26 MINUTE READ
Marketing bloggers seem to discuss automation topics in one of two ways. They either pledge full loyalty to their new robot overlords, or they warn readers to stay away, citing the need for emotional authenticity in marketing, an impending marketing job crisis among humans, or any number of other factors.
Or at least that’s the impression I’ve gotten by scrolling through my Twitter timeline and news reader apps in the four or so years that have passed since “marketing automation” became a hot topic. Everyone’s either Gaius Baltar or Sarah Connor – there’s no middle ground.
It makes a lot of sense from a media perspective. Taking a stand is what makes good content, right? Opinionated rants and promises of deliverance are great for driving social shares, clicks and even reads. It just means the middle ground can’t find much practical advice. What about those of us who are genuinely interested in using automation to build our businesses but just want to make sure we do so smartly and incrementally, one case at a time, one channel at a time and one triggered workflow at a time?
Welcome to the marketing automation adoption guide for the middle ground. Let’s take a look at the processes and principles involved with the sober, deliberate adoption of automated marketing solutions.
Marketing Automation’s Potential to Transform Your Business
Before we dive into the ins and outs of getting started, here’s a quick overview of the “promise” of automation. What is it that marketers are hoping to achieve by setting up triggered workflows?
According to a recent report by Ascend2 (pdf file), 84% of the businesses that currently invest in marketing automation consider their efforts to be successful. The most common reasons for using automation include increasing marketing ROI (46%) and optimizing productivity (45%). Automation achieves this in the following ways:
- Zero human error comes into the picture
- More factors can be controlled, experimented with, measured and optimized
- Virtually infinite scalability
- Complex processing happens on the fly, across tools and marketing channels
And today’s SaaS industry trends are making it all easier on us. Nowadays there’s less and less lock-in, and silos are coming down. Your marketing activity is more controllable, measurable and triggerable than ever before. Platforms offer APIs and SDKs to make it easy for third-party developers to integrate cross-platform data pushes. And with automation-friendly “bridge tools” like Zapier and the Google Sheets add-ons, you can quickly create your own custom franken-automations, without any coding knowhow.
Here are just a few examples of Zapier integrations you can set up for pushing data between the HubSpot CRM and other useful platforms.
If nothing else, it’s clear that contemporary marketing is moving in a direction where automation is becoming the norm. Those who don’t streamline their marketing process may soon find themselves unable to stay afloat versus competitors who can nurture and close leads, at scale, with agility.
1. Consider Which Tasks Are Most Ripe for Automation
Automation comes in many shapes and sizes, but it can be boiled down to the following five operational buckets for marketers.
- Email Marketing – From welcome series targeting new subscribers to free courses that assist with upselling to sending transactional reminders to existing customers, marketing automation and email go hand in hand. Rather than having to do the legwork of reaching out to your list yourself, automation can transform your email marketing campaigns, paving the way for personalization at scale.
- Social Media – Despite the popular misconceptions, social media doesn’t have to represent a black hole of wasted time. Through automation, businesses can take care of tasks such as scheduling curated content posts in advance, driving traffic to owned media assets and creating visuals for social posts in a snap.