What is the future of marketing automation, really?

Find out what is the future of marketing automation

    On this blog post, you'll learn how to:
  • Why customer journey automation is the future of marketing and sales strategies;
  • The main differences and correlations between marketing automation and customer journey automation

If a company wants to keep up with our increasingly competitive market, it's mandatory to integrate all marketing, sales and customer success strategies. In each and every company, no matter the size or sector, the touch points that determine in which stage the customer is (awareness, engagement or purchase) must be carefully followed to ensure a flawless experience.

That's when marketing automation tools step in. Their job is to create simpler, faster paths for prospects and clients throughout the sales funnel. The concept is very simple: send the right message to the right person, at the right time. Pretty straightforward, isn't it? But it does get better.

Customer journey automation platforms are the next step when thinking of a marketing automation strategy. It provides more accurate customer coverage with greater flexibility and adaptability, by determining where each lead, prospect, and customer is on their current journey rather than where they fall on a particular step of a funnel or linear path.

The new data-driven customer journey

The customer journey is and has always been the backbone of business successfulness, but the "new" journey is ruled by a simple but powerful word: data. Qualified data is what guides today's companies. The latest Experian research shows that the main reasons to maintain a high-quality data are to increase efficiency and improve customer satisfaction.

Marketing professionals have to create smarter, more personable, and more relevant content and segmented data is a helpful hand. Data-driven marketing switches the focus from push marketing to insight-driven response and prediction. With hypersegmented data in hands like past purchases, location, devices and more makes it possible to provide exceptional value through every interaction with potential customers.

Today's business world is customer-centric and each touch point has to be taken care of by companies through marketing automation. Marketing, sales and customers success teams have to react to every one of them in a way that adds value and encourages further customer's interactions.

The "new" customer journey has to deliver a 1:1 communication through a data-driven strategy. When each individual's path of touch points is covered it's possible to make contextual decisions at every subsequent interaction, in order to develop and automate processes at scale.

At this point, predictive analytics comes in handy. According to a TDWI Research, the top five reasons why companies want to use predictive analytics are to predict trends, understand customers, improve business performance, drive strategic decision-making, and predict behavior.

With marketing automation tools, predicting behavior and understanding customers enables hyper-personalization. This means richer and more relevant experiences that will leave customers satisfied and excited to return for more.

Customer journey mapping: a necessity

By now I'm pretty sure you know why customer journey mapping is fundamental. Being able to identify what motivates a customer gives the insight needed to make smart marketing and sales decisions.

Defining competitive positioning, allocating marketing budgets, and crafting creative messaging –all are only some of the benefits acquired by understanding the customer's journey towards your product.

In reality each customer forges his own unique journey, and in order to stay relevant companies need to reach out to every customer with the right message at the right touchpoint along that personal journey.Pini Yakuel, founder and CEO of Optimove

Once again, what is making a huge difference in customer journey mapping nowadays? Data! What changes then? Well, the data-driven mapping analyses the sequence of events for each customer and finds (or even predicts) the most common paths to purchase.

To make it simpler and more accurate, everything can and must be automated by a marketing automation software. By doing that, for instance, every time a customer reaches a certain step in the journey, they receive a message, whether it's an email or in-app message.

Bare in mind that every step on the map is an opportunity for a brand to show the customer that they know their interests, preferences, and history, and it's willing to use it towards customer satisfaction.

Before mapping your customer's journey you need to decide if you're going to focus on the whole customer lifecycle or just a particular moment of it, let's say the onboarding process for user activation. Once you do that, clearly define your persona, time frame, channels and touchpoints that are going to be taken into consideration.

The best tactic is to invite the customer to be part of your customer journey mapping. Conduct surveys, workshops, interviews, and customer advisory boards. Validate the outcomes with several stakeholders and don't forget to look at the facts.

By carefully plotting out the customer journey for different personas, savvy marketers can make each interaction with the customer pleasant and relevant, thus increasing retention and revenue.

How marketing automation enhances the customer journey

Usually the customer journey can be divided into three main stages: awareness, consideration and decision. The job of marketing automation is to enhance each and every stage, making it simpler and more effective.

Marketing automation allows 1-to-1 communication with customers so that each customer receives the personal attention he or she needs (and deserves). With that, they naturally flow through the funnel. The goal is to identify all the steps potential customers take during his customer journey and to automate this process where necessary.

So let's break down the stages and see what marketing automation can do for each one of them:

See how marketing automation can benefit the customer journey

Awareness

This stage can be divided into two different stages: discovery and interest. This is when the customer starts to flirt with the idea of the product or service. They might not know exactly what it is, the benefits, how it can help them, or they might know what it is and are interested in knowing more about it.

