New Uses for Marketing Automation
But marketing automation needs data to power it, and small businesses invariably collect less of it than large ones do. “The difference is going to be the sheer amount of data that’s going to be available to use…and some tools may handle that data differently or better,” Hoffmeier says.
Anderson agrees. “What differs is the amount of data that you have to fuel that automation. When you’re just getting started and you’re a beginning company, there may be only a handful of things that you’re able to automate, and you may only know things like the pages that a prospective buyer is viewing on your website or the emails that they’ve opened, and you can use those cornerstone inputs to help build out your marketing automation program. As you get bigger…you’re going to get more inputs, more data to feed into that marketing automation, things like integration with other platforms.”
Nevertheless, regardless of a company’s size, the goals for marketing automation solutions are ultimately similar. According to Anderson, businesses are looking to develop a better understanding of their customers’ journeys and are utilizing marketing automation solutions to “have the road rise to meet their customers.”
Terry Hicks, chief product officer at Infusionsoft, agrees. “The problem that [businesses are] trying to solve is similar—you’re either trying to attract customers, convert prospects into customers, or follow up with folks who have signed up for your product or service,” he says.
THE FUTURE OF MARKETING AUTOMATION
A number of trends are influencing future innovations in marketing automation. The continued rise of Big Data will yield more inputs for marketing automation systems, improving personalization accuracy. According to Hoffmeier, consumers will become increasingly comfortable with sharing their information to save money or obtain the products and services they want, which will be important for time-pressed marketers who rely on marketing automation solutions to alleviate their workload. He envisions a future where businesses and customers have a mutually beneficial relationship where consumers are receiving relevant information instead of generic communications.
“What it comes down to, moving forward, is people’s attention spans are getting smaller and smaller, and you need to send relevant information that’s going to keep their interest and make them want to engage with the brand,” Hoffmeier says.
Hicksadds that engaging customers in the channels they’re already using will become increasingly important. “Ultimately, you want to get to a hyper-personalized view of who your customer is. The better you know who your prospects and customers are, the better the marketing automation engine can drive engagement with those customers, drive those insights that help you understand what to do next in your business. Using that data, you want to really engage with customers where they are…you want to know who your customer is, where it is that they spend a lot of their time, know the topics that are most important to them, and have your message show up as content in the channels that they’re already frequenting. [It’s] not just [about] plain ads that promote your product or service; it’s about building a conversation with your prospect or customer in those channels.”
Marketing automation and sales automation may become more integrated in the future, Anderson suggests. Already, she maintains, “your marketing automation is starting to interact with your sales automation.” She adds that the two systems can “really make you smarter about who are the right people to reach out to, what are the right topics to talk to them about, how do you make sure that you’re as relevant as possible throughout the entire purchase decision, from the very first email you send to the very last conversation you have as a sales rep.” She sees them “converging in a big way.”
The Internet of Things will also have a significant effect. With customers using more connected devices, it will become increasingly important for marketers to engage them where they are while also collecting more data for marketing automation systems to use. “You want to be able to put your message in the context of the activity and the location that prospects and customers are in,” Hicks says. He cites location-based marketing and mobile commerce as two important areas of engagement for marketers and says that marketers’ communications are going to have to be “quick, engaging, relevant topics at the moment of truth that matters most to the potential client.”