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A Complete Guide to B2B Marketing Automation

The idea of automated marketing started way back in 1999 with Eloqua. However, recent years have brought a shift in automation trends.

Gone are the days of using a single marketing automation platform (MAP) to automate your entire marketing process. In comes a new era where these platforms have largely been replaced by smaller tech providers that specialize in very specific functionality. 

There’s a marked shift between mega product suites to smaller tech “stacks.” 

It’s even brought on a shift for marketing operations professionals (Sales Ops, Rev Ops, etc.) who no longer need to be experts in one MAP, but rather, generalists in a variety of technologies and experts at vetting integrations for different software in the stack. 

But, fear not. If you're still not sure how your current automation platforms fit into this new shift, you aren't alone.

That's why we created this complete B2B marketing automation guide using the latest trends and technology.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is the process of using technology to unify marketing efforts and make them more effective. It allows you to automate repetitive tasks like email marketing, ad campaigns, social media posting, and so much more — not just for the sake of efficiency, but also to provide a personalized experience for your customers. 

A brief history of marketing automation

While Unica is considered the earliest marketing automation platform, it was very limited in its capabilities and primarily used by financial institutions. 

However, Eloqua is the company that helped make marketing automation its own technology category back in 1999.

Eloqua filled the marketing needs to reach leads, perform web analytics, send automated emails, and so much more. In addition, Eloqua cleared the road for other major players to join the field, like Hubspot, Pardot, and Marketo.

Marketing automation today

Marketing automation platforms used to be the heart of marketing technology, but now, so much of our efforts revolve around removing processes from MAPs because third-party tools do a much better job in their specializations. 

Our very own CEO’s take is quite interesting too — he says marketing automation is dead because marketing itself has changed.

Buyers today change their minds quickly, before and even after buying. It’s hyper-competitive. 

So our tech stack has to get even more sophisticated to optimize every step and every detail along the buying journey. 

This is why highly specialized solutions have emerged and created new, larger categories. 

What is an example of marketing automation?

Digital marketing automation helps you keep your social media updated, route leads, analyze customer data, and so much more. 

Here are several B2B marketing automation examples:

  • Welcome emails when customers create an account
  • Reminder emails for abandoned carts, sales, and holidays
  • Lead routing
  • Chatbots
  • Managing pipeline
  • Automating ad campaigns
  • Tracking interactions
  • Feedback requests
  • Automated booking and scheduling
  • Tools to monitor social media posts
  • Customized web pages based on viewer demographics

How does marketing automation work?

Marketing automation works by collecting data and analyzing customer behavior, then using that information to perform automated processes.

Think about it. Everything digital like websites, social media, and other online activities leaves a digital footprint. 

These footprints tell us where customers have been, what their buying behavior is like, what they’re interested in, where in the world they are, and lots more.

Marketing automation takes all of this information and responds accordingly to deliver a personalized experience for your customers. This process is essential as 90% of U.S. consumers respond favorably to a customized experience.

For example, if a customer's computer has an IP address from a specific state, your website can pull up a relevant store in that state.

How can marketing automation help marketers?

Here are five marketing automation benefits that help marketers succeed:

1. Saves valuable time and increases conversions

Timing is key to sales success.

More than 78% of customers buy from the first company to respond, so automating your customer response helps you optimize and reduce your lead response time.

Using automation to reach customers immediately after they express interest will help you see an increase in your ROI. It’s directly correlated. 

Don’t believe me? Check out how Apollo has increased their revenue by 300% by using Chili Piper. 

2. Improves efficiency by streamlining processes

What would you do if you had an extra hour every day? What about five extra hours?

Marketing automation streamlines processes and resources so your marketing strategies run at maximum efficiency.

A useful example is to think about large e-commerce brands and their email marketing. It would be nearly impossible to leverage their efforts without automating many of their emails for things like abandoned carts, birthdays, product abandonment, shipping information, discounts, promotions, and so much more. 

It’s no surprise businesses that use marketing automation are 20% more productive.

3. Decreases the possibility of costly human error

While errors are part of being human, they can cost a company thousands or even millions. 

For example, in 2017, an Amazon employee made one typo and accidentally shut down multiple servers, costing millions of dollars.

While marketers might not cause a company to shut down, we can certainly lose valuable leads or hurt the company’s public image by spreading false information due to human error. However, having software automate repetitive tasks significantly reduces human error and keeps information consistent across platforms.

One study showed that 66% of companies say that automation has helped cut down on data errors.

4. Increases customer capacity

Simply put, you can handle more customers in your pipeline by using marketing automation. 

We don’t believe in long sales nurturing cycles at Chili Piper, but we do like automation for other tasks like win-back programs, onboarding flows, asking for reviews and testimonials, and more. 

Imagine having to do all of this manually for each customer? Completely unnecessary. 

5. Eliminates annoying and repetitive tasks

The average marketer and sales rep spends 17% of their day doing data entry. That’s nearly two hours of an eight-hour workday. Just think of how many other tasks you could tackle! 

