The internet and its inherently dynamic nature have caused a tidal shift in how media and content are used. It has also brought in a shift in how it is consumed, with a change in behavioral aspects. Whilst the traditional channels of radio, print, and television have remained relevant, the use of online platforms has seen its surge in being considered among the primary sources of media. This can mainly be attributed to how the digital means of media allows for better tracking, targeting, and analytics. This in turn has a proportionate effect on adopting different cost-effective strategies, ensuring brands can have consistent growth with lesser overall spending.
While marketing technologies came into the market around the 80s, their usage in the present day has allowed them to use different forms of data more effectively and efficiently. This has also led to the transformation of different database marketing software solutions to marketing automation platforms with a plethora of features of UI that is more efficient. But, the most common question every marketer is asking is ‘what is a marketing automation platform’?
So, before we move forward, let us address the elephant in the room – what is a marketing automation platform?
Organizations across the world have the same inherent desire – to grow faster through a higher revenue with the lowest possible spending. Whilst the desire is the same for every organization, almost everyone has the same set of struggles – the inability to align people, processes, and technology to attain these goals.
In simple words to answer what is a marketing automation platform, it is a platform that solves all these issues, by helping companies automate, streamline and measure different marketing workflows and tasks to increase operational efficiency. Much like any software solution, a marketing automation platform effectively manages all the redundant tasks that are applicable in modern marketing practices. It also enables the alignment of different channels to manage lead segmentation, generation, and nurturing. Moreover, the platform also helps in relationship marketing, lead retention, cross-selling, and upselling whilst managing the ROI measurement.
So, what is a marketing automation software platform for agencies?
When we look at what is a marketing automation platform for agencies, it can simply be looked at as the tool that automates different marketing activities for agencies. Agencies across the world are looking to automate different tasks like social media posting, publishing ad campaigns, and email marketing not just to increase efficiency, but also to make it more personalized. This task of having a platform that automates different redundant tasks is extremely beneficial for agencies as they can then delegate their resources and time to more pressing issues and requirements of the clients.
What do marketing automation software platforms do?
In our quest to answer what is a marketing automation platform, it is also important to know what a marketing automation platform actually does.
A marketing automation platform is primarily designed to help marketers foster relationships, capture leads, and funnel relevant leads through the relevant sales channel. This process is carried out across different categories that include the likes of multi-channel marketing, social media, web marketing among others. Along the same lines, a marketing automation platform also harnesses relevant consumer data to develop marketing tactics and strategies for different channels. Moreover, a marketing automation platform also lets companies scale their efforts to build more prospects across different channels whilst providing them with a consistent experience.
What are the different types of marketing automation platform available?
Depending on the needs of an organization or an agency, there are different types of marketing automation platforms in the market. The 5 most used types of marketing automation platforms are:
- Customer relationship management software
- Email marketing software
- Sales & marketing workflow automation software
- Social media marketing software
- Marketing analytics software
Who can make use of a marketing automation platform?
Though the question seems almost straightforward, the answer to who can make use of a marketing automation platform is unfortunately not as straightforward. Whilst we’ve spoken about how a marketing automation platform can help in inbound marketing and sales performance, here are a few other facets that can shed better light on who needs a marketing automation platform:
- Marketers who spend more time updating and carrying out standard operating procedures
- Marketers who aren’t able to nurture the leads effectively
- Marketers who manually manage email campaigns and blog posts
- Marketers who cannot assimilate trackable metrics for different marketing activities
- Marketers who aren’t able to generate the required leads and sales through their website
- Marketers who want to maximize their email list
- Marketers who want to better understand their content marketing strategies
Benefits of a marketing automation platform
When we look at what is a marketing automation platform, we look at it as an overarching solution or tool that allows organizations to increase their operational efficiency which in turn helps them in growing their revenue. But, the core benefits of a marketing automation platform are much simpler and universal. Here are 5 such benefits:
- Facilitating effective marketing spends
- Ensuring time is saved
- Potential for scalability
- Cementing a long-lasting partnership between sales and marketing teams
- Having a concrete measure for success
Features of a marketing automation platform
Now that we are formulating an answer for what is a marketing automation platform, it is also important to know the key features in one. Only when businesses understand the features of a platform will they be able to utilize it effectively for their benefit. Here are a few functionalities or features that must be present in every marketing automation platform:
- Lead Management
- Email Campaigns
- Social Marketing
- Real-time Alerts
- Basic Organized Workflow
- Trigger Responses
- Customized Templates
- Personalized Messaging
What are the challenges involved?
