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New Uses for Marketing Automation
The already effective technology will become even more valuable in the future
For the rest of the December 2016 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Online market research platform FlexMR is committed to providing online research tools to the technophile and technophobe alike, with the goal of ensuring that market research keeps up with consumer behavior. But with a collection of unaligned marketing tools, the company was struggling to meet this goal. Seeking an alternative, FlexMR turned to HubSpot, as it was particularly impressed with the vendor’s marketing automation capabilities. Since implementing HubSpot, FlexMR has seen a twofold increase in leads and website traffic, as well as a 108 percent increase in organic traffic.

With customers expecting personalized experiences, marketing automation has become essential for businesses. While its roots are in email marketing, the technology has expanded to include other aspects of customization. In addition, although marketing automation has traditionally been associated with the operations of enterprise companies, small and medium-size businesses are also benefiting from it. Furthermore, innovations in artificial intelligence will continue to enhance marketing automation solutions, enabling organizations to continue using them in innovative ways.

MARKETING AUTOMATION HAS MOVED BEYOND EMAIL

“It’s very important for organizations to start using marketing automation more because consumers or contacts are more empowered than ever—they have information at their fingertips,” says Hank Hoffmeier, manager of strategic services at iContact. “You need to find the right message and deliver it at the right time, and it has to be relevant and personalized.”

Traditionally, businesses have employed marketing automation solutions strictly for email campaigns. But this has started to change in recent years, with companies utilizing marketing automation capabilities for tasks such as website personalization. According to Meghan Anderson, vice president of marketing at HubSpot, using marketing automation solely for email marketing fails to unleash the power of the solution to put companies “in lockstep with customer behavior.” Hoffmeier adds that marketing departments have begun to think of marketing automation solutions as members of their organizations because they help them exceed expectations by assuming responsibility for significant portions of their workload.

Personalizing website content has become perhaps the most essential use for marketing automation technology. Five or six years ago, customers didn’t expect websites to adapt around them, but since then they have become habituated to the customized experiences delivered by companies such as Netflix and Amazon, Anderson says. For this reason, more companies are starting to incorporate marketing automation into their inbound marketing strategies. Bruce Culbert, chief service officer at the Pedowitz Group, agrees, saying that while marketing automation solutions improve email communications in lots of different ways, using marketing automation as part of an inbound marketing strategy can enable the tracking of unknown visitors, so that when they reveal themselves, significant data on them has already been compiled.

Moreover, Culbert sees marketing automation as essential to customer engagement in today’s environment. “The marketing automation solution really is becoming the customer engagement engine because it’s [not only] managing the interaction with customers [but also] is able to serve up the next set of actions and talk to other systems,” he says. “Whatever your customer engagement expectations are as a company, it’s really hard to achieve them if you don’t have marketing automation.” He also notes that as marketing automation systems become responsible for more actions, they will require people with more specialized skill sets—“technical, operational-type marketers” as opposed to “emotional, communication-type marketers.”

MARKETING AUTOMATION FOR ALL

As noted, it’s no longer just larger organizations that are making use of marketing automation; smaller businesses are also now leveraging it. And while businesses of diverse sizes face different challenges in deploying the technology, their goals are ultimately similar.

According to Culbert, small businesses often use marketing automation to make their operations “look bigger than they already are.” Marketing automation can make small companies “look pretty sophisticated in their engagement model with prospects and customers” and enable them to boost the performance of their limited marketing teams.

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