Marketing automation is a process that incorporates software and technologies to automate the repetitive tasks of inbound and outbound marketing starting from demand generated e-mail content to customer retention and streamline the marketing processes for more efficient utilization of various online marketing channels. The objective is to consistently provide prospective clients with timely, valuable, tailored content and thereby generate leads and turn those leads into sales.
Marketing automation software is designed to manage the following key areas:
- Analysis and understanding of customer behavior
- Developing and managing marketing campaigns
- Capturing and storing relevant and useful customer data
- Lead generation, lead nurturing, and sales conversion
Usually marketing automation applications come with various features and functionalities, for example, content management system (CMS), dashboard, analytics and reporting, email, forms and landing pages, social media integration, and resource management tools such as budgeting, marketing calendar and more.
The journey from CRM to Marketing Automation
While Marketing Automation is new in the industry CRM (Customer Relationship Management) has been around for four decades. The first CRM launched in the 1980s in the form of contact management software. With the advent of client/server architecture in the late 80s, the contact management software got a big boost. In the 1990s, contact management evolved into sales force automation (SFA), which combined the features of database marketing and contact management.
By 1995, with the support of Siebel Systems, SFA developed features and functionalities that resembled modern CRM and it was during this time the name CRM came into existence. In the late 90s when big ERP vendors like Oracle, SAP, and Baan entered the CRM market, CRM vendors had tough competition, which pushed them to expand the scope of their service with additional sales and marketing applications.
Later in 2007, Salesforce.com revolutionized the industry with its SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model for CRM enterprise solution. Salesforce's cloud-based CRM, which was a cost-saving and more agile business model, was readily accepted. Over the years, CRM has integrated more features like customer service and social CRM.
Compared to CRM, the concept of Marketing Automation (MA) developed much later at the beginning of the 21st century with marketing automation tools for email marketing. Later, in keeping with the growth of e-commerce, online marketing, and social media, MA integrated three major components – web analytics, emailing, and marketing resource management into a single platform.
While many see MA as a subset of CRM, there is a fundamental difference between the two. MA is dependent on user-oriented data and intelligence while CRM works on organization-defined data and intelligence. MA focuses on marketing processes while CRM focuses on sales processes. However, these two software systems complement each other well. Jointly they can provide deeper insights into business and achieve a greater level of efficiency in serving customers.
Today many MA solutions allow enterprises to sync marketing data with CRM. Some companies also prefer syncing data both ways to ensure better coordination between their marketing team and sales team.
Benefits of Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is a complex and comprehensive software platform, and there is still a lot of scope for improvement. Despite its present limitations adoption of marketing automation among business, enterprises are on the rise. Research by MarketandMarkets, a global business research firm, shows that revenue generated by marketing automation is expected to grow from “$3.65 billion in 2014 to $5.50 billion in 2019” with North America being the largest market for this technology. The inherent benefits of marketing automation are many.
- It helps in defining more effective marketing strategies
- Shortens sales cycle and improves ROI
- Helps in better resource utilization and profit maximization
- Improves customer experience with personalized approach
- Enables better lead management and lead nurturing
- Increases prospect engagement with consistent development and sharing of highly targeted, valuable content
- Reduces chances of error in repetitive tasks of marketing
- Provides in-depth statistical analysis and details reports of marketing campaigns along with measurable results
Most importantly, marketing automation lets you know your prospects and customers better and add tremendous value to your brand.