How Automation Can Improve Your Marketing

If you run a marketing team, you are probably inundated with vast numbers of emails and spreadsheets. You are not alone – most marketing teams still use these manual tools and processes to drive most of their activities. After all, where would a marketing plan be without a neat list of everything that needs to be done in Excel? For that matter, how would you make sure everything was lined up for a tradeshow, keep track of customers, or send off leads you had generated to sales?

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Actually, there is a better way that is more streamlined, more accurate and more flexible –automation. While traditional approaches to marketing activities may seem comfortable and familiar, the trouble is that they are highly inefficient and error-prone. Not only that, if all of your information is spread out over literally hundreds of different documents, it becomes very difficult to get hold of all the data you need to understand what your customers actually want, and analyzing it becomes a nightmare. Automation addresses this problem and many others by automating your existing marketing processes, and by letting you set up innovative new processes that wouldn’t be possible if you took a manual approach. It also centralizes all of your marketing and customer data, and then correlates it so that you have an integrated view of all of your marketing activities and of your interactions with customers.

Let’s start with a very basic example. You have a product line that has been profitable for years, but all of a sudden you see that sales are starting to decline. You talk to your sales group, who tell you that they are still winning the same percentage of opportunities that are coming in the door – so you know that competition is probably not the problem. However, sales tell you that they are having to spend more time closing existing deals, and that they don’t have the bandwidth to hunt for new prospects as a result.

You decide to take action and start a lead-generation campaign. This involves a combination of direct email and cold calling – you hire an agency to do the latter. Leads start to come in, and you forward them to the sales group. Unfortunately, this is the last that you see of these leads. You have no idea which ones are actually generating business, whether direct email or cold calling is producing better quality leads, or which types of prospects are more likely to make a purchase. In other words, you have put in a lot of effort, but you have no visibility into the results.

This is where workflow automation can make a significant difference. Instead of those leads going into a vacuum, with this type of system you can track each lead through the entire process from the time it is received up until the final sale. A workflow automation system from a company such as iDatix.com will automatically route leads as soon as they are received to the right salesperson based on criteria you decide – such as their territory. It can then track the status of that lead through different sales stages, and even prompt the salesperson to update that status on a regular basis. In fact, if you use another system such as Salesforce.com for lead tracking, the workflow information system can retrieve the status directly from that system without sales having to do anything at all.

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Of course, you probably don’t want to be involved in every sale. However, the beauty of a marketing automation system is that it stores the data from each individual sales process, and then provides tools that allow you to analyze that data. This gives you access to a whole range of useful information, such as which channels are most effective or which marketing messages led to the most successful conversions. The system could even tell you whether these types of metrics varied by customer type and geography.

This is only an example of the full potential of a marketing automation system. Because these types of systems are fully configurable, you can drive just about any marketing process. For instance, you could set up rules to automate drip-feed email campaigns to prospects. This is much more than just setting up an auto-responder – the system can make intelligent decisions about what to send based on the rules that you give it. To take another example, you could automatically siphon off a small number of prospects to do A/B testing on different marketing messages.