With big data and personalization becoming indispensable to generating leads and engagement for businesses, marketing automation has become an integral part of the landscape.

Marketing automation can be key to ramping up your company’s efficiency. It allows you to devote more time to your most valuable asset—your customers. By using automation, your company can better target your audience and potential clients across multiple platforms, such as social media, emails, and text messages.

Karra Hendrix, product marketing manager at Act-On, explains: “Marketing automation is all about understanding your audience so you can adapt the way you communicate to them based on their unique buying journey”.

So, what does this mean for your company and why should you use marketing automation?

Almost all marketers (98%) say that effective marketing automation is a critical component in a company’s long-term success. An efficient marketing strategy frees employees for other things while having a clear view of their buyer’s behavior.

Benefits of Using Marketing Automation

Recent research shows that 77% of chief marketing officers (CMOs) at top-performing companies use marketing automation to grow revenues.

Here are some of the ways marketing automation can benefit your business:

1. Increase customer lifetime value by automating cross-selling, up-selling and customer follow-ups.

2. Reduce staffing costs by setting up lead nurturing and marketing campaigns triggered by customer actions or behaviors.

3. Allows you to refine marketing processes to better target and nurture your leads.

4. Allows for better accountability of marketing and sales by having clearly defined processes and metrics for measuring campaign effectiveness and activities.

5. Allows you to amplify the effect of your marketing initiatives.

6. Replace manual and repetitive tasks to free up time for creative tasks.

7. Reach potential customers in a personalized way across multiple channels.

Which Tasks Can be Automated?

Effective marketing automation systems are designed to scale alongside your company, without being used to automate all your marketing. But you need to approach marketing automation with caution.

“By over-automating your marketing, you end up managing a customer journey instead of optimizing it,” says Chris Davis, director of education at ActiveCampaign.

Marketing automation is best used to build a database of qualified leads and then to determine which type of communication will be most effective for your lead. Over time and via various points of contact, you will have sufficient data to place your buyers and potential clients in groups, determined by common behaviors, demographics, and interests.

Another way to use this strategy for pursuing leads is by implementing sales alerts. According to Salesforce, marketing automation can track visitors, the websites they visit, and generate real-time sales alerts. These alerts will automatically follow-up with your company’s leads at a time determined by your sales department.

In simple terms, marketing automation can be used to streamline the marketing process and aid the creation of personalized content. This can then be delivered automatically to buyers across websites, text messages, and emails.

Studies show that over one billion dollars is wasted annually due to inefficient marketing. In fact, 67% of marketers say their departments are inefficient. This is primarily due to one or more of the following:

  • Lack of tracking performance
  • Employees working in silos
  • Not using marketing automation
  • Placing quantity (of content assets) before quality
  • Not placing the right focus on particular social media platforms

To avoid such inefficiencies, companies need to align their marketing automation strategy with the buyer’s journey.

Steps to Align Marketing Automation Strategy with the Buyer’s Journey

1. Understand buyers’ personas

This step is crucial to align your marketing automation strategy with the buyer’s journey. You need to know who your ideal customer is so you can deliver relevant content. Also, be familiar with your buyers’ demographics and where they search for information.

To create and understand your buyers’ personas, consider conducting interviews and surveys from sales, marketing, customer service, and the customers themselves. This step will help you to establish content that aligns with your customers’ goals.

  • Facebook and Twitter analytics can provide insights into what topics and demographic information are most relevant to your business.
  • Google Analytics can provide information about who visits your website and what terms are being searched.
  • You can also talk to your sales teams about the types of customers and leads they interact with. Find out what questions and problems the sales team hears consistently.
  • Interviewing customers and prospective buyers will provide additional insights, as will researching issues facing your industry.

This will help to target the right audience on Facebook and your messaging as well.

marketing automation strategy to help with targeting your desired audience via Facebook

2. Map out the buyer’s journey for each persona

You know your potential customer will transition through the phases of awareness, consideration, decision and purchase phases of the buyer’s journey. To make your marketing efforts pay off, you need to align your marketing strategy with each phase of the customer’s journey. After all, 95% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before reaching out to a company. So matching content with their interests and behavior is critical.

You should also have a clear understanding of the buyer’s way of thinking and how he or she will contact your company and move forward. The best way to approach this is to make the next step easy for potential buyers in their journey with your business.

To appeal to the many types of buyers, you should create multiple pathways and opportunities for them to engage in and progress along the journey. Send out emails, newsletters, and personalized text messages. By creating multiple pathways, you engage all of your buyers by offering one way they might find appealing.

