Marketing automation

Marketing Automation is, next to CRM, one of the tools that has been gaining ground in the marketing world for years. In this article we dive into this; what is marketing automation, how do you apply it and what is involved.

A Definition of Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation is an automatic arrangement of the marketing and lead generation process with the aim of generating leads, increasing conversion and editing prospects.

The software that can do this is rapidly developing in B2B. More and more B2B marketers are using Marketing Automation to run their Marketing campaigns automatically, gain insight into target groups and generate quality leads. Central to Marketing Automation are the Buyer Personas and the use of technology to reach target groups more effectively and via multiple channels at the right times with relevant marketing content.

It is also known as Marketing Software or Marketing Automation. Without an Inbound Marketing strategy it is difficult to successfully deploy Marketing Automation. 

The benefits of marketing automation

Marketing Automation has one big advantage: the entire lead generation process becomes more efficient. Automating the lead generation process eliminates a lot of manual work. In addition, Marketing Automation has the advantage that the quality of leads increases. The leads that go to the next phase in the sales process meet predetermined criteria.

Other benefits of Marketing Automation are:

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  • A better relationship between Marketing and Sales; the qualification standards for leads are jointly agreed.
  • More insight into the behavior of prospects and leads. With this information, it is possible to respond better to the Customer Journey.
  • Analyzes of resources, content and conversion lead to an improvement in the use of the marketing budget.

How do you start with marketing automation?

If organizations are ready for the next step in optimizing their marketing processes, marketing automation can be a solution. There are also start-up companies that immediately start working with marketing automation to set up a marketing flow that is as efficient and effective as possible. However, it is more than just implementing a tool. A few basic principles when you start.

1. Determine what you want to achieve

There is a high chance of disappointment if expectations are not realistically estimated beforehand. Before you start looking for a marketing automation tool, it is smart to determine what it will yield you. And how much you are willing to pay for that. So you need a Business Case with a clear ROI estimate.

Also think in scenarios
It is wise to think in terms of scenarios such as:
What if we don't do anything? What if we get a minimal improvement from it. What if we achieve maximum improvement from it? What if we invest more and then look at our ROI?

content marketing strategy template

2. Start from the Customer Journey

Finding and selecting the right marketing automation software is easier with a customer journey map. Map out the most important phases and (desired) touch points as input for your request for information. Make sure you have a good eye on the target group and the associated customer profiles. You can of course be inspired by the possibilities of different tools to make a better design of this. However, it is advisable to start with this before you really opt for a marketing automation solution.

3. Clarify the IT landscape

With marketing automation you are going to get new software that connects to other tools. Think of your CRM software, email marketing software, the website (CMS) and Google Analytics. Ask yourself what role the new software will play in the total landscape of tools. Perhaps the new software can take over functions from existing tools so that you can eliminate them.

Technology, processes and people
In this process you cannot avoid looking at the processes and people. Perhaps you will gain new insights through your search for marketing automation and an adjustment of the current process is inevitable. Also important; do you have the right skills to get the most out of the new software?

4. Inventory the content marketing landscape

Marketing automation is not possible without content. Content is the oil on which the marketing automation machine runs. The whole purpose of this software is to get your content to the right people in the right way at the right time and thus generate leads. So look at all the assets you have at home. Think of white papers, infographics, eBooks, landing pages, product pages, blogs and email newsletters. Don't forget to include videos, podcasts and other media in this.

content as a basis for marketing automation

Marketing Automation focuses on content creation, content delivery, content optimization, SEO, lead capturing, lead scoring, lead nurturing & analytics. SEO, Social Media, Landing pages, Whitepapers, Blogs, Webinars and email marketing are important pillars.

