This blog post was updated on February 7, 2020. 

Modern marketing campaigns are fragmented with different channels and lots of moving parts.  An interested buyer might see your ad in a trade magazine, see your AdWords ad in a Google search, like your social media page, and subscribe to your email newsletter all before deciding to buy from you.

It can get a little complicated.

It’s no surprise, then, that small business owners want the most help when it comes to creating a sales and marketing process. Segmenting contacts, sending catered messages, nurturing, tracking, and converting can take a lot of manual labor and time.

That’s where marketing automation comes in.

Marketing automation is key to saving you time while making sure that every contact is being nurtured for your best chance to turn them into a customer and a loyal fan of your business.

Let’s take a deep dive into the various features and areas of marketing automation that save you a ton of time.

Tasks Marketing Automation Takes Off Your Plate

1. Lead Nurturing

Wish you could regularly communicate with leads so that they’d move closer to being sales-qualified leads? One effective marketing automation functionality is a drip-email campaign.

Pre-written emails are sent out to specific individuals at the right time when they perform a specific action. Once you’ve written them, your marketing automation software handles the timing and sending, allowing you to nurture leads without spending your entire day sending emails.

Each customer has a path to take before making the decision to buy – whether it’s investing in new technology, partnering with a business consultant, or choosing the right insurance.

That path – the buyer’s journey – can include blog content, social media, digital ads, emails, and phone calls. You can’t control exactly where buyers go, but you can help guide them in the right direction, shortening their journey.

Once you’ve been introduced to a new lead – maybe from a trade show list, lead magnet or networking event – a lead nurturing process can automate the flow of information to the buyer.  

For instance, say you’re a travel agent who specializes in corporate incentive trips. You meet several great contacts at a networking event, including the CEO of a midsize business. After such a short introduction, it’s not the right time to proceed with a sales pitch, but you want to stay on her radar.

You put her information into the CRM of your sales and marketing software and start her on an introduction campaign. The campaign automatically sends her an introduction about your company, then proceeds to send a sequence of your best blog posts regarding employee incentive programs.  

As she clicks blog post links and goes back to your website, she downloads your Incentive Trip Planning Checklist. The intro campaign stops, and she’s started down a more sales-focused campaign, sending a case study of businesses that have improved sales performance through your employee incentive trips. The case study is followed by a call-to-action to reach out to you for a free incentive trip itinerary. She follows through, and you’re on your way to winning another customer who has been warmed up with relevant, helpful information through the lead nurturing process.

2. Email Marketing

Email marketing campaigns, quarterly newsletters, end-of-the-month sales incentives – there are a lot of emails to create. In fact, most lead nurturing campaigns include multiple emails and some can be super short, but some can include 10 or more. Email has been around forever, but it’s still the most effective digital channel for converting contacts into customers.

Email can pay off, but getting bogged down in design woes can hinder your performance. Instead of reformatting every email you send, marketing automation lets you build and track email templates. Benefits include:

  • Maintaining a consistent look and feel for every email you send to prospects and customers, boosting recognition and recall of your brand.
  • Using merge fields to include personalized text in your emails, such as contact name, contact company, the contact’s sales rep and more.
  • Tracking email open and link click stats for each email template
  • Testing one template against another to see which templates perform the best.

Many marketing automation systems provide an email template library of predesigned templates so you can start out with a format that adheres to best practices, giving you an even greater chance of reaching prospects and customers in their inbox.

3. Lead Scoring and Segmenting

Not every lead is ready to talk to a sales rep. The quickest way to annoy your sales team is to send them the contact information of people who aren’t ready to make a purchasing decision.

With marketing automation software, you can assign scores to leads based on what kinds of activities they perform. So if someone just visited your site once, they probably aren’t very interested in buying your product or signing up for a subscription. But if they signed up for your newsletter, follow your social media, tune into your webinars, and downloaded your ebook, they are clearly an engaged lead who may respond to a sales call.

If you pulled a list in a standalone CRM, or even pulled up your contacts in Outlook, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell which contacts where hot prospects, and which were cold leads. Lead scoring allows you to approach marketing more efficiently by spending your time on promising prospects.

When you hook your CRM into marketing automation, however, you can track contacts’ activity and tally a score. With contact scores, you know who is ripe for reaching out to, and who could use a little more information about your business or their pain-point before starting a sales conversation.

