Marketing automation emerged in the mid-1990s, and the marketing world has never been the same. But even with all the benefits marketing automation has already introduced, this field is still expanding quickly. This can only mean more promising advancements and possibilities for marketing consultants and agencies.
But before diving into the benefits, best practices, and future trends in marketing automation, let’s go back to the basics. What is marketing automation?
Though you’ll find many definitions for this helpful process, it’s best to keep it simple. Marketing automation is using technology to streamline, automate, and measure marketing activities.
With this definition in mind, it’s easy to see the importance of marketing automation for agencies. This process substantially increases their productivity, helping them make tremendous progress toward their marketing objectives and, ultimately, higher revenue. That’s probably why roughly 75% of all companies use at least one marketing automation tool.
So, let’s take a deeper look into this fascinating field, exploring how (and why) agencies should take advantage of it to propel their marketing efforts.
101 on Marketing Automation for Agencies
First things first – let’s discuss what marketing automation for agencies entails and why they should embrace it.
Key Components of Marketing Automation for Agencies
Although marketing automation has significantly developed in the previous decades, specific key components remain fundamental for agencies seeking to harness its full potential.
As many as 99% of email users check their inbox daily, with some doing it up to 20 times a day. That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising email marketing is still a considerable part of marketing automation. We say “still” because many experts throughout the year have tried to claim that email marketing is dead, but the statistics speak for themselves.
Agencies can use email marketing automation to maximize their reach, engagement, and conversion opportunities.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is an absolute powerhouse in digital marketing. As of 2024, 4.95 billion people use social media, which is 61% of the world’s population. By 2027, this number is expected to rise to 5.85 billion. So, you can safely conclude that social media is here to stay, and so is social media marketing.
But what about automating social media marketing? With how fast new social media platforms are emerging, this concept is also here to stay. Use it to build a consistent brand identity across all platforms, respond to customer queries quicker, and enhance overall engagement. Social media marketing automation tools can save you lots of time by allowing you to schedule posts at optimum times (and days).
Efficient Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is crucial for enhancing customer experience, communication, and retention. That’s why any comprehensive automation tool pays special attention to this integral aspect, including all-in-one business solutions like Bonsai and marketing automation tools.
CRM software tools can help agencies automatically collect and store detailed customer information (e.g., company names, job titles, and payment details). This, in turn, allows them to customize every interaction with the said customer.
Lead Generation and Nurturing
Marketing is all about generating new leads and nurturing them to conversion. However, this is often easier said than done. So, it’s unsurprising that 61% of marketers consider lead generation the most challenging task in their marketing efforts.
But as always, it’s marketing automation to the rescue!
Marketing automation tools can help agencies gather prospects and insights from various sources, thus building a holistic database. From there, these tools create a 360-degree view of your customer, helping you deliver targeted content at every stage of your buyer’s journey.
Benefits of Marketing Automation
Let’s not sugarcoat it – marketing automation is a huge endeavor, often requiring hefty investments and significant dedication. But given all the benefits of marketing automation for agencies, it’s easy to conclude that any money, time, and effort invested in this process are well worth it.
Marketers love marketing automation because it helps them do the following:
Save substantial time
Get beneficial insights from their marketing data
Optimize marketing plans and strategies
Boost content performance
Strengthen customer loyalty through personalized interactions
Increase sales and revenue
But that’s not even the end. Let’s look at some additional benefits of marketing automation in more detail.
Increased Efficiency and Productivity
According to the 2022 The State of Marketing Automation guide, 35% of marketers implement automation to streamline marketing and sales efforts. This stat should speak volumes on just how successful marketing automation is in boosting the efficiency and productivity of marketing teams.
With automation, there’s no need to waste time on mundane and repetitive tasks, establish complicated hand-off procedures, and manually coordinate the marketing and sales teams. The marketing automation tools do it all for you.
It’s highly unlikely any business will have a single target audience. Instead, most companies have various target audiences for different products and services or even the same product. Knowing how to reach and engage each audience is instrumental to a successful marketing strategy.
Luckily, marketing automation tools can group your prospects (and clients) by specific actions, characteristics, affinities, and behaviors, essentially segmenting your database. This allows you to deliver highly targeted and personalized content to each segment.
Improved Lead Management
As mentioned, lead generation and nurturing are vital to any efficient marketing automation tool. But the truth is that marketing automation tools can help with the entire lead management, which also includes lead tracking, scoring, and distribution. The result? Significantly increased conversion rates, as witnessed by 75% of marketing departments.
Data-Driven Decision Making
Data-driven decision-making is the cornerstone of effective business strategies, from marketing to sales. With marketing automation tools, you receive invaluable insights into customer behavior, preferences, and engagement metrics, allowing you to make consistently wise marketing decisions.
Must-Have Tools for Marketing Automation
Marketing automation and technology go hand in hand. That’s why it isn’t surprising that new marketing automation tools emerge virtually daily. However, not all of these tools are created equal. The first decision you’ll have to make is choosing between all-in-one platforms and a combination of several specialized tools.