New Marketing Automation Software packages have emerged and traditional CRM packages are extended with marketing functionalities. There are also specific Content Marketing Automation packages for content curation and content delivery.

b2b marketing automation process

Marketing Software or Marketing Automation is used to get a better grip on the Customer Buyer Journey of target groups, Lead Nurturing, and gain insight into the Marketing ROI and typically includes modules such as:

  • Audience Targeting & Segmentation
  • Campaign Management, email marketing
  • Content Marketing Management
  • Social Marketing Management
  • Sales Enablement
  • lead management, Lead Nurturing
  • Marketing Measurement, Analytics
  • Customer Lifecycle Marketing, Customer Buyer Journey Marketing

Marketing automation functionalities

Examples Marketing Automation Software

In practice, we see many different Marketing Automation tools that marketers use to gain smarter insight and approach target groups. Online Marketing tools are popping up like mushrooms. Think of; seo checking tools, social media tools, page rank checkers, email marketing tools, metric and dashboard tools, campaign software, media planning software, etc. In recent years we have seen the increasing popularity of Content Marketing also an increase in total packages that allow you to automate a complete content strategy with personalized messages and automatic follow-up steps.

Examples of these types of Marketing Automation tools are:

Compare & select Marketing Automation

When comparing & selecting Marketing Automation software, it is important to test the objectives of your organization against the possibilities of the software. Not every package is suitable for your specific objectives.

Typically, the following features, specifications & functionalities are considered:

  1. Strategic setup
    Is the tool set up as an enterprise product for the top 500 or does the tool focus more on SMEs? This is an important difference. Not only in price, also in complexity and how manageable the software is for achieving the organizational objectives. More and more SME alternatives are emerging.
  2. Distribution Model & Partner Landscape
    A lot of Marketing Automation Software is put away via a partner landscape. A sales strategy often used in the software world. This means that marketing agencies and software companies become reseller of one or more solutions. Eloqua, Marketo or HubSpot, for example, are often bought through a marketing agency. The advantage of this is that there is good, local support for the implementation. However, you need to find a partner that suits you.
  3. The price
    The price is related to the aforementioned strategic positioning. The price structure is the same with most Marketing Automation providers; a fixed amount per month and any additional costs based on usage (additional users/size database). Also pay attention to the costs that you have to incur with regard to the design of the software. Often there is also an internal cost component; freeing up resources within the organization to embed the Inbound Marketing strategy into Marketing Automation.
  4. The user-friendliness
    One package has a technical approach, the other package has a more user-oriented approach. It totally depends on the organization and the type of user which interface best suits the organization.
  5. Email Marketing Opportunities
    An important part of Marketing Automation is email marketing. Many automatic emails are set up and fired at different stages in the customer journey. The power of this functionality can determine the success of your strategy.
  6. CMS Functionality
    To what extent is it possible to create landing pages, forms & download pages. Think of offering white papers, e-books and other valuable content. Is it possible to convert your entire website to the content management system of the Marketing Automation software?
  7. CRM, segmentation & database functionality
    How packages deal with CRM functionality differs per provider. Marketing Automation is in principle complementary to existing CRM systems. However, packages often contain quite extensive CRM functionalities. In most cases, an additional CRM package is common for customer data tracking and opportunity management. A choice can be; working on prospects and Marketing Qualified Leads in Marketing Automation and dealing with Sales Qualified Leads in CRM.
  8. Result Measurement, Dashboards & Integration
    Marketing is no longer possible without providing insight into results. The possibilities to measure the results of campaigns are present in every solution to a greater or lesser extent. It is important to monitor the journey of the prospect/lead and thus gain insight into the Customer Journey. This is also related to the integration with other systems such as Social Media, Google Analytics, CRM systems and other tooling.
  9. Lead scoring/lead nurturing
    A frequently heard term within Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation is lead scoring and lead nurturing. This relates to the possibilities of the tool to monitor, value and guide prospects/leads at an early stage of the Customer Journey in the process towards possible conversion.