For instance, you might give every lead one point for clicking an email link, five points for filling out a form on your website, and -10 points for unsubscribing from your newsletter.

Lead scoring your contacts with marketing automation gives you the information you need to determine what leads are most important to follow up on. You can intelligently prioritize people to contact so that no one will slip through the cracks. It also helps you understand what kind of activities you should perform (emails, calls, etc.) to move colder leads down the funnel.

Marketing automation allows you to segment your leads into respective contact lists. For example, a common pain point or interest in services. With an automated process, these emails can be drip-fed to these designated contact lists. Again, relevant content at the right time!

4. Content Management

Content is valuable, be it for your brand, your clients, or both. Prospects and customers want to be targeted specifically based on their interests, or they’ll pass you up for your competition. Marketing automation can help you manage that content efficiently and save your agency time by connecting the right content with the right leads. Below are several ways marketing automation software supports your agency’s content management:

  • Dynamic Content

Dynamic Content is “smart” content. It’s also your secret weapon. It adapts to the behaviors and interests of the lead, based on website data it gathers from your leads and customers. The content can be personalized based on the lead’s request or previous visits to your website. It also allows leads to submit information back to you, which will help you gain additional information on that lead’s behavior. And better yet, updating the materials is a lot simpler and less time consuming than doing it manually. 

  • Content Amplification

Take that valuable, dynamic content, and break out of the traditional organic strategies. Integrate it with paid, earned and owned tactics across multiple channels, such as websites, social media, and advertising.

5. Troubleshooting

With an automated process, it’s more apparent when you see a glitch or bottleneck in your system. You can identify these issues more quickly and find a solution in real-time, as opposed to waiting for next month’s report and seeing discrepancies that happen too late to make changes to.

Not only does marketing automation take things off your plate, but it also has built-in features that streamline your efforts and make getting things done a breeze. Here are a few of those features and how they help you save time. 

Marketing Automation Features You Need

1. Tagging

Few things stay static these days, and keeping tabs on your database of contacts can be a chore. Tags help you dynamically segment and filter your prospects and customers into lists you can easily target with hyper-relevant communication.

For instance, with BenchmarkONE marketing automation, you can tell BenchmarkONE to add tags to your contacts based on the pages they visit on your website, or the links they click in your emails.

So, if you’re a fitness center, you could tell BenchmarkONE to automatically add a “Yoga” tag to any contact that visits pages on your website that have information about yoga classes.

With tag rules, you can then create a rule like “if the ‘Yoga’ tag is added to a contact, send them a yoga email.”

As you learn more about your contacts’ preferences and activity, you can send them messages they can relate to and help them along the path to conversion in the most efficient way possible.

2. Tasks

Attracting, converting, closing, and delighting (the stages of the inbound marketing methodology) take time. It’s a process, which means there are multiple steps. But, with hundreds or thousands of contacts to keep tabs on, it’s easy for processes to break – causing hot opportunities to slip through the cracks.

Marketing automation helps keep processes and people on track with campaign workflows and tasks. So, if someone makes a purchase, downloads an ebook, or subscribes to your newsletter, your marketing automation software can automatically send the appropriate follow-up email, as well as create a task for a team member to follow-up.

Then, your customer-facing team – whether it be a salesperson or account manager – can easily keep track of follow-up, like meetings and calls.

3. Tracking

You can track engagement, lead source, contact status, sales rep and more, giving you precious insight into what’s working, and what’s eating up valuable resources in your sales and marketing process.

Other items you can track:

  • You can tell if one salesperson is particularly good at closing big deals. 
  • You can see what your top customer lead source is. 
  • You can tell which emails are getting the most click-throughs.

With data at your fingertips, you can easily turn up the dial on your sales and marketing efforts.

When the daily grunt-work of tracking, tallying and analyzing is all automated for you, your sales and marketing process actually gets less robotic and more personal. With marketing automation, you can free up time and resources to focus on growing key relationships for your business.

Digital marketing can seem complex, but with marketing automation, you can standardize processes, deliver a consistent customer experience and save a ton of time. Rather than focusing on manual, administrative tasks, your team is freed up to create awesome marketing content, follow-up with hot leads, and build better relationships with customers.