What Marketing Automation Means Today and How You Can Leverage It

How marketing automation works

As a marketer, you’re playing an increasingly important role at each stage of the customer lifecycle.

You’re tasked with engaging and educating customers; you’re bringing sales cross-sell and up-sell opportunities; and you still perform traditional top-of-funnel and lead nurture activities.

To help you adjust to these growing responsibilities and align better with cross-functional partners, you’ve been tasked with adopting and expertly using dozens, if not, hundreds of marketing applications; today, the average enterprise uses 91 marketing cloud services. The only way to get the most out of each and truly transform marketing processes is by leveraging marketing automation.

Why is marketing automation the answer? And how can you use it effectively?

We’ll answer these questions throughout this guide so you can begin using it to deliver better experiences for your customers, employees, and grow your business. 

But first, let’s walk through what marketing automation means in 2022.

Workato logo

Ready to take your marketing automations to the next level?

Our ebook dives deep on specific marketing automations that allow your team to manage leads more effectively, operate campaigns more efficiently, and more!

Download ebook

What is Marketing Automation?

In the past, marketing automation has been defined as a type of technology that allows you to automate certain marketing activities. For business-to-business organizations, these technologies include the likes of Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot, and Eloqua; while for business-to-consumer organizations, they include platforms like Iterable, and many more.

Related: How Iterable and Workato are partnering up to deliver hyper-personalization at scale.

These platforms work independently or with just 1 to 2 external systems, which inherently limits the scope of their automations.

Marketing automation has since evolved with the rise of enterprise automation. It’s now defined as the automation of end-to-end marketing workflows by connecting customer-facing applications and then using business events (also known as triggers) that drive real-time outcomes (also known as actions). To do this, you’ll need to use a platform that can “listen” to the applications. Only then can business events be identified properly.

Kristin Keefer, a Marketing Operations Manager at Salesloft (a leading sales engagement platform), adds context to this new definition:

“There’s a new horizon of automation maturity hitting sales and marketing. It requires intelligent workflows that not only connect your tech-stack, but also your full-cycle customer journey.”

To help you understand how marketing automation works, let’s walk through a common example: lead routing

Imagine your current process involves collecting leads from events with Eventbrite (an event management platform) or through gated pages with Wufoo (a form-building tool). Once a lead is collected, it’s added to Salesforce (your customer relationship management platform) for sales to find and act on.

As harmless as the process might seem, it can quickly become a headache. It involves your marketing team constantly monitoring for new leads, and then creating an opportunity for each in Salesforce. You’re also counting on your sales team leader to monitor Salesforce and assign those leads to the correct sales rep quickly.  The rep then needs to reach out to leads quickly, despite only having form responses to guide their outreach. This process is unlikely to yield great success, as it’s well known that leads are 10 times less likely to respond after just 5 minutes from when they fill out the form. 

You can perform marketing automation on an enterprise automation platform like Workato. Here’s how it works:

The entire workflow of routing leads across applications.

Let’s breakdown this automated lead routing workflow:

  1. The workflow gets triggered once a lead is collected from Eventbrite or Wufoo.
  2. Workato enriches that lead with relevant information from Linkedin, ClearBit, and Zoominfo.
  3. The lead, along with their details, automatically gets added into Salesforce.
  4. Leadbot (a Workato chatbot) uses AI to qualify each lead and to determine which rep to send it to—it factors in things like the company’s location, industry, as well as which reps can take on more leads.

Now your sales reps can receive leads in real-time, along with all of the relevant information they need before reaching out. 

Related: 3 popular marketing automation integrations

Why is Marketing Automation Important?

As marketing automation has evolved, so has its business value. Here are just a few reasons why it’s critical that your organization implements marketing automation:

It allows you to transform your engagement with customers.

The number of marketing technologies available have ballooned from 150 to more than 8,000 over the past decade. This ever-growing list of technologies allow you to improve specific facets of marketing, like digital advertising campaigns and email marketing.

However, no matter how sophisticated or useful an application is, its value only goes so far when run on its own.

Marketing automation involves connecting your systems, and building out triggers and corresponding actions between apps that ensure the right information is delivered to the right place, at the right time. Once this happens, your team is in prime position to deliver prospects and customers with the experience they demand and deserve. 

Related: How you can use marketing automation to nurture leads and engage clients

It delights your employees.

Marketing automation, and enterprise automation more generally, makes your employees’ jobs easier and more enjoyable. Based on a recent survey we ran on our customers (using TechValidate), 67% have been able to improve their employee experience by using Workato’s workflow automations. 

Better employee experiences don’t just make your team happier. They also help employees become 20% more productive and allow your organization to earn 2.5 times more revenue than those with less engaged workforces.

It’s easy for Marketers to perform.

An enterprise automation platform (which enables you to perform marketing automation) requires no coding skills, and is straightforward to use for people who are heavy enterprise app users. This allows MarketingOps to lessen their reliance on IT and gain control over what they build, how they build it, and when it goes live—without compromising security or governance.

It provides your organization with a competitive advantage.

If you’re reading this, you’re well ahead of the pack. Less than 20% of marketing teams have optimized their technology stack. This puts you in prime position to beat the competition and win over prospects through more timely and thoughtful outreach. 

