Tag: blogs

Adrian McDermottAdrian McDermott October 30, 2012

What is marketing automation software?

Why marketers need more automation

Marketing has never been more central to business success. As globalisation and the software revolution drive commoditization and price pressure ever faster, the Web gives customers more independence, choice and information than ever, too. That creates huge pressure on marketers to get it right, fast. Marketing is more complex than it has ever been, as with the web, social media, email and mobile there are a growing number of new channels

But how about seeing it as opportunity rather than pressure? As inbound marketing has risen in prominence, customers are attracted by companies that pay them the right kind of attention and offer them what they really want. That means businesses no longer having to compete by spending the most money on advertising and PR, but really working harder and smarter.

By smarter I mean thinking more intelligently about the customer, and using smarter tools to manage the marketing complexity and get and use the best data. Software is essential to help develop, analyse and manage campaigns, and segment and nurture leads. So what exactly is offered and what does it all do? Many of these tools are familiar, some are just maturing, so this seems like a good time to summarise them.

The 4 main functions of marketing automation

  1. Demand generation software helps companies create attention through search-related ads and SEO, finding and tracking keywords, tracking responses and finding and diagnosing poor performance.
  2. Marketing intelligence software tracks behaviour of prospects through social media, web pages and email to try to segment them and attract a response (call to action).
  3. Marketing automation moves leads through the marketing funnel, normally from a landing page, to nurturing in order to trigger actions from marketing staff and, depending on lead scoring, sales staff. Emails and related content (e.g. e-newsletters) are integrated into the sales process.
  4. Workflow automation: Budgeting of campaigns, workflow and co-ordination of sales and marketing staff, data-sharing, content creation, scheduling and targeting. This is a particular strength of most of the enterprise cross-channel marketing software vendors.

Because of the level of integration, it is hard to split up products into separate boxes. Each activity in each phase of a campaign uses workflow integration, is generally dependent on actions by leads, triggers responses, and produces data that feeds back into the process. So, for example, blog management software can integrate with SEO by selecting keywords automatically, can track responses, feed into the social media analytics to assess effect on reputation scoring and much else – and the blog itself can be part of both lead generation and lead nurturing.

What tools are included?

The following activities are co-ordinated, integrated and can be assisted or even automated

  • SEO
  • online advertising (including social media and mobile)
  • web analytics
  • social media monitoring
  • blog management
  • crowdsourcing
  • customer community management
  • landing page management
  • email management
  • lead scoring
  • lead nurturing
  • lead management
  • customer decisioning

Cross-Channel Campaign Management

These products put many of these tools together. They are strong on co-ordination and analytics. Software offerings help to plan and co-ordinate campaigns using the various channels, offering:

  1. Campaign design and execution
  2. Interaction management
  3. Analytics and reporting

Well known names include SAS, IBM, Oracle (Siebel), Alterian and many others, but there are many niche companies. According to Forrester Waves In Cross-Channel Campaign Management 2010, social media and mobile analytics and activities are weak spots in all of the big name offerings, suggesting plenty of opportunity for niche companies.

Social media

Blogs and social media platforms generate web content fast, are much read and shared, and have SEO advantages, and some smaller cross-channel vendors are particularly expert in this as they started as social media marketing rather than enterprise software companies.

Blogs: Blogs are a kind of a hub product because they combine social features, SEO advantages, and content; and also because they are less formal than articles but may be just as informative. The generally accepted statistic is that companies that blog regularly attract 50% more leads. Software can help with SEO, link to campaigns and measure response.

Social media monitoring / management tools: These monitor what is happening in the social media sites and blogs and can measure reputation – either as a general background activity to suggest opportunities or alert to problems – or as part of a campaign where they can measure effectiveness or trigger actions (interactions, advertising, targeted social media activities).

Customer community management: You might normally think of B2C markets exclusively when the terms “community” or “social marketing” are used, but the underlying dynamics of consumer-centered tools adapt themselves well to enterprise software, allowing stakeholders, from customers to the entire supply chain, to pool ideas and knowledge. This can dramatically ease support issues, reduce product development time and improve customer-centricity of product management and marketing planning.

Crowdsourcing: Taking the notion of community management and innovation into the wider world, crowdsourcing is a clever way to do market research, pool ideas and drive innovation, and at the same time generate demand and involvement through participation. As with customer community management, the challenge for companies is that such tools break across conventional boundaries between PR, market research, product management and marketing, so are hard to fit into existing staff roles. Much of the challenge is how to structure and measure the marketing functions rather than how to use this tool!

This is now an interesting time for marketing software. The ideal in marketing is to be able to begin a conversation with each prospect as an individual, and maintain it on this basis throughout the series of customer transactions that follow. In a mass-marketing model that idea was so idealized as to be largely useless, but today’s campaign and social media software allow businesses actually to try to put it into action. With the growing prominence of the social and mobile web, the landscape is changing fast, so there will be plenty of new players, and there is still plenty of room for existing products to improve, as Big Data, social media and personalization come of age.