These potential customers managed to find your website, and are willing to provide you with their precious email address. So it's very important that you don't loose the grip, and more important, you should properly welcome them, and provide relevant information and content related your company and product.

With marketing automation, you are able to structure a personalized welcome flow with emails and in-app messages to drive engagement right from the start. The next step should be creating a lead scoring system so you can build a "hot lead" flow to identify hotter opportunities. At the same time, it's important to use the automation tools to better segment prospects and effectively identify their interests and sales potential.

Consideration

On this stage, the potential customers are considering the purchase, since they've already identified their problems and recognized they need to fix it. For that, they intend to buy a product/service to solve it. This is when you need to prove that your company is an expert on that topic, and has the best solution to offer. How? If relevant, powerful content. It's important to show authority in the business. Keep the leads engaged. Warm them up.

Create an advanced lead nurturing flow and feed your leads with the content they want and need. Once again, use a marketing automation platform to segment the contacts according to their interests or behavior within pages of your website, blog or landing pages, and add them to the appropriate automation flow. Set conditions and rules to determine the next steps of your automation in order to create individual journeys for different prospects according to their needs.

It's not rare that leads in this stage suddenly get highly qualified through their engagement with your content and even by contacting your company. When they reach this "sales-ready stage", it's a good time to send them up to the sales team. This too will be automated.

Decision

The final stage can also be divided into two phases: evaluation and purchase. The customers already know their problem and how to fix it, and it's only deciding what product or brand to choose. Many factors may fall upon the customer decision, such as relation of the product to a specific pain, the company's expertise in solving it, and if it's easy to be implemented.

Commonly, users tend to create a free or trial account on a product before the purchase decision - the activation stage. But there are different types of prospects that perform different sets of actions.

Some might be interested in the product but not replied or clicked in all your emails, while some might have responded at first but for some reason stopped engagement with your emails and in-app messages. In this case, you can create re-engagement strategies with these kinds of messages.

To help leads make their minds, automated marketing strategies may include personalized user onboarding, lead conversation management and more important: integration between your sales and marketing teams.

When leads reach the decision stage, it's important that you respect their pace and keep all their interactions with emails and in-app messages in the same place. Also, app integrations with CRMs can highly increase the chemistry between marketing and sales teams.

If you succeed in turning the leads into clients, a customer journey automation tool will also help with the retention stage. You can check who is engaged and at what level with a customer engagement index, and use it to create specific strategies for each one of your most valuable customers.

Customer journey automation: the benefits

As you can see, if you can benefit from marketing automation in every touch point of the customer journey, it's fair to say that it's possible to automate the entire customer journey. The main gain? Improve the customer experience while freeing up your own time, so you can ultimately provide an even better service/product to them.

The key of customer journey automation is personalization. When you are able to personalize every customer touch point, you can: turn visitors into leads, convert leads to sales, onboard new customers and educate them about how to achieve long-term success, and grow customer loyalty through engagement, customer feedback surveys, or regular newsletters.

Want some more? Let's see:

Customer journey automation goes way beyond email marketing: most marketing automation platforms simply send "one size fits all" messages to users. This leads to high unsubscribes rates. Acquiring valuable data through the entire journey guarantees that you only send the correct message to correct recipient.

Better knowledge of your customer: with real-time data, it's easier to truly know your customer. For example, let's say you have a customer named John: he's not only John, he's John that visits your website twice a week, always reads you blog posts, open but does not click in your emails, and so on. As a result, you can tailor his messages to make sure that fit his needs.

A great example of a company that masters customer journey automation is Dropbox. The main service offered by the company: cyber-space for you online files that you can access anywhere.

The automated process is very simple: once you create an account, you will receive educational content to help you get the most of the app. When you reach certain stage of engagement, you receive more information about it to take your experience to next level (and this include paid plans).

If you are a regular user and decide to purchase a plan, they will offer a higher plan at the same price. If you opt for the business plan, for example, you'll get an email suggesting a talk with their customer success team. Clearly all this journey is automated, but we know that the main focus of the company is to facilitate the usage and to improve the customer experience.

As technology increases, customers continues to demand and expect better experiences. As a result, a personalized approach from marketing automation platforms is necessary to ensure targeted and improved services that will eventually drive brand loyalty and marketing ROI.

Customer journey mapping and customer journey automation surely allow this level of targeting while increasing the chances of conversion, customer activation and retention. Don't ever forget that is fully automated, so it needs a lot of tweaking, testing and monitoring. But with the right tools, you are half way to success.

Acquire and convert leads, engage with customers and analyze everything along the process, all in the same place Customer Experience & Marketing Automation Software | Pipz