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“Marketing Automation” had not quite reached dictionaries 10 years ago. It’s possible bid management did. For a long time, online marketing strategies revolved around the idea of the sales funnel, or the typical path that people take when moving from prospects to paying customers. As long as you understood how the funnel worked and the types of prompts that would push prospects along it, you were good to go. Problem is: now you’re competing with marketing automation – computers to optimize bid management – in some ways letting the sales funnel define itself.

Unlike before, when most people entered the funnel where it made sense — at the top — users now enter it at all levels and at all times. This massive shift is mostly due to the way, or ways, in which people are going online. Before, the vast majority did so via desktop and laptop computers. Now, they’re accessing the Internet via smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, smart watches and all kinds of different devices. They’re savvier than ever too, and they expect top-notch content and personalized service wherever they land online.

Sounds like doomsday is upon us, right? Not quite. A solution is in the works: marketing automation. Although still in its infancy, this technology is poised to completely overhaul the way in which everyone from sole proprietorships to massive corporations engage in online marketing. Think of it as performance marketing: Technology takes the reins for everything from PPC campaigns to email marketing efforts. As a result, marketing ROI and efficiency are dramatically improved, less money is wasted and more success is realized.

What can Marketing Automation Do for You?

Thus far, you may only have the faintest understanding of what marketing automation is about. Sure, it sounds nifty, but how’s it going to benefit your business?

A few marketing automation techniques that are already improving businesses’ online success and facilitating total transparency include:

  • Personalized Webpages — Merge tags have seemingly been around since the Dark Ages. They’re enjoying a new lease on life, however, in the form of personalized webpages. By using merge tags in conjunction with UTM codes, which are added to webpage URLs, content blocks on a page automatically change based on the visitor’s demographics. Regardless of how, when or where they enter the sales funnel, they are greeted with content that’s customized to suit their needs and designed to convert them into paying customers.
  • Advanced Lead Scoring — When a specific prospect performs a specific action, advanced lead scoring technology assigns specific values to them. At a glance, you can tell where a prospect is in the sales funnel and use this information to more quickly and effectively close deals.
  • Progressive Profiling — Cookie tracking is also enjoying a renaissance of sorts thanks to automated performance marketing. This age-old technology makes progressive profiling possible. Progressive profiling adjusts the pages on a website based on a visitor’s previous actions. For instance, a visitor may be asked to provide their name and/or email address the first time they visit; the second time, they may be asked which industry they work in. Slowly but progressively, then, more and more information is gathered, and the prospect is nudged along the funnel.
  • Triggered Communication — Email marketing is about to blow up again in a big way. Triggered communication is one of the most exciting types of marketing automation. When a user performs a certain action, your marketing platform will respond by sending them highly optimized content. Because the content is timely and relevant, it’s more likely to be useful to the user and, in turn, more likely to convert them.

Automated Bid Management — The Brave New World of PPC

Business owners often wonder how much other companies spend on their PPC campaigns. The truth is that if you feel like you’re spending too much, you’re doing it wrong. When done correctly, PPC marketing generates more money for a business. The problem, oftentimes, is that small- and mid-sized businesses don’t have the means to engage in effective, strategic bid management. They typically create a campaign and hope for the best. For these campaigns to work, though, constant monitoring and continual optimization are needed. Again, though: Who has time for that?

If you feel like your marketing ROI has suffered due to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you’ll be glad to know that marketing automation is on top of that. Automated bid management technology already exists, and it’s improving all the time. Unlike old-school PPC management, which requires careful human analysis at every turn, marketing automation does everything from adjusting optimized keywords on the fly to adjusting bids or pausing keywords based on specific performance metrics.

Of course, this technology isn’t completely hands-off in nature. Human intervention and management are still required. Platforms like Acquisio and Kenshoo allow you to establish rules for specific PPC channels based on several layers of data. It is still necessary to review the rules you have set regularly to ensure that they are delivering the results you need. Such programs make automatic changes and adjustments which also need to be reviewed on a regular basis. Simply assuming that the technology is foolproof is a recipe for disaster. Still, these programs offer total transparency and definitely improve dramatically upon what humans alone can do.

Is Marketing Automation Right for You?

Like many business owners, you may already be assuming that marketing automation is ideal for large corporations. Smaller companies like yours can safely continue handling things manually, right? Not so fast. If anything, smaller companies need marketing automation more than larger ones. After all, they don’t typically have dedicated marketing teams. Sometimes, they hardly have marketing budgets to speak of. By automating some of the most crucial online marketing techniques, you can level the playing field considerably and finally start realizing the most exciting benefits of pay-per-click advertising, lead scoring and other proven — but often tricky — marketing techniques.

Even if you think you can get by without investing in marketing automation software, keep this in mind: The game is changing. In fact, it already has. Without adjusting the way you market your products and services online, you’re sure to be left in the dust. By embracing this emerging technology now, on the other hand, you can safely stay at least a few large steps ahead of the competition.

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