What is Marketing Automation?

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

First things first, let’s get the part where I lie to you out of the way:

Marketing automation is a magic bullet that will completely turnkey your entire online marketing process. It will transform your online presence into a dynamic lead machine that will attract scores of new users and automatically convert them into paid customers. Meanwhile you’ll be sipping daiquiris on the beach with Tim Ferriss, discussing the formation of your new emo-alternative rock band “The Trust Fund Babies”.

Wrong.

Yes, marketing automation is an amazingly powerful tool that, in my opinion, will soon become as ubiquitous and necessary as email marketing is today. However, like all shiny new toys the internet Santa Clauses at us, marketing automation is currently being touted around town as an absolute marketing panacea; a promise it will inevitably fall short of fulfilling. So what is marketing automation really?

Marketing Automation according to Wikipedia:

Marketing automation refers to software platforms designed for marketing departments and organizations to automate repetitive tasks. Marketing departments […] benefit by specifying criteria and outcomes for tasks and processes which are then interpreted, stored and executed by software, which increases efficiency and reduces human error. Originally focused on email marketing automation, marketing automation refers to a broad range of automation and analytic tools for marketing.
The use of a marketing automation platform is to streamline sales and marketing organizations by replacing high-touch, repetitive manual processes with automated solutions.

Right off the bat what bothers me about this definition is the assertion that marketing automation is a software platform. I believe marketing automation to be a methodology that utilizes one or multiple tools to automate marketing processes. While I realize I’m splitting hairs, I also believe that the paradigm we approach something with has an immense power to alter the way we interact with said “thing”. Approaching marketing automation as though it’s a software, limits our thinking to the tools made available by the software we choose.

Instead of thinking of it as a software platform, marketing automation should be thought of as a diverse and highly creative approach to digital marketing with which we utilize software to accomplish our automated marketing goals. The most important implication here being that the methodology comes first and foremost. Tools should be sought out to accomplish marketing automation goals instead of our goals being at the mercy of any specific tool set. Keeping this mind set will enable us as marketers to adapt and grow at an exponentially greater rate of advancement. I’ll be the first to admit that the tools we use are of great importance, but the tools should always play second fiddle to the practice.

I shall annoyingly repeat myself for dramatic emphasis: Marketing Automation is a methodology, not a software.

With this new paradigm in mind, here’s my attempt at recrafting the definition:

Marketing Automation is a methodology wherein marketers utilize software toolsets in order to strategically and creatively automate digital marketing tasks and processes. This is done with the aim of increasing the efficacy of marketing initiatives, liberating personnel resources from tedious and repetitive procedures, enhancing an organization’s ability to serve and nurture leads, and systemizing the intake of new and qualified prospects, all on an exponential level.

What can marketing automation do for you?

Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (Business 2 Community)

Marketing automation is a proactive approach to customer engagement. It’s the idea that you can create digital tools and workflows that will allow you to automate the building of a personal relationship with everyone that engages with you online. Ideally, it functions the same way a sales person would in interacting directly with a prospect: determining their specific needs, qualifying them as an appropriate match for your organization, and gradually nurturing them towards a sale.

Marketing automation will allow you to deliver high value information regarding each prospect’s specific interests while building a detailed profile around who they are, their organization, their specific needs and their ongoing interaction with your digital properties.

As stupid as it may sound, I like to think of marketing automation as a small step towards artificial intelligence. We can “teach” our marketing automation system specific rules (if a prospect does this then we respond with that) which, when done right, creates a virtual robot that engages with our prospects in the same way a salesperson would.

What’s truly amazing about marketing automation, and the reason for it’s branding as the new cure-all for digital marketing woes, is that it can be exponentially more effective than a salesperson from a high level. It has practically unlimited capacity, absolute consistency, and the ability to measure and monitor every single interaction in order to determine what is working, what isn’t, and where adjustments need to be made.

While marketing automation won’t replace your sales team (yet) it will allow them to focus only on the most qualified leads while your “robot” does the dirty work of bringing new, inbound prospects down the sales funnel and slowly, but surely, turning them into red hot, qualified leads. I realize that’s a lot to promise but, while the process isn’t quite as “turn key” as the fanboys are pretending it to be, I think you’ll end up amazed at how easy it is to get started.

So…now what? Let’s talk! If you’re willing to give us fifteen minutes of your time we can give you clarity and direction when it comes to websites and marketing.