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If you’re even remotely involved in marketing strategy planning, on the client or agency side of the business, you have likely heard the term Marketing Automation thrown around in the past year. For many, it seems like another industry buzz word, but for those who pay attention it’s a new technology opportunity that connects the dollar signs between marketing, operations and sales. However, to truly understand the hole in our industry that this new breed of business technology solves, we first have to study the history of business tech platforms.

The History: Missing Marketing Technology

In the early days of the rise of computer technology for business, there was an emerging trend in software development to support the flow of information across a wide range of business functions. The nature of this development was to create automated efficiencies in the areas of supply chain and vendor management, accounting, human resources and sales, to name a few.

In 1990, the Gartner Group coined the acronym, ERP, for Enterprise Resource Planning – which essentially became the umbrella term for big-business software that addressed the above mentioned. The business of developing these integrated software “platforms” continued to emerge – and they relied on expensive hardware, network configurations, databases and consultants to help corporate IT teams implement them.

The Internet accelerated this development even further, fueling multi-billion dollar businesses like SAP, IBM and Oracle. By 2000, an emerging focus was CRM (customer relationship management) platforms that were web-based, as opposed to software that had to be installed on local servers and computers within a company. was an early leader, offering a web-based sales and lead management platform that no longer required corporate IT departments that would often spend years implementing and supporting these kinds of platforms. But in the last three decades of this development, there’s one important business function that’s been relatively absent of a platform that could stay current and integrate well with others being developed. That function was marketing.

The Rise of Marketing Automation

The fact that marketing has changed so quickly and often is part of what’s kept companies constantly seeking solutions from agencies around the globe. And although marketing agencies done a fair job of positioning ourselves as marketing integrators, our integration” has often been a labor-intensive cobbling together of tactics under disparate processes, tools and strategies.

Among the growing number of marketing agencies and “experts” who produce such varied results under such varied budgets – it’s no wonder why marketing is now frequently perceived by business owners as a cost center instead of a profit center.

Marketing automation helps fix this – and although there are many marketing automation platform providers (Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, etc.), the platform as a concept is now also emerging as a popular investment for numerous companies worldwide.

The Key Elements of Good Marketing Automation

Email Marketing — Able to send initial and scheduled message based on buyer interests, roles, personas and actions. Also the ability to tie-in email to specific lead actions or attributes. Email is the workhorse for most marketing automation platforms.

Landing Pages and Forms – Landing pages and forms drive folks from top of the funnel into your marketing nurture campaigns. Individual forms and pages can determine which leads receive which specific content.

Campaign Management — Whether your running a white-paper, web conference, blog or other type of content campaign, you need a tool to manage and interact with the leads who filter into your system.

Marketing Programs – Each specific piece of marketing content you produce should have a marketing plan behind it. With a marketing automation system you can build your email outreach, landing page, paid delivery and more around a piece of content.

Lead Generation – Associated advertising, social, WOM and search engine visibility tools to drive participation in your marketing system.

Lead Nurturing / Lead Scoring/ Lifecycle Management — Prioritization of customer types based on fit and likelihood to buy, in addition to the filtering of leads by engagement and interest. Assumes existing customers are always leads, and keeps them in a system that continuously delivers relevant content. On average, only 20% of leads are sales ready. Nurturing can result in 50% more sales leads at 33% lower cost per lead.

CRM Integration — Marketing automation transfers your leads to sales opportunities and follow-up. This includes technical integration of platforms like so your sales team becomes deeply engrained in marketing efforts.

Social Marketing Capabilities — Hootsuite is now integrated with many marketing automation platforms which starts to fill out the ROI mystery many companies have in social media efforts.

Resource Management – includes consultative services, knowledge bases, guides and how-to’s to get you started in this new environment.

Marketing Analytics — Lastly, Marketing Automation includes measurement of the revenue contribution of each campaign, marketing channel and associated marketing content piece. That means you can track costs associated with your website or PPC campaigns, and directly tie the leads generated from those campaigns back to closed sales opportunities.

Marketing Automation Benefits

  1. Saving time and money
  2. Measuring and optimizing marketing investments
  3. Faster revenue growth

When discussing outcomes from a marketing automation system, it is no longer about increased clicks, opens and impressions. The outcomes are more about positive impact to the sales pipeline, improved lead conversions by stage (awareness/attention, interest/consideration, decision, action), overall impact to revenue and ability to better enable Sales.

What Does This Mean for Me?

You might be asking yourself at this point, “why should I care?” The answer is simple. You can be doing a better job. If your organization has any operable sales and marketing initiatives planned for the next year, you have an opportunity to do your job better, and improve the bottom line for your company. If you’re like me that should make you very interested. We stated this before, but on average, only 20% of leads are sales ready. Nurturing can result in 50% more sales leads at 33% lower cost per lead. If you currently have no nurture system in place there is a good chance you are leaving sales on the table.

Below are a few links to resources you may find helpful:

This post is part of a series of articles on Marketing Automation from Room 214. We are a certified Marketo Agency Partner who can help you with implementing your automation system, provide consulting to align your sales and marketing teams and create content designed to connect with your marketing system to drive leads. To learn more visit our website