Using an All-In-One Platform Like Bonsai
An all-in-one platform is the best solution for many organizations, including startups and small businesses. These comprehensive platforms cover most of the organization’s needs, making them more convenient, cost-effective, and scalable. With an all-in-one solution, your organization can have a more general outlook rather than limit itself to a specific area.
In business, comprehensive tools like Bonsai are life-savers for companies from various fields, including marketing.
As for the marketing world, the most popular all-in-one platforms include HubSpot, Buffer, and ActiveCampaign.
Using a Combination of Tools
Some companies, mainly large organizations and enterprises, might prefer to invest in several specialized tools for business and marketing purposes. For instance, they might get separate tools for client management and billing in the business department. For their marketing, they might opt to use specialized tools for email marketing, content management, and testing. But why?
Using a combination of specialized tools allows these organizations to tailor various solutions to their specific needs. After all, a standalone tool can go into much more detail within its domain than an all-in-one option ever could.
Here are the most popular among these dedicated marketing automation platforms:
With the basics out of the way, it’s time to choose the specific marketing automation platform for your agency. Once you do, you’ll learn how to best integrate it with your existing tools and systems.
Choosing the Right Marketing Automation Platform
With the number of marketing automation platforms on the market, choosing a single one for your business can be a daunting task. Here are the factors to keep in mind to make this process significantly easier.
Budget. Unfortunately, your budget often dictates your options, so let’s start there. Choose a platform that offers the best value for money, reviewing its number of users, clients, and features.
Features. Even tools marketed as “all-in-one” don’t actually contain all the marketing automation tools you might need. So, before committing to a purchase, list your needs and cross-reference them with various platforms’ offerings. The one with the most matches wins!
Scalability. The goal of every business owner is to grow their business. So, choose a platform that can grow with you. This growth is best accomplished through various plug-ins and add-ons, so prioritize a marketing automation platform with a robust ecosystem.
Ease of use. The whole point of a marketing automation tool is to make your life (and job) easier. So, any platform with a complex user interface and a steep learning curve should automatically be off the table.
With these factors in mind, let’s see how some of the most popular marketing automation platforms compare.
Integration With Existing Tools and Systems
Your chosen marketing automation tool shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. Integrating it with your existing tools and systems is the best way to maximize its effectiveness (while minimizing your effort).
For instance, you can integrate Bonsai with Zapier, allowing you to connect with content automation platforms like HubSpot.
This is excellent news for business owners, as CRM integration is arguably the most crucial aspect of introducing a new tool into your business suite.
Besides CRM, make sure the marketing automation software can integrate with your existing social media management, analytics, and reporting tools. Of course, choose the marketing automation platform well, and you’ll even be able to eliminate some of the existing tools.
Best Practices for Marketing Automation
So, you’ve chosen the best marketing automation tool for your agency. What now? Now, you take it one step at a time. Introducing any new concept requires time, patience, and strategic planning, and marketing automation is no different.
Developing a Marketing Automation Strategy
A marketing automation tool will rid you of any mundane and repetitive tasks, streamlining virtually every marketing-related procedure in the process. However, you’ll first need a comprehensive strategy to guide this powerful tool.
Setting Clear Goals and Objectives
Before implementing any strategy, you need to define how that strategy aligns with your overall business goals. So, Step 1 in developing a marketing automation strategy is to outline your goals.
Your goal can be to build a robust omnichannel presence, streamline social media management, or personalize your website experience. Whatever the case, setting clear goals and objectives will help you do two things. One, provide a clear direction for your marketing efforts. And two, establish measurable benchmarks to gauge your strategy’s success.
Understanding the Customer Journey
To determine which parts of your marketing funnel need optimization (and automation) the most, you must understand the customer journey. Once you do this, you can use email, social media, and landing page automation to create a fully automated marketing funnel.
For instance, let’s say you’re a photographer who wants to promote an online photography course. You can use your automation tool to schedule social media posts (and ads) promoting a free photography webinar first.
However, those who sign up for the webinar should automatically receive emails about your (paid) course. Set your auto-responder to send emails over 10 days, and you significantly increase your chances for conversion.
Content Planning and Personalization
When it comes to content marketing, quality always trumps quantity. Sure, scheduling lots of “filler” posts or writing short emails throughout the month might give you an impression of consistency. However, you won’t truly engage your audience without valuable and meaningful content.
So, before getting to the automation part, carefully plan out your posts, personalizing them to your target audience. Create dynamic and engaging content, and any automated marketing communications follow-up will be a raging success.
Measuring and Analyzing Performance
Marketing and analytics tools must work as a single unit. Otherwise, how will you know whether your marketing automation strategy has been successful? Use analytics to gather data, measure performance, and analyze it, and you’ll always know what works and what doesn’t. That’s not to mention that over 50% of companies extensively using marketing analytics end up with higher profits.
Fortunately, the best marketing automation tools have built-in analytics capabilities, allowing you to launch campaigns and measure their effectiveness in a unified platform. But first, you must learn how to measure and analyze performance correctly.
