Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain those customers, and 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result. McKinsey Global Institute 

In the simplest terms, marketing automation includes any tools or platforms that automate marketing tasks, manage data across various channels, and allow for data analysis over time. Automation tools don’t just make life easier for companies – but more importantly, they revolutionize the experience for their customers.

A Forrester study estimates that by 2023, annual spending on automation tools will more than double. That’s $25.1 billion spent annually by 2023.

But with all this money flowing out, many organizations aren’t trained in using automation technology – let alone understanding its long-term capabilities.

One survey revealed that 58% of marketers reported they were struggling to find efficient strategies to make use of automation tools. In other words, they have the power, but not the expertise to wield it.

While we’re well on our way to transforming UX through data-driven decision-making, a vast learning curve lies ahead. Data and automation can strengthen customer relationships, increase marketing ROI, and save time and energy. This is the untapped potential of technology and the future of business.

What Can Businesses Do with Automation?

Asking what businesses can do with automation is like asking what someone can do with a computer. There are limitless options.

When it comes to marketing, there are several areas that directly benefit from automation now – customer relationship management, social media, email marketing, landing pages, and lead generation to name a few.

To be more specific, let’s say you want to segment your email lists into geographic groups. Or send an email to everyone who purchased a specific product. Or remember to follow up automatically with customer support issues. Maybe you want to send out product recommendations periodically without having to remember, or retarget leads who recently visited your site in a timely manner.

Individually, these tasks are simple enough, but altogether, they can take hours and create significant confusion. Furthermore, without the data to review your past results, it can be nearly impossible to tell whether performance is improving in any given area.

In this sense, we can look at automation as a means of taking radical responsibility for your marketing processes (without the headache). It’s the difference between uncertainty/unease and confident scalable marketing that generates measurable results.

What Can Businesses Expect from Automation Platforms?

Automation is one thing – You can automate in simple ways on platforms like Facebook and Hootsuite. But bring together automation and integration for an exponentially more efficient, data-driven, marketing program. One of the best things about a solid automation system is that it brings all your other tools together in one place.

Let’s look at Salesforce as an example. This platform takes a CRM approach, fusing sales, marketing, and customer service so your whole company has a 360-degree view of the user experience for each individual – not just your userbase as a whole. Salesforce knows that personalization is paving the future of successful business. It’s a highly customizable platform that can adapt as your business grows or changes course.

Hubspot is another great example of a platform that allows you to streamline all marketing tasks from one central command center. Using workflows, companies can manage email lists, send internal notifications, select conditions and triggers for automatic personalized emails. Imagine the free time that opens up for a team whose lead generation strategy is set to autopilot – tasks are handled in a uniform manner and nothing falls through the cracks from the inevitable human error.

Getting Started with Marketing Automation

Before even researching tools and technology, it’s important to gain as much clarity as you can.

The first step is likely the easiest – reviewing your current marketing strategy, tech stack, and their shortcomings. Identifying the weak spots or difficult aspects of running your business is probably obvious for you and/or your marketing team. You already have an idea of what’s not getting results, or what’s really time-consuming and laborious. Having this knowledge front and center as you search for marketing solutions will help guide your decisions. It will also keep you from drifting in too many different directions as you explore the endless possibilities these platforms offer.

Next is a step you’ve probably heard often: Have a goal. Plunging into automation technology without a goal is just like plunging in without knowing your specific weak spots – How will you know what choices to make? Your goal may be as broad as nurturing leads or as specific as generating 100 new subscribers per month. In any case, you’ll be better able to analyze your data for effectiveness when you know what results you’re looking for.

Finally, your automation tools are only as effective as the people who use them. Training your team to step outside their comfort zones and learn new marketing technologies will round out your results. This means working to eliminate silos between departments like marketing, sales, and IT. Strategic decisions that allow all team members to play a role, or at least be in-the-know about the company’s automation tools with create cohesion. Automation platforms are a great way to foster a culture of centralized data, collaboration, and clearer communication which creates cohesion within the organization.

Ready to dive in and learn more about data and automation for small business? Read more on the blog or get in touch to start optimizing your marketing ROI.