It gives you more time to focus on important parts of your job.

There are certain responsibilities that are harder, if not impossible, to automate, such as creating content or presenting at events. By using marketing automation to streamline a big chunk of your work, you’ll have more time to dedicate towards less automation-friendly activities. 

Related: 3 reasons to integrate your marketing automation platform with your CRM

How to Implement Marketing Automation

Now that you have a solid understanding of what marketing automation is and why it’s critical, you’re ready to start implementing it at your organization.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take:

1. Pin down the specific activities you want to automate.

The activities you choose can range from specific awareness initiatives to lead nurture campaigns to up-sell and cross-sell efforts.

Say you need to improve the quality and size of your sales pipeline. You decide to solve this by automating the process of analyzing buyer intent data (from a software review site like G2 or TrustRadius) and sharing it with your sales team. This should come as a big relief for the team, as they no longer have to go through individual accounts, review the research they’re performing, identify who’s performing that research, etc. 

2. For any activity you want to automate, identify who needs to be involved and what they need.

Given departments’ increasing interdependence, you’ll likely need to include multiple functions.

Since you’re trying to convert more leads, faster, you’ll need to get buy-in from sales. This involves speaking to sales development reps to understand the types of information they need and where they need it.

To nurture these leads, you also want to advertise to them across digital channels, so you include your ABM team in the conversation. Finally, since you’re using systems that are leveraged by different functions, you want to include someone from IT who can make sure that the data flows correctly between platforms. This involves understanding how similar fields are labeled across systems. 

3. Review the applications that can connect the right data to the right teams.

This often includes a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, an analytics tool, and a traditional marketing automation technology like Marketo—among others.

You’ll need to connect the software review site to Salesforce (where your sales team stores customer information), and Slack (which everyone at your company uses). You also need to use a bot that can communicate with the appropriate stakeholders in Slack.

4. Bring the workflow to life by using an automation platform.

You’ll need to use a platform that doesn’t require any coding. That way, you can build the workflow to your liking quickly and not rely on IT.

The workflow automation can work as follows:

1. It gets triggered once a prospect is looking at your organization, a competitor, or your category in the software review site.

2. The bot adds information to every lead by passing it through Salesforce, Marketo, as well as other data enrichment tools.

3. Leads, along with all their information, are shared with the appropriate colleagues on Slack. The employees can then take action from Slack, whether it’s putting a lead into an ABM campaign or a prospecting tool, like Salesloft.

Here’s how the Slack message can look if you use the G2 Intent Bot and run the automation with Workato.

A slack message from Intent Bot that includes lead information.

Related: How to get the more from your G2 buyer intent data

6 Tips to Get the Most Out of Marketing Automation

The process of refining a marketing automation or building more of them is continuous. Here are some best practices that can help you along the way:

1. Diversify your automations.

It’s a good idea to start your automation journey by picking processes that are most important to the business. It’s an even better idea to continue your journey thereafter, as nearly any marketing process can benefit from automation. 

2. Reassess opportunities over time.

Your technology stack and business processes will continue to evolve. As they do, check for additional integrations and workflow automations that can benefit your employees and customers.

3. Build cross-functional workflows.

Nearly every marketing process affects other departments, whether it’s sales, customer support, or product. The more functions you include, the more value a workflow likely delivers for your business. When this happens, your team will likely be given more credit by other departments and management. This should help your team play a bigger role in important initiatives and secure more budget for headcount.

4. Start by building simple workflow automations.

Like anything, it takes practice to get good at building a marketing automation. You can prevent getting overwhelmed and learn at a steady pace by building more straightforward ones at the onset. Also, check to see if your platform offers pre-built recipes (steps the platform follows to get work done between apps). You can use them to get ideas or build off of.

Check out the recipes Workato hosts from thousands of users.

5. Demonstrate the value your marketing automation delivers to get more buy-in.

Any data you bring to management can help persuade them to not only keep using the enterprise automation platform but also to extend its use across lines of business. 

You can get ideas for how to quantify its benefits by visiting our research page in TechValidate (a software that allows you to collect and transform customer feedback into marketable assets). There you’ll find quantifiable data, like ROI, coupled with qualitative feedback.

Marketing automation will play an increasingly important role in how businesses operate and engage with their most important stakeholders: employees and customers. If your team can follow the best practices for implementing and leveraging marketing automation, you can expect just about every aspect of your business to benefit for years to come.

6. Understand what information exists in each platform.

By understanding where information lives and how it’s labeled, you can better decide on the platforms you use and ensure that information flows to the correct fields. Since you’ll likely use applications that other customer-facing teams work on, you’ll also need to study the information across key systems outside of marketing, like your CRM.

Ready to get started?

Workato is a no-code, enterprise automation platform that allows you to build automations and test them the next day. Workato also has hundreds of connectors that can help your team automate business-critical workflows at the scale your enterprise organization demands. 

Learn how Workato can orchestrate your marketing workflows by scheduling a demo with one of our Automation Specialists. 

About the author
Jon Gitlin Content Strategist @ Workato
Jon Gitlin is the Managing Editor of The Connector, where you can get the latest news on Workato and uncover tips, examples, and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer (er...football) matches, and explore local restaurants.