Doing things manually is so last century. Discover the benefits of inbound marketing automation and how you can start implementing it across your own operations.
The modern production line is a miracle of process and programming. There’s something hypnotic about the way it plays out: starting. Stopping. Starting again, pistons pumping, conveyor belt turning, those mechanical limbs reaching out to snatch, stir, sometimes even squeeze, before snapping back and repeating over with painstaking precision.
The production line is a classic example of automation in action because it’s so visibly striking. But automation can be found across industries, in all disciplines. It might not be all that to look at, minus mechanical limbs. Often, it’s not visible at all. But as workforce shortages, economic challenges and other drivers force businesses to look for new ways of reducing human involvement and streamlining processes, automation is one answer.
“In an industry survey, 43% of IT leaders listed automation as one of their top budgetary priorities.” ‘Independent UK Survey of IT Priorities’, Q Associates
When you consider all this, it’s unsurprising that automation has been revealed as a key business challenge for organisations in 2022 and beyond. Your sales and marketing activities are a match made in heaven for automation’s guiding principles. What do those benefits look like in real talk and how you unlock them across your organisation?
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6 benefits of inbound marketing automation
- Accurate reporting
- Scalable processes
- Lead nurturing
- Marketing and sales alignment
Of all the benefits associated with automation, efficiency is likely the one that first springs to mind. Automation relieves your team of the need to deliver those high volume, low value tasks that can be completed just as well by machine hands. This might look like:
- Social activity — posts can be automated to publish at set times (or dates), ideal for keeping on top of busy social schedules across multiple platforms
- Nurture sequences — think complex workflows moving your contacts smoothly along their buyer’s journey, near impossible to deliver manually at scale
- Personalisation — automatically pulling personal details from your customers’ contact records, saving (sometimes hundreds of) hours of manual activity
At the same time, it frees up your team to work on higher value, more in-depth tasks, the ones that require ingenuity, creativity, or just that good, old-fashioned human touch.
- Brainstorming an upcoming campaign
- Team huddles to discuss activity or progress
- Strategy sessions when planning for a new customer/client
Imagine how many operators and handlers the production line needed, before it became automated. Now, those people can spend their work time analysing performance, optimising equipment, and fine-tuning the process, leaving the machine automation to do its thing.
2. Personalised marketing strategy
As well as speeding up your marketing efforts, automation can increase their quality.
Automation software opens up lots of doors in terms of personalisation. Think segmentation and reporting, giving your team the ability to do more targeted marketing and have a clearer understanding of the kinds of messaging or content with which your audience engages.
“The entire lead nurturing process should be personalized — did someone read a post about sales conferences? Maybe your lead nurturing email invites them to a sales conference your team is hosting.” HubSpot
Done manually, personalisation takes time. This is especially true at scale! Automation takes the otherwise impossible and turns it into the work of a few clicks for your marketing team.
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3. Accurate reporting
If there’s one thing most marketing teams will recognise, it’s pressure from the wider business to demonstrate the impact of their activity and the results they’re driving.
Modern digital marketing platforms come chock-full of reporting capabilities. While this looks great on paper, it means you can quickly get lost down a rabbit hole of dashboards and data.
Automated reporting simplifies all of this and takes a lot of the pain out of hunting for the results you’ve generated. We all like to know when our work is bearing fruit, and with marketing automation at your fingertips, your team can even look forward to viewing results!
“With accurate, streamlined reporting you can see where things are going wrong. Do leads drop off during your lead nurturing email campaigns? Or is it during your sales process? Either way, accurate analytics will help you spot those points and fix them in a timely manner.” HubSpot
With marketing automation platforms keeping track of your leads and how they engage with your site, actually managing your data is easier than ever. Your data is automatically populated and, just as importantly, automatically kept up to date.
4. Scalable processes
If you think about your marketing team and what it needs to scale comfortably, automation is the scaffolding supporting that growth.
Manual processes rarely scale without needing more capacity, more employees, and more overheads. By virtue of all the great benefits and applications we’ve talked about already, automation removes those constraints, freeing up your team (and the wider business) to scale as it should, in line with profits and growth.
