Picture a black box that plugs into the wall. Plug it in, turn on the switch, and qualified leads with an interaction history are automatically added into your 1CRM system – day in and day out – while the system is running. You’ll also get charts and feedback on which messages clients respond to best, so that the ‘machine’ can just get more and more effective over time. 																		

First, let’s be clear about the distinction between sales and marketing roles: you wouldn’t believe how many companies scramble the definitions.  As a card-carrying marketing guy (yes, I made it to Sr. VP at publicly-traded companies), I maintain that the outbound part of marketing (the real users of marketing automation) needs to focus on getting the right message out to the right prospects.  People who respond with the right level of interest are handed off to sales for qualification, and people who don’t are kept in the system for cultivation and “re-marketing.” Outbound marketing is also involved in the care and feeding of existing customers, to cultivate loyalty and repeat business.
This becomes important when a company's marketing operations rely on a survey, email, social media or chatbot app for inbound lead-generation efforts that plug into Marketo or Eloqua, which, in turn, allows those marketing processes to continue regardless of which CRM the company uses. In effect, they act as middleware connecting the thousands of niche marketing automation tools and large CRM systems, where a company's customer data resides.
If you’re not leveraging interactions across every marketing channel like social media, your website, or the content your leads are consuming, it’s as if you’re only listening to your leads 30% of the time. Have you ever been on the phone with a sales rep who doesn’t answer your questions and reads straight from a pre-generated script without taking your specific needs into account? Did you end up buying from that company?
According to Hendrix, there are two types of "bad" marketing automation: People who use a marketing automation platform ineffectively, and platforms that label themselves as “marketing automation” even when that’s not the case. “True marketing automation allows you to track each touchpoint that a person has with your brand, take that in and adapt your messaging accordingly. It should enable you to not only automate processes, but anticipate your buyers' needs and accelerate their buying journey. Marketers need a solid marketing automation strategy, rather than just automating the same tasks they’ve been doing all along," Hendrix said.
Just like sales and marketing teams overlap to drive business results, CRM and marketing automation systems also overlap and share similarities. At their core, both solutions have the ability to house prospect and customer demographic information, but most marketing automation solutions will charge additional fees based on the size of your database, which typically makes it more cost effective to use CRM. The big challenge facing an organization using these technologies is maintaining data quality and integrity in both CRM and Marketing Automation software.
Though it's not the easiest marketing initiative to execute on, marketing automation is certainly not impossible. Imagine you're trying to grow a plant. First you need fertile soil ripe for the growth of your plant. Next you need seeds themselves to care for, and last you need water and light in order to nurture those seeds into a lush, blooming plant.  It's not foolproof, but it's not impossible. In our story, effective marketing automation looks just like nurturing this plant does. At the end of the day, we hope we've nurtured our leads (the seedlings) well enough to produce actual paying customers (a lush, full-grown plant.)
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