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unConference Session: Marketing Automation: What does it do, how can it help me, & is it worth my time?

We discovered in session today that this is a complicated answer. Some consider marketing automation to be spam mail. Some use it as an internal tool for their own employees, others use it to contact potential leads without putting in much effort. Email automation certainly isn’t the same thing as a website’s analytic processing, but the two can work together. It’s confusing.

There were some key things we took from this session.

The challenges:

  • Produce strategic content
  • Get readership from audience
  • Turn audience into customers

These three challenges are all nested under the biggest goal of all: make money.

The reason why most marketing automation isn’t working is because marketers seem to ignore those three challenges, and focus on the making money part. They use drip email campaigns which send a newsletter or an offer out every X amount of time. It’s automated, but it’s not personalized.

In order for marketing automation to work, there needs to be a real human being at the back-end of software to configure it to his or her own needs. We can’t just tell a computer to round us up some viewers and some money while they’re at it (yet…) Marketing takes time. You need to understand your viewer’s problem, and how to appeal to them. You need to allow your lead to make decisions and purchases on their own timeline, it’s your job to be there when they’re ready.

Let’s tackle these three challenges.

Produce Strategic Content
How are you supposed to know what kind of content to produce? One session go-er gives us some simple yet enlightening insight: ASK THEM. That shouldn’t be too hard these days given the number of social outlets and various resources available on the Internet. Your competition’s content is out there in the open, all you have to do is a quick Google search. Now here’s the hard part: actually producing it. It takes a good chunk of time to be producing content valuable to your audience, but it produces loyal customers and evangelists who will feel a connection to your product and brand.

Get Readership from Audience
How do you get people to your website? Everyone tells you: produce content. Oh boy, now we’re running in circles. Obviously your website has to be optimized for search, but more than that you have to be smart and strategic about what kind of content you put out to different audiences. Different customers prefer different mediums with which to receive your content, whether it’s via email, Facebook, Twitter, or other sources. Marketing automation systems can help you track which types of customers produce which types of content from which types of sources. But the software requires you to identify the characteristics of a “type” of customer and a “type” of content (video, blog, ebook, etc.) It takes a little bit of time, but this effort put in is what yields…

In order to turn leads into customers, we all agreed on a few things. 1) You HAVE to spend time understanding your viewer’s problem, and creating valuable content that helps them solve it. 2) your sales and marketing teams have to be communicating and combining their efforts. 3) timing is strategic.

Our session leader, Abigail Sewall, brought up a prominent issue with email marketing automation. Once a campaign is open for a customer, many marketers forget to close it when they start a new one. Now this customer is receiving 2x the unwanted mail from your company. Seems to me that would brew the exact opposite of brand loyalty. A huge part of understanding your viewer is realizing when they are not taking action (see: opening your e-mail) and adjusting your behavior accordingly.

One session goer mentioned something interesting going on in this space: the quantitative and the qualitative are coming together. Or at least, they should be. The analytical numbers behind these marketing efforts don’t mean anything if you can’t attach them to certain behaviors and actions. In order to call your marketing efforts a success, you must be able to attribute them to successful numbers.

Timing was also very important to a lot of people in the session. We agreed that e-mail campaigns should be triggered based on behaviors (I visited Delulah’s Dress shop online 5 times today…I should get an email about their products now instead of in 2 weeks.)

Overall, the session was highly interactive and explored not only what marketers’ automation problems are today, but what they can do fundamentally as marketers to fix them.

Rosalia Cefalu
Associate Product Marketing Manager, Hubspot
Rosalia is a marketer with a special interest in the digital space. She is a creative who spends her free time writing and dreaming about the future of the human-computer connection.

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