prospects. It can also show proof that marketing delivers measureable, bottom-line results.

As an APEX Agency Partner with Act-On Software, circle S helps clients plan, design and implement effective digital marketing programs across all channels using the Act-On marketing automation platform.