The next big thing for 2015 Marketing and Communications budgets (especially B2B). Lower the cost and time it takes to generate leads.
By Joseph J. Serwach
Automated marketing – done well – is the next “big thing” for 2015 marketing and communications budgets, allowing organizations (especially B2B) to lower the cost and time it takes to generate leads and customers.
A majority of tech companies already use automated marketing and inbound strategies to drive marketing, sales and customer relationship efforts. Adoption rates are soaring as the technology becomes cheaper and easier to use.
Automated strategies allow Amazon.com to accurately recommend books and movies you’ll want to buy. They’ve learned your tastes and interests through years of online relationship-building.
A Michigan example: Kalamazoo-based Goodbye Crutches shifted from paying people to click on their website (via online advertising) to an inbound strategy using marketing automation. They wound up replacing their ads with less expensive online brand-building (establishing thought leadership with helpful content including blogs, social media, landing pages, ebooks, etc.).
The result: Goodbye Crutches saw its web traffic leap from 3,000 visitors per month to 52,000 visitors per month.
How marketing automation grows brand relationships
In mid-September, I was sitting near a pool in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, went to Google and typed “Myrtle Beach International Airport.”
The first search result, courtesy of Google Flights, told me my flight home was delayed by two hours. Later refreshes told me the delay would be three hours. That information gave me three extra hours to enjoy the beach on a sunny, 85 degree day rather than getting stuck waiting at an airport.
Did such marketing automation make me love and value my relationship with the Google brand? Of course.
Any time your brand educates, informs or helps a customer or potential customer, you’re moving them from stranger to visitor or from visitor to friend or from like to love.
Relationships first, tech second
Too many early adopters focus on – or get apprehensive about – new technology even as marketing technology gets cheaper and easier to use.
Too often, businesses buy the new “latest thing” and then aren’t quite sure how to use it effectively or (worse) they put off buying it until all their competitors already have it.
The focus needs to remain on the classic brand-building and relationship building that really makes these new tools deliver powerful returns on investment. The tool (the technology) simply speeds up the process.
PR, marketers are both chasing marketing automation
HubSpot, which dominates automated marketing and inbound, soared during its first IPO last week. HubSpot partners with strong agencies that make the technology work for client brand-building efforts, growing web traffic and online leads via inbound marketing.
Meanwhile, PR software provider Vocus, and others are also offering their own automated marketing products.
Top source of leads.
The just-released State of Inbound 2014 report found 83 percent of marketers were practicing some form of inbound strategy this year (up from 60 percent in 2013) and a full 45 percent cited inbound as their top source of leads.
Inbound ties together a number of “owned media” digital tools including blog and other content creation, landing pages that convert contacts/leads into customers, webinars, social media, emailers, video, e-books, webinars and freemium trials.
In short, inbound is the traffic you draw to you – as opposed to outbound messages you send out. Both start with solid integrated brand communications.
Just this year, Mike’s Hard Lemonade joined Costco and numerous other brands by announcing it was replacing online advertising with a focus on organically building digital interactions.
Inbound replicates the Costco Strategy: Costco is famous for giving shoppers free samples and delighting them with new products and special deals. Inbound marketers, similarly, offer “free samples” of their expertise, educating and informing them and building relationships online. Amazon, for example, offers free sample chapters of most of the books it sells.
Opportunity? Beating most rivals to the punch
While a majority of tech companies already use marketing automation, the market is wide open in other markets:
Imagine knowing all sorts of details about a prospect that your rivals have no clue about. Such details help you beat the competition every time.
How does automated marketing work?
Instead of having various people say you “need’’ this tool or that tool, automated marketing organizes the various tools together into one simple, digital hub.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt notes there is more content created in a 48 hour period than there was between the dawn of time and the year 2000. For Google, that means 5 billion searches per day with 20 percent being for something Google has never been asked before.
For media, that means the 20th century introduced radio, TV, telemarketing and junk mail while the 21st century has (so far) introduced such new platforms as mobile SMS, pop-up ads, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, native advertising, etc.
Marketing automation sorts all that big data out and helps you personalize digital relationships giving every prospect what they need, learning about them, educating them and growing relationships.
Sales research shows that 80 percent of sales occur between the fifth and 12th time you interact with a prospect. You can’t call or email someone five days in a row without seeming annoying but it is simple to call one day, email another and use digital media to build the relationship, using marketing automation to track everything.
At the same time, 60-70 percent of the buying journey now occurs digitally as people use their phones, tablets and computers to look things up before, after (and sometimes during) your meetings with them.
The difference between marketing automation and no automation? It’s like the difference between driving at night and driving at night with your headlights on.