A handy tool to gain insight into the different providers and how they position themselves in the market:

Comparison Grind (Content) Marketing Software/Marketing Automation

Marketing automation for Demand Generation, Lead Nurturing & Lead Scoring

The objective of Marketing Automation is to create a grip on target groups and generate leads. This involves creating demand by providing target groups with sharp, target-oriented content on the one hand and nurturing and scoring the eventual lead on the other. This includes a process of campaign steps and tasks so that each potential lead gets the attention it deserves.

So it's not about the software doing all the work for the Marketer, the software supports setting up and executing thoughtful contact strategies based on content.


1. Lead Nurturing

With Marketing Automation, marketers can provide potential customers with the right information in the different phases of the Customer Buyer Journey. If prospects are not yet ready to purchase a product or service, a preferential relationship can already be built. An extensive profile can also be built up so that the needs of the prospect can be responded to even more effectively.

By offering high-quality content at the right time that responds to the interests of the prospect, the organization builds the brand and thought leadership. With this, the marketer lays the foundation for further information when the prospect moves on to a more concrete purchase phase. In which phase a lead is and at what moment a transfer to Sales takes place can be determined on the basis of lead scoring.

2. Lead scoring

Lead Scoring is determining the value of a lead based on predetermined criteria such as what is known about the DMU, which touch points a lead has come into contact with or what case data is available. This provides opportunities for highly targeted marketing campaigns and transferring the lead to Sales at the right time. It also increases predictability of pipeline and expected sales opportunities and orders over time.

With Lead Scoring, different moves of prospects get points that can then lead to certain actions. This way of working brings subtlety to the marketing process whereby marketers do not answer every information attempt with a phone call, but leave more initiative with the prospect. The prospect is not ignored, but instead receives new content based on certain actions.

Example of Lead Scoring

If a prospect visits a landing page, he gets 5 points. If he then also downloads a white paper, he gets 10 points. This can lead to a workflow starting up that sends him an email with a new whitepaper a week after downloading the whitepaper. If the prospect downloads this white paper in exchange for more data about his company or the specific case that lies with his organization, he gets 15 extra points. The prospect now has 30 points and moves to a new phase in the contact strategy where the first activity consists of a phone call from a content specialist. This can result in a Sales Qualified Lead or a new workflow of content. Marketing Automation can also play a role in the provision of information to the lead with a Sales Qualified Lead.

Benefits of Marketing Automation Workflows
By using such workflows, the content remains central in the contact with the prospect and the initiative lies largely with the prospect. This makes the customer journey experience more pleasant.

Another advantage, more on the side of the provider, is that resources, time and attention are handled in an effective and efficient way. Resources are used smarter and sales pay attention to the right processes.

The approach is to make the marketing and sales process run more smoothly, to increase scoring opportunities and ultimately to generate more and better Sales Qualified leads.

More about Lead Scoring: Efficiently assign points to leads with lead scoring

Content Marketing Software

A specific branch within B2B Marketing Automation is that of Content Marketing Software. Here the focus is on Content creation, content curation, content distribution and measuring the effects. A well-known example is: NewsCred. You can find more here:  Content Marketing Software.

Email Marketing Software

Marketing Automation is more than email marketing software. The pure email marketing vendors seem to be expanding their software more and more, making the dividing line increasingly blurred. You can read more about these tools here: email marketing software. 

Lead Generation Software

Another form of Marketing Automation that is emerging quickly is the Lead Generation Software, or Lead Identification Software. This is tooling with which website visitors are identified by means of IP identification techniques. By linking IP address data to a company database and Chamber of Commerce data, organizations have the option of automatically keeping track of who has visited the website. These leads can then be approached and end up in an automated marketing mill.

The Marketing Automation Tools such as HubSpot do not have this extensive way of lead identification software. This is partly because they do not use local databases. Read more about this type of software here: Lead identification software, the differences.

Marketing Automation Software & CRM related blogs

Image b2b marketing automation by shutterstock.


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1 Comment

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    January 30, 2021

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