Repetitive tasks are ideal for automation because it doesn't require creativity or complex decision-making. Instead, repetitive tasks only need a set of instructions dictated by you and your MAP will follow.

Why does marketing automation sometimes fail?

While marketing automation does reduce human error, it isn’t foolproof. That's why it's so important to follow marketing automation best practices.

Here are five common reasons it fails and how you can avoid potential problems.

Incorrectly setting up the software

Many tiny little details go into properly setting up a marketing automation platform and just one mistake can be costly and hard to detect.

You can avoid mistakes by hiring an expert to help integrate the software into your current marketing process. 

Like I mentioned before, learning and leveraging tools like Workato, tray.io, Boomi, and Zapier are going to be a major focus for years to come.

Inability to scale

While marketing automation platforms may appear similar on the surface, not all are structured for more sophisticated tasks, which may limit your capabilities as your organization grows. 

One of the top reasons for migrating to new MAPs is the inability to increase efficiency or streamline tasks as required. 

For example, sometimes you’re unable to automate tasks or there’s redundancy in steps that lead to excessive time wasted on the platform. These are all indicators of a system that isn’t designed to scale.

If you’re seeking to scale your marketing operations, your marketing automation platform must align with your organizational needs vs. the other way around.

Efforts not aligned with objectives

The biggest mistake I see marketers make today is not tracking key performance indicators back to business objectives. 

While traditional marketing metrics can be an important measure of progress for specific marketing activity, most of these metrics are meaningless to key stakeholders because they don’t tie directly to revenue.

A focus on driving revenue is the best way to align with your executive leadership and your revenue teams. 

To put it in another way, ask yourself, “How are my efforts contributing directly to the company’s bottom line?” It’s easier than you think. 

For example, for your campaigns, you can track metrics such as cost per program success, new names per program, cost per opportunity, pipeline generated, and pipeline to investment.

Wrong message, wrong person, wrong time

If a contact just signed up for your newsletter, it’s probably not the best time to pitch them a thousand-dollar product. Right?

You can set up automations to send almost any message you want, but it’s also important to consider whether you’re sending your messages at the right time and to the right person.

This, primarily, comes down to setting up your MAP correctly. Don’t rush into it — you can quickly become too clever and make basic errors.

But also, it comes down to understanding the customer lifecycle and stages of awareness. What does your prospect or customer need? Are they pain-aware? Are they solution-aware? Are you trying to retain them? Are you trying to nurture them?

Setting up your MAP correctly and ​​understanding the customer lifecycle and stages of awareness can help you avoid a common reason why marketing automation fails — and deliver messages to the right person at the right time.

Advanced automation limitations

It’s not uncommon for marketers to get frustrated when trying to create non-standard automation to accomplish specific objectives. 

In fact, some platforms actually feel quite restrictive.

According to the Salesforce State of the Connected Consumer Report, 59% of customers say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to winning their business. 

Yet ironically, if you compare Salesforce’s Pardot to other platforms, it’s significantly lagging in its ability to leverage filters and behavioral actions to engage with audiences. 

Marketers need the ability to drill down by using constraints and flow step choices, as well as have control over when the desired actions fire.

To be specific, with some marketing automation platforms, dynamically managing form completion actions is more difficult. If you have multiple products, of course, you’ll want to tailor your messaging around the customer’s interest and the page the form submission originated. 

But if your MAP doesn’t allow a global asset to also function as an operational campaign, you’ll likely end up frustrated as your tool just doesn’t have the right functionality to meet your needs.

Should your business use marketing automation platforms?

The short answer is: it depends.

Picking a MAP “suite” sounds like the most convenient option, but it can come off as a collection of disparate systems tied together and marketed under a single brand. 

While this approach may be a good option for the short term, especially if you want to roll out your project quickly, it may not be a fruitful long-term strategy. It’ll work best for companies running small campaigns or targeting a limited audience, which can be managed with one or maybe a couple of apps (such as a CMS or a CRM), with a few integrations. 

But as digital needs expand, a more comprehensive and flexible solution becomes imperative. In a world where technology is changing at a breakneck pace, flexibility is a significant advantage. 

By implementing a stack of smaller, highly-specialized solutions, no single primary service does the heavy lifting. Each service is responsible for an individual task. 

It also manages the end-to-end customer journey for that task before handing it over to another microservice that provides an equally seamless experience. 

Due to the “pluggable” nature of the individual parts, you can easily replace them, freeing you from having to stick to outdated legacy applications or platforms.

However, bear in mind, managing all the components of your entire MarTech stack may be time-consuming and daunting — and might take up more resources than you have. 

It may even require specialized training or expertise to work with all different systems. Identifying the stack services that integrate seamlessly and rolling out your project may be more time-consuming than the MAP approach.

I think if your requirements are defined clearly, it shouldn't be a difficult choice to make.

What can marketing automation do for you?

Are you ready to streamline your marketing automation process with a stack personalized to your needs?

Chili Piper can help automate your inbound conversion process so you never miss another sales opportunity.

Want to see how Chili Piper works for yourself? Request a demo.