How does marketing automation work?

By 17 October, 2018News

Marketing Automation is a hot topic right now. It’s being heralded as the future of marketing, the link between sales & marketing and the tool to deliver personalised journeys at scale…

But what is Marketing Automation? How does it work?

I work with our marketing automation tool – “Sonar” – on a daily basis and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to actually explain what marketing automation is to people. There’s a lot of ways to describe the outputs of marketing automation, but I want to explain, at a core level, is how it actually works. Once you understand how it works, you can really start to appreciate what it can do.

To fully understand marketing automation we need to define it and as marketing is too broad a term for this blog will focus on the smart bit, automation. Automation is a broad term, but it defines the core of every Marketing Automation system.

The ability to automate actions based on triggers

Automation in this sense means being able to automate an action in response to a trigger. Simply put: If this happens, then do that.

This can be expanded so you can start to understand how this might work in the context of a website.

  • If a user does this, then do that.
  • If a user fills in a form, then send a thank you e-mail.
  • If a user visits a product, then add them to the interested in product list.
  • If a user is on the interested in product list, then personalise the homepage with that product.

And so on.

The power of Marketing Automation com es together when you start to build a web of these triggers and actions. You can map out entire user journeys and ensure that every touch point is covered, and all usable data is captured.

The complexity and effectiveness develop even further when you introduce filters which work as an extra layer on top of the “if this, then that” scenario.

If this and this, then that.

E.g. if a user visits the homepage, and they’re a returning visitor, then personalise the content.

Any number of filters can be added to an action to create extremely specific automations.

To control the vast number of triggers and actions that are created when building a campaign, Marketing Automation systems use workflows to handle the data. Workflows allow for multiple actions to be strung together and include “gated triggers” – triggers that can only be activated if all previous actions in the work flow have been completed.

Now hopefully you have an understanding of how Marketing Automation tools can automate actions, the next thing to understand is how these actions are targeted to individuals.

People not visitors

The biggest benefit Marketing Automation platforms have over say personalisation tools, is the ability to target individuals, not visitors

When a user firsts visits a website with Sonar system you’re given a cookie, a small piece of information stored on your browser that will collect information as you browse. In Sonar, and all marketing automation systems, the information collected is then passed back to a CRM and collected as you browse. Pages visited, downloads, time on site, forms, data etc. All this is collected and added to your profile. (Ed note: Sonar comes with a built in CRM but can be integrated with 100s of other applications).

However… how do we know who your customers are? There’s three proven methods:

  1. Your customer identifies themselves in a form
  2. They visit the website from an e-mail sent through the system
  3. We use reverse IP lookup

Reverse IP lookup is one of the fun little benefits that some Marketing Automation systems have. If you have an anonymous visitor on your site then Sonar might still able to deduce information about them which will help you identify their business needs. The system will use their IP address along with third party services to build a complete picture of the prospect.

Once identified all the information that’s been gathered about them is aggregated into a single entry, what Sonar calls “Life of lead”. The Life of Lead is essentially a time line of all the events that you (the lead) have done since you first visited the website.

This gives a holistic view of the complete user journey. Allowing you to understand at glance, where a lead is in their buying journey and what steps they’ve taken to get there.

Points mean prizes!

Which leads us onto one of the most valuable elements of any Marketing Automation system. Lead scoring.
Depending on what system is being used this is known by different names but essentially it equates to a leads intent to buy.

Points are added or subtracted based on actions made and then assigned to individual leads. Actions can be weighted with more points depending on their significance. For example, viewing a single page may be worth point. Downloading a brochure could be worth 10 points.

Teamed with the life of lead, you know exactly how far an individual is down the buying cycle based on their score. Then using a workflow that’s triggered by a lead score, you can automate actions with the goal of increasing their score.

Just scratching the surface

This covers the basics of Marketing Automation, well done if you made it this far, but Marketing Automation is capable of so much more. They integrate into third party systems and allow you to track and automate based through platforms like social, webinars, forms, adwords, direct mail… the list goes on.

To find out more about Marketing Automation why not get in touch with us or discover more about our Marketing Automation platform, Sonar.

Marketing Automation is a big subject to understand, if you’d like a little help why not download our Marketing Automation Glossary?



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