While both marketing automation tools and CRM software help teams understand the movement of prospects along the sales and marketing funnels, the two tools have different focuses. Marketing automation tools help marketing tools nurture and capture leads across many channels and ready those leads for hand-off to sales. CRM, on the other hand, often picks up where marketing automation leaves off, storing and analyzing the historic data on a lead’s interactions with the company to facilitate the sales process. Most companies use a CRM that connects to a marketing automation tool to manage different parts of the lead-to-advocate funnel.

Email marketing vs. marketing automation

The difference between email marketing and marketing automation tools is a matter of scope. Most marketing automation systems include email marketing tools and combine them with the connected power of all of the other marketing automation features like customer analytics, automated workflows, and lead scoring. While email marketing will stop at the email campaign, a marketing automation tool can track a prospective customer across multiple channels and campaigns.

Social media automation vs. marketing automation

Most leading marketing automation solutions will include social media automation and monitoring tools, which means you can cancel your subscription to that best-of-breed social scheduling tool. A marketing automation tool will provide context to social media interactions by tracking potential customers to your website and will combine social media data with other touches like email campaigns, phone calls, or even events to better understand the effectiveness of your total campaigns.

Workflow automation vs marketing automation

While both these tools provide hands-off attention to repetitive tasks, workflow automation software has a different specialization. Marketing automation tools will automate important manual tasks in a nurture campaign like sending drip email campaigns, reminding agents to call prospects, or automatically publishing social media posts. Workflow automation tools like Zapier may include some marketing connections in their triggers and actions, but they often won’t give you the analytics and deep customer insight into campaign effectiveness that you’ll find in a marketing automation tool.

Project management vs marketing automation

Project management and marketing automation tools should be used in conjunction with one another. Marketing automation tools will help you implement a marketing strategy, but are not great at visualizing all the tasks necessary to implement a marketing campaign. A project management tool, on the other hand, can help your team lay out the step-by-step design of your campaign, pull the assets together in a centralized location, and collaborate on the desired outcome of that campaign. Once you’ve planned your campaign, build it out in the marketing automation tool where you can set it to run and then analyze your results.

BI vs marketing automation

Business intelligence and marketing automation software have some overlapping use cases when it comes to visualizing data and making it ready for analysis. However, the analytics in a marketing automation software will be focused only on marketing-specific behaviors. A good business intelligence software will allow you to consolidate all of your data from across your company’s tools to gain deeper insights into the effects they have on one another. For best results, marketing teams should use their marketing automation software to dive deep into marketing-specific analytics, but then export their data to the BI tool to better understand how marketing affects the company’s overall effectiveness.

Benefits and ROI of marketing automation

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Automation

Automation takes repetitive manual tasks out of human hands and makes computers responsible for them. Computers complete triggered actions efficiently: they can send a set email in response to a form fill, alert a team member to a change in a lead status, or send social posts at a scheduled time. While your team will still need to do a little planning to set up automations, you’ll save time (and your concentration) later by not needing to complete tasks individually as they arise.

More data

Big Data’s usefulness as a business tool has made companies hungry for more data that they can use to better understand their customers, funnels, operations, and financials. Marketing automation systems produce granular, customer-focused data that can help your teams segment their customers, build better nurture campaigns, and close more sales. All of this new data can be analyzed right in the marketing automation tool, or it can be fed into a business intelligence (BI) tool to view its impact on the company’s overall ROI.

Analytics and reporting

The best marketing automation software includes analytics and reporting features that track and illuminate your campaigns. Using these features can help your team build better campaigns with more personalization and better customer targeting. While BI software brings together data from all across the company, marketing automation analytics focuses on marketing and sales campaigns.

Centralized marketing tool

It’s the dream: one marketing software to rule them all! Marketing automation software can come close to this dream, centralizing control over email, CMS, content marketing, contact forms and downloads, social media, and even direct mail and more traditional channels. This is, of course, depending on the size (and price) of the product, so check feature lists carefully before you buy to make sure you don’t pay for features you won’t use.

ROI calculation

ROI, to put it simply, is gain from investment minus your cost of investment divided by the cost of investment. Your cost of investment should include how much you spend on the software per month or year plus what you spend on training and implementation. You can find your gain from investment number by looking at overall revenue, revenue per opportunity, or cost of opportunity. However you calculate your ROI for marketing automation software, look for the software to make your team more efficient, bring in more marketing qualified leads, and target the right customers at the right time. All of these improvements should increase your overall revenue.

Typical marketing automation user types

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  • CMO, Marketing Manager, Marketing Director: Decision-makers in the marketing team use marketing automation software primarily as a source of data for understanding how the team’s initiatives make an impact on overall revenue and where strategy changes could provide continued success.
  • Content manager, specialist: Content creators and managers use marketing automation systems as a means of publishing and promoting content to the right customers and prospects at the right time.
  • Social Media Manager or specialist: Social media managers and specialists use marketing automation tools to schedule posts to social media channels and monitor those channels for mentions and direct messages.
  • Email marketer: Email marketers use marketing automation software to set up, test, run, and automate email marketing campaigns to targeted customer lists.
  • Lead generation or demand generation manager or specialist: Lead and demand generation professionals use marketing automation to run email, PPC, and social campaigns as well as more traditional media campaigns that reach broad or targeted audiences. They can also refine the marketing funnel for those leads through detailed data and analytics.

Technology trends impacting marketing automation

Marketing automation systems often integrate new technologies—to the benefit of both the marketers who run campaigns and the individuals the marketing targets. The overall trends in MA software technology adoption have made communication with individual prospects and leads more personalized on a large scale.

Integrated behavior-based workflows

This trend has been used across technology areas including CRM, field service managementproject managementsupply chain management, and marketing automation tools to speed work handoffs automatically across different users and from one part of a project to another. Based on a series of triggers and actions, behavior-based workflows watch for a user or client behavior (the trigger) and reacts to that trigger with a specific automatic action.

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