Questions to consider in mapping out the journey:

  • What are the challenges for the buyer and what do buyers think at each stage of the journey?
  • What type of information do buyers need at each stage?
  • What type of questions do buyers ask at each stage?
  • What content would support them at each stage?
  • What terms might a prospect search for at each stage?

To put this into action you need to:

  • Discover the questions buyers are asking
  • Identify members of the buying team
  • Choose the right medium and format
  • Be visible where the buyer is
  • Optimize your content with keywords and relevant terms

3. Conduct a content audit

How do you know if your content is strategic and effective during the buyer’s journey? Although you can track and measure performance, you can also conduct a content audit to optimize the customer’s experience.

This is a great way to become aware of what content works with your buyers. A content audit will tell you which content is effective, what you should keep, and what can be changed to improve the buyer’s journey and appeal to your target audience. This will save time and money—so that neither is wasted on ineffective marketing.

Check out the video below for an overview

Check out this post on how to conduct a content audit using SEMrush

4. Understand your analytics

A thorough understanding of your analytics is key to mapping your company’s game plan and marketing automation.

For example, let’s say you know how much time it takes for a potential buyer to progress to an opportunity and how much time it takes for the opportunity to close. This will inform your marketing automation strategy, which you can then use to decrease the conversion time.

You need to know where potential buyers get stuck or fail progress in the buying journey, so you can create an effective strategy for your company’s success.

Understanding the analytics can provide valuable insights. For example, consider the following:

  • During the awareness stage, you can track the number of visitors to your site and the sources from which they arrive.
  • During the consideration stage, you can monitor click-through rates and cost per lead.
  • During the decision stage, you can track cost per acquisition.

While the above metrics are quite simple, they form the basis from which to explore your analytics at a deeper level and diagnose any issues.

5. Talk to sales and support

Dan Galante, a business writer and sales and marketing professional, says: “Sales teams can provide a lot of information about customers, product concerns or issues and objections they face. They are frontline soldiers that have a direct line to customer intelligence”.

Insights into each stage of the buyer’s journey can only help with efficiencies and lead to better outcomes with your marketing automation. Why? Because successful companies nurture leads and use them to automate their marketing.

How do you create a better alignment with the buyer’s journey?

  • Spend time with your top sales personnel to get insights into how, when and who you reach out to, and refine your buyer profiles.
  • Find out where the sales team find success and where they need assistance.
  • Encourage a dialogue between sales and marketing teams and ensure no overlap exists with sales communications.

Map out programs and activities that will get you in front of buyers at each stage.

To ensure that your marketing automation is put to good use, plan activities and programs that will put you in front of your buyers throughout the buyer’s journey.

One way to do this is by tracking your customer’s engagement and identifying which content or means of marketing automation works for the buyer. For example, one customer might respond to emails and another to social media outlets. Try to understand what your potential buyers are looking for and maintain a relationship with them even after a purchase.

Map out the systems and technologies needed to support the initiatives outlined.

If your goal is to create predictable revenue growth, the secret to success lies in creating scalable processes. This is particularly critical when deciding on the marketing automation systems and technologies to support your initiatives.

Investing in marketing automation technologies can be one of the most difficult and important decisions a business makes. Lack of content and an effective strategy will undermine any marketing or lead-generation effort. However, ensuring that you have the right marketing automation tool can have a multiplier effect on the results of your efforts.

Questions to ask when selecting marketing automation tools:

  • What are your business needs at your current size?
  • What are your marketing tools capable of?
  • How easy and intuitive are they to use?
  • To what level can you customize it to do what you want it to do?
  • Can you use it to personalize content and the customer experience?
  • How well does it align with your buyer’s journey and with sales?
  • Can it be scaled—is it flexible enough for your future needs?
  • Will it integrate with your CRM?
  • Can it track and measure the performance of several initiatives?
  • What intelligence can it offer to make your marketing smarter?
  • What’s the support like?
  • Does it fit the budget?

Ensure your marketing automation strategy serves your customers

Whether it is a small business or a major brand, marketing automation is key not only to acquiring buyers but also to nurturing them throughout the sales journey. Aligning your content and messaging with the buyer’s journey is essential for your automation program’s success.

Understanding your buyer’s preferences and using effective communication are the key first steps to ensure your marketing automation strategy aligns with the buyer’s journey. They will help bridge any gaps between lead acquisition and sales development, increase closing rates, strengthen bottom lines, and create enduring relationships with your customers.

Check out this helpful guide on marketing automation in our Resource Center: