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Give us about 4 minutes, and we’ll unpack you everything you need to know about marketing automation. To help crush this topic, we brought in Walter Winn, National Account Manager at SharpSpring.
Walter hopped on our 1 to 10 podcast and gave us all the details about marketing automation, and we brought all the highlights right here:
What is ‘marketing automation’?
Marketing automation is the automation of your marketing. (Kidding. Don’t you hate those explanations?)
Marketing automation (or MA) refers to the softwares that exists, that synchronize and send out campaigns, such as emails, social media posts, ad campaigns, etc. The automation part is: It all happens via computer, without having to manually administrate those activities.
Let’s check out Walter’s analogy:
Imagine you’re trying to grow a plant. You already know you must plant it in fertile soil, add certain amounts of water, and ensure it gets plenty of sunlight. Your mission is to nourish the seed into a lush, blooming plant.
Effective marketing automation looks a lot like nurturing that plant: You know prospects need nurturing, content, personalization, etc., and if you’re using MA effectively, then you can automate that process to ensure your seeds (leads) turn into well-nourished, producing plants (paying customers).
OK ... so what’s a marketing automation platform?
So marketing automation is essentially the computerized automation of all your marketing tasks, like sending out emails, ad campaigns, etc. ✅
You’ve probably also heard the term marketing automation platform.
Here’s the scoop: In a typical business, you probably have all these elements: a company is probably running your website, maybe another company is handling all your blog writing, maybe you work with an analytics company, and then you use an email marketing system. At the end of the day, all your data is spread across these various systems. A marketing automation platform helps you centralize all this data, so you can see the big picture of what you are trying to accomplish.
Pro tip: A marketing automation platform is not the same thing as a CRM (customer relationship management), which simply holds all your customers’ contact information.
A CRM and a marketing automation platform do, however, work together — an MA platform will allow you take all the data that’s stored within the CRM and put that into campaigns and start to nurture them to make sales.
When you need (and don’t need) an MA platform:
How do you know when and if you need a marketing automation platform? Here’s what Walter says:
It’s time to consider a marketing automation platform when ...
- You have a proven marketing strategy
- You have a steady flow of new & qualified leads
Essentially, you want there to already be an effective marketing strategy in place.
MA doesn’t do the marketing for you — it helps you double-down on what you’ve already seen to be effective. It allows you to take your ideas, your manpower, and put a supercharged (automatic) motor behind those initiatives.
‘There are dozens of MA platforms to choose from. Which one do I need?!’
So, when Walter and I started discussing MA platforms, we both had to hold back a little — he works for SharpSpring, an MA platform. Our companies have been partners for a while, and, I think SharpSpring is pretty amazing, (so amazing, that we use it over here at ProtoFuse).
But we did our best to go over all the largest MA platforms out there, and be as objective as possible. Here are some of the names you’ve likely heard:
Marketo, HubSpot, Pardot: Best for $10MM+ companies
The most-used 3 MA platforms are Hubspot, Marketo, & Pardot. For larger companies, in the 2-digit 2-comma arena ($10MM+), these may be a good option. For smaller companies, this can be rather cost-prohibitive: For any of these, you're likely looking at $25k to $50k to get started.
SharpSpring, InfusionSoft, Constant Contact: Best for companies looking to scale
These are all going to be on the less expensive side, but have many of the same functions.
1 note about SharpSpring: This MA platform has a few unique qualities: 1) they are geared towards agencies. 2) they offer month-to-month pricing. 3) they’re a fraction of the cost as Marketo, HubSpot, & Pardot, but even Trustradius puts them in the same league (for a fraction of the cost).
On a budget? Checkout Mailchimp
There’s also Mailchimp. This is a fantastic option to get your toes wet and understand the concept of MA.
While this is technically an automated email campaign manager, it does have some limited MA functionality. If you haven’t used MA before, check out Mailchimp before you graduate up.
A few tips for implementing an MA platform
Here are a few key things to remember when implementing an MA platform:
(Note: This is a super high-level view of MA. For more detail on MA platforms, you can always contact Walter.)
- Trackers. Ensure you have tracking codes in the headers and footers of all your digital assets (landing pages, websites, etc). This is what your MA platform will use to create customer segments (next tip!).
- Segmentation. This is really the genius of MA platforms, and what allows you to segment your audience and then target them with highly personalized content. You want to parse out your customers by various categories and intent to purchase.
- ISP warmup. When you first start with MA, you’ll have a thousands of CSVs (lists of emails). Don’t send emails to all of them at once. If you do, you’ll be marked as spam very quickly. Start slow, by sending out 1k emails, then 2k, 4k, etc. It’s complicated what’s technically happening on the backend, but basically you are warming up your ISP to recognize that your bulk emails are legitimate and not spam.
- Cleaning CSVs. Make sure you run your CSVs (your email lists) through list cleaning services, such as: BriteVerify, or Webbula, or NeverBounce. This will ensure your email addresses are legitimate, and will also check for common errors (say you accidentally typed in “.con” instead of “.com”).
What's the #1 Thing Someone Can Do to Grow their B2B Tech Company?
We ask every guest on our podcast if they have one grand piece of advice for any growing B2B tech company. Here’s what Walter said:
Be truly passionate about what you are doing, investing you’re whole person.
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