Inbound marketing is extraordinarily time-consuming. There's simply no two ways about it. Creating custom content, emails, social media, and lead generation offers can't be sped up without sacrificing results.
Marketer Loree O'Sullivan "conservatively" estimates a 50-75 hour time commitment each month. The solution to your time woes isn't less relevant marketing. It's likely maximizing your marketing automation.
Why Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is the concept of reducing manual efforts in your marketing program while taking advantage of tools that can automate critical processes and actions. This doesn't mean less personal marketing, however. The right automation tools can allow you to deliver relevant content to the right prospects, at precisely the right time.
Forrester defines marketing automation as "tooling and processes" which may:
- Generate new leads
- Improve existing leads likeliness to purchase
- Manage customer loyalty
- Improve sales and marketing alignment (SMarketing)
eMarketer research reveals a host of benefits associated with mature marketing automation adoption. 66% of marketers report "enhanced targeting" abilities, 64% experience "seamless campaign execution and tracking," and 61% are more efficient. In this blog, you'll learn seven key areas of your inbound marketing that should be automated ASAP. We'll also present automation maturity guidelines to help you assess whether you've achieved maximum efficiency.
For more insights, we recommend Lean Lab's recent blog How to Create and Use Marketing Automation to Reduce Man Hours.
1. Blog Promotion
Writing lower-quality content isn't the solution to saving time on your content marketing. This component of inbound is, by nature, incredibly time-consuming. Nectafy reports their inbound marketing professionals spend about 45% of their time writing, editing, and updating web content. The breakdown is likely similar for inbound pros at organizations in almost any industry.
The key to improving your blog marketing metrics is probably more effective content promotion. Expert Derek Halpern is a firm believer that content success is 20% creation and 80% promotion. By automating your content promotion tasks, you can reduce the time needed to manually share your content with your contacts.
What Mature Blog Promotion Automation Looks Like:
- Automated email notifications of new blogs to subscribers
- Instant publication of links to new blogs on company social media channels
- Link integration with your social media scheduling tool for simple re-promotion
- RSS syndication on Business2Community and other relevant resources - optional
- Instant publication of links to employee social media profiles - optional
2. Social Media
Certain aspects of social media management simply can't be automated. You can't assign even the most sophisticated software to engage your followers and build relationships. While there are tools available to auto-respond to Twitter follows and ReTweets, using a robot to interact with other humans isn't necessarily a best practice. By understanding the aspects of social media that should (and shouldn't) be automated, you can improve efficiency.
What Mature Social Media Management Automation Looks Like:
- Adoption of an easy-to-use social scheduling tool
- Content curation recommendations around industry keywords and terms
- The ability to seamlessly analyze your social media analytics
- Social listening for brand, industry, and keyword mentions in real-time
- Integration with your contacts database for sales and marketing intelligence
3. Email Marketing Promotions
It isn't difficult to draft an email in HubSpot or Mailchimp when you create a new campaign and blast an announcement to your entire contacts list. However, mass email marketing is no longer an effective marketing tactic. Effective list segmentation is among the most important steps marketers can take to improve their email results.
Maturity in email marketing shouldn't look like regularly-scheduled auto-blasts to your entire email list. It should involve easy-to-use tools to manage your contacts and slice and dice your list into accurate segments. Your contacts will be grateful for more relevant communications.
What Mature Email Promotion Automation Looks Like:
- Gaining the ability to easily segment contacts by buyer persona or stage in the buying cycle
- Automated list cleaning, including prompted removal of invalid email addresses
- Subject line and body personalization with contact's first name and other personalization factors
- The ability to integrate call-to-action buttons to increase conversion and re-conversion potential
- Easy-to-use, attractive email templates that eliminate the need for complex email design
- Email analytics to measure results, apply intelligence, and improve
4. Behaviorally-Triggered Emails
Currently, only 20% of marketers are using behaviorally-triggered email marketing in their digital campaigns. Allowing your prospect and customer behavior to automatically "trigger" marketing communications can significantly increase your potential for building meaningful relationships.
Implementing behavioral triggers is especially critical in competitive or technology-driven spaces, which can benefit immensely from triggered communications. Who hasn't received a "cart abandoned" email from an eCommerce vendor? Or a follow-up note in your inbox when you failed to book on an online travel comparison engine? While your industry will likely dictate the type of triggers you implement, some triggered emails are appropriate for virtually any organization.
What Mature Behaviorally-Triggered Email Automation Looks Like:
- Email subscription confirmation for new blog subscribers
- Follow-up emails for newly-converted leads
- Unsubscribe confirmations for contacts who opt-out of communications
- Abandoned cart follow-ups for eCommerce vendors
- Recommendations of complimentary products or upgrades for product-driven organizations
- Reminders to repurchase/restore products that need replenishment
5. Lead Management
Gartner research has found that companies who implement "mature lead management processes," including automation are virtually guaranteed significant ROI. The average is at least 10% increases in revenue within just 6-9 months.
Lead management is notoriously challenging. At many companies, sales and marketing are sworn enemies. However, automation tools can make the process of managing your contacts much simpler. If you're still cold-calling your inbound leads or trying to manually qualify your new contacts, you're working too hard. All-in-one marketing tools, CRM, or other automation platforms can make lead management much more accurate and simpler.
What Mature Lead Management Automation Looks Like:
- Automatic lead qualification, based on established qualification criteria
- Sales/marketing handoffs, based on a lead's score and stage in the buying cycle
- Automatic population of publicly-available data (such as company size and address) in lead profiles
- Integration of web analytics to increase the lead qualification score of engaged contacts
- Personalized content recommendations for repeat site visitors
- Dynamic forms for progressive profiling, or further qualifying leads on re-conversions
6. A/B Testing
Integrating A/B testing can allow organizations to significantly increase their potential for qualified lead conversion. Continually testing your website can reveal critical opportunities for improvement and insights into your ideal customers. It's a scientific approach to continually improving your company's website to best meet the needs of your future customers. Small improvements based on the results of A/B testing data can lead to remarkable conversion rates.
For organizations that are struggling to complete enough inbound marketing tasks, adding A/B testing via marketing software or a CMS add-on can seem daunting. However, the results will almost certainly be worth your time. You'll gain the ability to design marketing experiments, gather results, and apply intelligence with minimal effort.
What Mature A/B Testing Automation Looks Like:
- Testing call-to-action buttons
- Split testing landing page forms
- A/B testing emails, including delayed send, based on initial A/B test results
- Comparative testing of website navigation bars
- The ability to test visual elements, page copy, and layouts
7. Reporting and Data Analytics
If your team feels like they need to go back to school for advanced computer science training to understand your analytics tool, you're almost certainly working too hard. It's easy to get lost in the minute details of your website analytics to the point you fail to derive real intelligence. Ultimately, marketers need the ability to quickly identify the content and campaigns that are driving traffic, leads, and customers. You should be able to evaluate your traffic by source.
With an automated analytics tool that provides easy-to-create user roles, you can ensure that every individual in your organization has access to the right marketing metrics in real-time.
What Mature Marketing Analytics Automation Looks Like:
- Site Analytics
- Social Media Analytics
- Email Analytics
- Closed-Loop Analytics
Marketing Automation Success
Inbound marketing is beloved by consumers because it's personal. Instead of being bombarded with impersonal messages, consumers are able to discover brands and products on their own terms. Integrating marketing automation won't reduce your brand's likability. It won't damage your ability to deliver personalized, high-value experiences to prospects and customers, either. When correctly implementing, tools like HubSpot, Marketo, InfusionSoft, and others provide marketers with the ability to save time, drive better results, and scale their results to (almost) infinity.