Step 1 – Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
To analyze the results of your marketing strategy, you must first define your success metrics. Enter Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Set concrete KPIs before your campaign starts, and you’ll know what specific benchmarks to track throughout your campaign. Here are some of the most popular KPIs in the marketing world:
Cost of customer acquisition
Customer lifetime value
Marketing return on investment (ROI)
Lead conversion rate
Regular Audits and Adjustments
When it comes to digital marketing, it’s important to remember one thing – your job is never done. So, even after launching a campaign, you should regularly audit your analytics and make the necessary adjustments to ensure ongoing success. In other words – always listen to the data!
Leveraging Analytics for Continuous Improvement
Chances are not all your marketing strategies will be successful. And that’s perfectly fine. The important thing is to learn from your failures and use the data gathered through analytics to improve your future projects.
Challenges and Solutions in Marketing Automation
As beneficial as marketing automation for agencies is, it doesn’t come without challenges. Keep reading to learn what those challenges are and how to overcome them.
Common Challenges Faced by Agencies
Data Quality and Management
With large-scale automation, challenges in data quality and management are common. Inaccurate or incomplete data can significantly hinder the automation process, ultimately impacting the effectiveness of your campaigns. As for data management, tools that don’t integrate data into a central repository can cause data silos, leading to inefficiencies and inconsistencies.
Balancing Automation and Personalization
The more marketing processes get automated, the more challenging it gets to maintain a personalized touch. If you “over-automate” your processes, your audience will likely catch on, and you risk losing the potential connection with leads.
Keeping Up With Evolving Technology
The marketing world never sleeps. The same goes for the tech field. Combine these two, and you get a challenging landscape that demands constant adaptation. Throw new budgetary demands and additional skills into the mix, and it becomes obvious how this challenge can impact every facet of an agency’s marketing efforts.
Overcoming These Challenges
Implementing Effective Data Management Practices
Agencies struggling with data management should pair their automation tools with data integration tools or a customer data platform like Bonsai. This pairing will allow the marketing team to consolidate data from various sources, guaranteeing a 360-degree view of the customer journey.
As for the data quality, it’s all about verification. Implement data checks from the entry point to ensure accuracy throughout the system.
Fostering Creativity in Automated Campaigns
Just because your marketing campaigns are automated doesn’t mean they must also be repetitive, predictable, and devoid of creativity. As long as you approach every campaign from a fresh, new angle, your customers will never get the feeling they’re talking to or shopping from a machine.
Continuous Learning and Adaptation
There’s no use getting frustrated over the constant changes in the marketing and technology worlds. Instead, mimic their behavior. Keep up with the industry trends, invest in your (and your employee’s) education, and only work with scalable tools. The result? Whatever happens, you’ll be able to adapt.
Future Trends in Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is an ever-expanding field. Let’s explore what the future holds for this exciting tool and how to prepare for what’s coming.
Emerging Technologies and Their Impact
Discover the technologies that will help shape the marketing automation field in the (near) future.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
As of 2023, 61.4% of marketers have used artificial intelligence (AI) in their marketing activities. Given how quickly AI exploded in popularity, it’s easy to conclude that this percentage will only keep growing.
But how does AI help marketing automation? Reducing data-processing time and delivering more meaningful (and actionable) insights are just the tip of the iceberg. AI will undoubtedly revolutionize every aspect of marketing automation in the future, from enhanced personalization to dynamic content generation.
Predictive analytics is another significant trend shaping the future of marketing automation for agencies. Coincidentally, it’s also another trend influenced by AI.
By using advanced AI algorithms, marketers will be able to anticipate customer behaviors and market trends. Armed with this knowledge, they can proactively tailor marketing strategies to make them successful beyond compare.
Personalization at Scale
As mentioned, there’s a looming fear that too much automation will lead to a complete loss of personalization. However, advanced AI algorithms will ensure this doesn’t happen (again!). These algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to understand individual preferences, behaviors, and engagement patterns. The result? The perfect blend of efficiency and personalization.
Preparing for the Future
One thing’s evident by now – there’s no stopping marketing automation. Many experts believe we’ve only scratched the surface of what this transformative tool can achieve. Here’s how to be ready for whatever the future holds:
Stay informed on industry changes. Join professional associations, attend relevant conferences, and keep up with the industry leaders, and you’ll always stay at the forefront of evolving trends.
Invest in training and development. The more you (and your employees) get educated, the higher the chances of staying competitive.
Build a culture of innovation. Up to 90% of executives list innovation as their top priority, and for a good reason. Only by building a culture of innovation within your agency can you adapt to whatever the exciting field of marketing automation comes up with next.
Marketing automation is beyond powerful. Use it accurately, and your business will experience a range of benefits, from increased efficiency to revenue growth. Of course, the “accurately” part is what matters the most. Use this guide to understand all the nuances of this mighty tool, and you’ll undoubtedly make marketing automation work for your company.