Though a marketing automation platform is designed to ease marketers from the burden of redundant tasks, there are a few challenges that users face. These include:
Adopting the software
Most companies fall prey to the misconception that a marketing automation platform would solve all their marketing woes. Whilst the platform offers a plethora of benefits, it is imperative for businesses to know its limitations too. Having a clear idea of the software and its limited use cases across different functionalities can help businesses in adopting one more seamlessly.
Difficulties around deliverability
One of the biggest problems that different email marketing and social media marketing strategies face is delivery. A marketing automation platform cannot magically solve this issue. Automation software is just as effective as the email strategy or the social media campaign that it is meant to deliver. Only when marketers follow the right etiquette and principles, will the software be effective.
Managing leads that are scored
Businesses rely on marketing automation platforms to improve their lead generation strategies. But this advantage is rendered ineffective if the leads aren’t scored appropriately by the marketing and sales teams that are involved. Only when the teams work in synergy with the software, can it help in managing the leads effectively and efficiently.
Marketing automation platform Use cases
At a time when small businesses need to follow a bottom-up approach to remain agile, a marketing automation platform offers the right incentives through its specific use-cases. Here are a few use cases of marketing automation platforms that small businesses can greatly benefit from:
More than 74% of the marketers feel that marketing automation saves a considerable amount of time, directly increasing productivity.
Generation of revenue
With more than 90% of the businesses feeling that a marketing automation platform has helped them in the conversion of their leads, the impetus of a marketing automation platform cannot be attested any further.
Retention of customers
More than 69% of B2B marketers use marketing automation platforms to generate new leads and 50% of the marketers among them use it to retain their clients. This is done by preempting their needs and meeting them at the right time.
Tracking and measuring
Data and reports can help small businesses focus on areas that need their attention. It also helps them in increasing their success rate among campaigns.
Key factors to consider while choosing a marketing automation platform?
While enough emphasis has been laid on what is a marketing automation platform, it is time to look at the key factors that organizations must consider before investing in one:
- Ease of use and set up of workflows
- Tagging or flagging
- Number of users that can be managed and scaled
- Spam compliance rules and setup
- Number of triggers
- Ability to personalize
- Number of actions
- Integration with APIs and third-party applications
How to set up a marketing automation platform for your business?
While blogs like these are meant to answer pertinent questions like what is a marketing automation platform and the key factors to consider before choosing a marketing automation platform, here are few steps that marketers must follow to set up a marketing automation platform for their business:
- Create a list of requirements
- Research all the features that are needed
- Consider the costing of each software
- Look at what the market is saying
- Check for their support capabilities
- Have a shortlist ready
- Test all the features through their demo versions
- Frame a decision by getting approval from all teams
What is the cost of a marketing automation platform?
There are different types of marketing automation platforms in the market, with different price packages. Catering to varied needs, the onus is on businesses to choose the software that fits their present needs and has the potential to scale for the future.
Low tier software automation platforms can cost anywhere between $1200 to $300 per year. Middle tier vendors can charge anywhere between $12,000 to $24,000 annually. Top tier vendors can charge around $45,000 per year depending upon the services that are being offered.
While we started out to answer the simple question of ‘what is a marketing automation platform’, we’ve deep-dived into numerous factors that can help organizations and marketers make a more informed decision when it comes to choosing the software. Whilst marketing automation platforms can be placed under the same umbrella as other automation platforms, it is important to realize that a marketing automation platform can work best when relevant strategies are combined with the right mix of creativity and logic.