In its most basic form, marketing automation is a set of tools designed to streamline and simplify some of the most time-consuming responsibilities of the modern marketing and sales roles. From automating the lead qualification process to creating a hub for digital campaign creation, automation is all about simplifying a business world that is growing far too complex, much too quickly.
If you’re producing effective inbound marketing content, you’re generating a steady flow of new, organic leads, and you’re ready to scale your successful efforts, chances are it’s time to focus your efforts on a marketing automation strategy that will nurture those quality leads into paying customers. Below are some good questions to ask yourself when deciding if marketing automation is the right move for your business.
Want a marketing automation CRM that'll keep you on your toes? Then you'll love Agile CRM's real-time notifications based on your contacts' behavior. You can get notifications when they've opened your email, clicked a link, or are just browsing your site. Then, you can make sure they remember you, too, with in-app notifications and even automated SMS drip campaigns.
If you are unable to generate a considerable amount of qualified leads through outbound marketing tactics such as mass email or call campaigns, it could be because of improper segmentation and targeting of the audience lists. You need to adopt a systematic approach towards storing and filtering lead data based on specific segmentation parameters to ensure that your communication is relevant to the audience.
Similar to standard email marketing software vendors, marketing automation software vendors have created workflow templates that help guide you through the automation process. This way, you don't have to build new sequences from scratch. These templates usually start with a basic interaction, such as a "Welcome" or a "Thank you for making a purchase" message. Once a contact receives the initial email, he or she is guided through a sequence based on his or her actions. For example, if John receives a welcome message and he clicks a link to an offer, then that action automatically pulls him onto a distinct email marketing journey. Conversely, if Sally deletes her welcome message, then she may automatically be pulled off the workflow to conserve your email output.
Once marketing has qualified a lead based on B.A.N.T., the sales team’s core objective is to close deals and increase revenue. Both sales and marketing processes follow a funnel-like approach to nurturing leads and opportunities, but each solution is customized to track and serve a different type of contact based on their stage of the buyer journey. Similarly, CRM is designed to help the sales organization forecast the deals they plan to close each month or quarter.
Let’s cite an example. Your marketing team puts up landing pages in your business website, brings in clicks, and captures leads interacting with your content. These leads are commencing contact but how much they are interested has yet to be determined, so your team engages with by providing relevant info. Leads are then scored depending on the actions or responses they take. These contacts become MQLs up to the point they are ready to be transferred to marketing.
For companies that can’t decide on how to kill all the birds with one stone, it’s good to know that most of marketing automation functionality can be supported within a CRM system too! For example, everything that falls into lead management (lead segmentation, personalized email marketing, lead nurturing, analytics) can be activated within CRM software through either in-built tools or customization, depending on how complex requirements are. I tell more on the benefits of this approach for SMEs here: https://www.scnsoft.com/blog/benefits-of-crm-software-for-smes 																		

Even the simplest CRM system will use a dozen database tables to manage these processes, and some of the tables are quite wide (it’s not at all unusual to have 200 columns for the Account table) and tables may have several children.  The tables, however, hold standard data types (almost never a BLOb), and documents that might be attached (pointed to from tables) are static files and not part of a document management system.  However, CRM systems typically have several integration points with other parts of the corporate infrastructure (such as contract management, electronic signature, shipping/distribution and accounting systems).
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.
Perhaps best known as an email newsletter app, ActiveCampaign also includes a full-featured CRM with marketing automation. You can gather leads, with rich profiles on each one that include your conversations with them, their latest social network updates, and more. Then, you can convert them to leads, sort them on a kanban-style board as you take them through your sales process, and keep them updated about your company with beautiful email newsletters.
With ActiveCampaign, you’ll be able to create powerful automated marketing and sales processes. These intelligent processes “listen” and “learn” about the needs and interests of individual contacts. Then you can send more relevant, personalized messages at the moment they’ll have the most impact. You’ll have more customers, happier customers, and more loyal customers. MARKETING AUTOMATION: Our automation workflow builder is praised by G2Crowd users as the perfect balance of power and ease-of-use. With our drag-and-drop builder, you can easily create sophisticated follow up sequences that treat your contacts differently on the basis of who they are and what they’re interested in. This “intelligence-driven” follow up has proven to be more effective, and will keep your customer engagement high because you’re sending the most relevant, personalized messaging possible. SALES AUTOMATION: With an intuitive sales automation CRM tightly integrated with your marketing automation, you’ll be able to seamlessly transition leads back and forth between your marketing and sales processes without losing any data or missing a beat. Having your sales CRM and marketing automation under the same roof means that your sales process can benefit from the same automation features marketers use to send perfectly-timed messages. EMAIL MARKETING: We’ve been perfecting our email marketing solution since 2003. Today it is one of the most mature and fully-developed email marketing services on the market. Our professionally designed templates are fully mobile responsive and we offer time-saving tools like content blocks you can save and reuse across campaigns, message variables that allow you to update content once across all your campaigns, and conditional content, which allows you to change the content of an email based on who a contact is and what they’ve done. CROSS-CHANNEL MESSAGING FOR THE ENTIRE CUSTOMER LIFECYCLE: With ActiveCampaign, you’ll be able to deliver the perfect message at the perfect time because you’ll collect more insight about the customer at each stage of the buying process. With Attribution, you’ll know the source of a visitor and what marketing and advertising they’ve interacted with. With Goals, you’ll be able to define important events and then pivot in response to conversions. With Site Messaging, SMS, and email marketing, you’ll be able to reach your contacts exactly where they are — whether they’re out and about on their mobile, browsing your website, or going through their inbox. We offer a free, no-credit-card-needed, 14-day trial so you can experience ActiveCampaign first hand.
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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