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5. Lead nurturing
Inbound marketing automation doesn’t just speed up lead nurturing. It’s essential if you want to be able to nurture any more than a handful of prospects repeatedly and consistently.
As a quick reminder, lead nurturing (and the sequences that make it up) are essentially email campaigns made up of a series of emails designed to lead the prospect along the buyer’s journey and start building meaningful relationships between them and your brand.
It’s a fundamental part of most inbound marketing strategies and without automation to enable it, you’d be forced to manually track each customer, which email campaign they were interested in, and where they were along the series — never mind making the time to send the emails to each customer every day/week, wherever they are in the sequence. (New to inbound marketing? Learn more about it and how it compares to traditional strategies.)
Lead nurturing is also a vital bridge between marketing, sales, and customer service (more on this below).
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6. Marketing and sales alignment
If you combine your sales and marketing automation efforts by using the same software, you'll be able to align company goals and efforts.
For clarity’s sake, I have broken up the sales and marketing benefits of automation in this article, but it’s important to remember that the most effective businesses are those viewing both departments as two parts of the same process.
In fact, those businesses don’t just view Sales and Marketing this way. They have technology that bridges the gap, driving sales and marketing alignment across the business.
Marketing automation software is instrumental in this. Consider its lead scoring capabilities, which will notify your salespeople automatically whenever a lead goes from being marketing qualified to sales-ready. (Go-go-go!)
And because the process is automated, it’s efficient, dependable, scalable, and all the other good things we’ve just covered off here. Without lead nurturing (and the marketing automation software driving it), you'll have a harder time converting leads to sales prospects.
Sales automation benefits
According to growth platform HubSpot, marketers are already using automation 76% more than salespeople, but this doesn’t mean the sales team can’t benefit from it.
In fact, marketing automation can lead to a 14.5% increase in sales productivity. In its 2020 article on the subject, McKinsey & Company goes so far as to say sales automation is the key to boosting revenue and reducing costs.
The principles behind it are largely the same as those applied to your marketing. How and where can you see these benefits in action on the sales-side of the equation?
- Sales strategy and planning. Think sales forecasting, channel strategy, resource allocation and team management.
- Lead identification and qualification. The same lead nurturing and lead scoring benefits we discussed under ‘Marketing and Sales alignment’ apply here and can be taken further by Sales to define and shape its action plan/connect calls.
- Configuration, pricing, and quoting. Automation has huge benefits for the administrative side of Sales, speeding up the quotation and contracting processes.
- Order management. In the same vein, it also makes order management much more efficient, be that invoicing or chasing payments etc.
- Day-to-day operations. From reporting and analytics to training and team management, there are plenty of ways that automation can help your salespeople to work smarter, close deals faster, and sell more.
Why marketing and sales automation is important
Technology is rarely the answer on its own. The production line, miraculous though it is, would eventually falter with the ongoing maintenance and supervision of its operators, tinkering day by day to optimise processes, replace parts, and improve performance.
Inbound marketing automation, too, wouldn’t get very far without the people to set it up and manage it, not to speak of all the data management you need to consider for it to be effective.
But as trends towards personalisation continue to grow and the digital scene becomes more and more competitive, any tools and software that help you to streamline your process, improve efficiencies and get more value out of your team is going to set you apart.
And perhaps I wasn’t being wholly fair when I said sales and marketing automation isn’t all that to look at. For the technically minded among you, the complexities of an advanced workflow, with its triggers, tasks, and all its little components, is surely a thing of beauty.
For the marketers, take your automation for a test-drive and marvel at the story unfolding in your inbox day by day, week by week, the buyer’s journey brought to life through a simple series of educational posts, compelling case studies, and persuasive product sheets.
Your salespeople? They’ll just be happy to hit their targets.
Automation is awesome, wherever it’s found. How could your operations benefit?
For step-by-step guides to getting started with sales and marketing automation, get your hands on these five automation blueprints, available for you to download now.