Content, inbound and automation are some of the hottest marketing topics and tactics promising and delivering significant results. Where outbound used to reign supreme – advertising in its various forms – inbound is now capturing more attention and becoming a leading strategy for businesses of all sizes looking to attract new customers, develop more personal relationships and position themselves as a leader in their field.
For anyone unfamiliar of what exactly inbound is, it essentially encompasses any marketing activities that pull inquiries towards your company. Content marketing is one facet; offering insightful information (just like this article!) answering questions from potential customers to build trust, show that you’re an information source they can rely on, encouraging them to make enquiries, become new leads and gradually be nurtured through the sales process.
The idea is to think beyond your website and keep new and existing leads engaged by offering them help, support and empowerment. This is then delivered through well crafted, customer-centred content.
The inbound marketing strategy is simple:
- Attract – with great content on blogs and social media
- Convert – with call to actions, forms and landing pages
- Close – track with a CRM and keep in touch with automated email workflows
- Delight – send the customer more content, gain feedback via surveys
What is marketing automation
So we have a grasp on content marketing and the general gist of inbound, but where does marketing automation come in? In a nutshell, marketing automation is the vehicle that drives the inbound marketing machine.
When most marketing strategies were outbound, it involved a lot of guesswork. You could conduct focus groups, do research and invest a lot in the continual analysis, but ultimately there was one message going to many, and even if you got it right for some, it was unlikely that it would be right for all.
(Martech Today, 2018)
Marketing automation solves the problem of guesswork by analysing and tracking every single step in the process: where the lead came from, what pages they visited, how they’re interacting with your brand, and what behaviours they display, which may indicate what kind of information they would like to see from you in the future.
Where businesses used to guess which marketing campaigns resulted in more leads, marketing automation can tell you with absolute certainty where your results are coming from and where to spend more time.
This allows businesses to generate more leads, drive more sales and optimally allocate marketing spends.
Marketing automation meets inbound marketing
These two terms are often used interchangeably, which tends to confuse, but the easiest way to understand it is that marketing automation is the software and inbound is the strategy.
Inbound marketing involves the creation of the content, determining which platforms to distribute content on and strategising on what message the business wants to get across and how to craft content that meets the business goals while answering questions and adding value to the readers.
Where these two combine, is in the uploading of this content to the marketing automation system where the platform can then track its performance and inform businesses on how customers are responding, and how results could be improved. With this, businesses can begin to segment customers, targeting them with personalised communications based on their online behaviour, rather than what the business thinks they may be interested in.
Marketing automation can also indicate when best to deliver these communications, which assists in improving open rates, inquiries and conversions.
Why SMEs should care about inbound and marketing automation
With so many new marketing tactics being touted as the latest and greatest, it can be tough for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to see through the hype and get a real grip on what is actually going to drive results for their business.
Luckily, this is what makes marketing automation stand out. Where many marketing channels and tactics are a little murky on how to get results, inbound and marketing automation is 100 per cent transparent. The work goes in, and the results come out.
With marketing automation, businesses can:
- Track leads and engage them at critical points in the buyer journey
- Nurture leads with hyper-personalised email and web content
- Build powerful landing pages that transform visitors to leads
- Connect to third-party platforms or build new integrations
- Turn social media interactions into conversations that generate sales
- Collect real-time analytics to capture and prove end-to-end ROI
With all of these elements being automated, sales teams can hone their focus in on the warmest leads, marketing is freed up to work on non-automated activities, and the software works in the background to build relationships, improve brand awareness, increase loyalty and boost ROI.
Which marketing automation platform is best?
Here at Preface Studios, we recommend SharpSpring; it’s a cost-effective alternative to Hubspot, offering an easy-to-use interface, time-saving automation, built-in and third-party CRM and unlimited support. Our SharpSpring WordPress integration allows businesses to seamlessly link their site and their marketing automation, making for the most optimal results.
Preface Studios is a proud SharpSpring partner, working with our clients to establish marketing automation and inbound marketing services that generate more leads and nurture them through the sales cycle.
Why we recommend SharpSpring over Hubspot:
- Cost – it’s a fraction of what competitors charge
- Ease of use – it’s intuitive to use and compatible with everything
- Features – it’s a comprehensive end-to-end solution.