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Marketing automation: an accelerating solution

This article appears in the issue February 2015 [Vol 24, Issue 2]
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Analytics close the deal

Ideally, marketing automation provides the ability to perform, track and measure all marketing efforts within one application, according to Marcus Sheridan, CEO of The Sales Lion, a digital marketing advisory firm. “At no previous point have we been able to measure as we can today,” says Sheridan. “It is now possible to track the ROI of just about any digital marketing initiative. With advanced analytics, it is now possible to determine whether an e-mail, organic search or social share brought the customer in to your website.”

Sheridan speaks from experience, having used marketing automation software in a business he founded and still owns. In one marketing initiative, his company developed content that was of broad interest to potential purchasers. “Because we were using marketing automation software,” he says, “we knew that the article generated 500,000 visits to our website. We knew how many appointments were generated by the article, how many sales resulted from it, and were able to trace $2.5 million in revenue back to that single article—revenue we would not otherwise have received.”

More options

He disputes the implications of the term “automation,” however, because it suggests the absence of human intervention. “Although the software automates many aspects of the marketing process, people do need to be involved,” Sheridan observes, “especially when it comes to interpreting the information that the analytics provide.”

The multichannel world has posed significant challenges for marketers, and not just in the increasing importance of integrating marketing activities across silos. “Engaging an audience with Twitter is a different process from marketing using e-mail,” says Forrester’s Wizdo. “Mastering the tools for doing so is important, along with the recognition that buyers have a lot more control over the purchase process and many more options for acquiring information about products.”

As much as the technology can help, marketers may need a paradigm shift to optimize their use of the tools. “It’s not about designing e-mail messages and blasting them out anymore,” says Valentine. “It’s about understanding how to write rules to personalize messages and integrating data from a lot of sources.” To make the most of the technology options now available, marketers will need to become more sophisticated in their strategies and more proficient in their skills.

 Components of marketing automation software

Landing page support: A potential customer who clicks on an ad or search result arrives on a landing page that provides further information or an offer. Marketing automation software products can personalize landing pages based on what they know about the individual’s characteristics or behavior. The products also provide templates for landing page design. Products that provide A/B testing allow marketers to determine which of two landing pages has a better click-through rate.

Lead management and scoring: Prospects receive e-mail offers or relevant content during this phase, and may receive a score based on factors that are related to the likelihood of conversion. The score will help determine the priority that the selling company places on nurturing a lead. Those factors could include the prospect’s level of interest based on interactions such as requesting information, or segmented information based on demographics or other characteristics.

Analytics: The analytics capability of marketing automation solutions provides metrics on factors such as how site visitors are spending their time, what products are of interest and to what degree different marketing campaigns have been effective. By providing the ROI for different campaigns, marketing automation software lets companies spend their dollars effectively.

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