What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation leverages technology to automate marketing activities required to run marketing programs and measure results. These can be very basic like email drip campaigns, notifying sales when a contact submits a form, social media posting and ad campaigns, to the very complex like behavioral triggered campaigns.
How do marketing automation platforms help?
Marketing automation works behind the scenes to make sure that marketing processes are running smoothly and effectively so that marketing campaigns and programs achieve their intended goals. To carry out these tasks, most companies will use a marketing automation platform.
Who needs marketing automation?
Any company that does B2B should have marketing automation. If you are a large company, you will need marketing automation to scale marketing efforts, enable customization and personalization, and ensure the right message is being sent to the right person at the right time. If you are a small company, your marketing team will likely be small too and could use assistance in automating as many tasks as possible.
A few key reasons you might need marketing automation:
- Marketing programs are not orchestrated across the buyers’ journey
- You have a complex marketing tech stack and/or are not seeing the ROI or are having difficulty tracking attribution
- Marketing or sales are spending a lot of time manually executing tasks
- Sales and marketing teams aren’t aligned
- Campaigns are lacking consistency or falling off (leads not being followed up within a timely manner e.g.), which are affecting the bottom line
What types of platforms are out there?
Marketing automation platforms are either automation specific or are both a CRM and an automation tool that can assist with digital marketing efforts. The most popular cloud-based platforms include HubSpot, Pardot, and Marketo.
HubSpot is known for its inbound approach to marketing. Inbound is an approach to marketing strategy that focuses on attracting, engaging, and delighting people. Through inbound, you provide value to prospects through content marketing and in exchange, build trust, which will eventually lead to increased sales. In their own words, “HubSpot is an inbound marketing software platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.”
HubSpot is broken into 3 main areas both in terms of platform and audience. The first is marketing. Within the marketing hub, the focus is to generate qualified leads. This includes generating content on blogs on landing pages, capturing lead generation prospects through form fills, and nurturing leads through social and email marketing until they are sales-ready. The second piece of the marketing hub is sales. Within the sales hub, the focus is to convert leads through the sales funnel and turn them into customers. This tool helps engage potential buyers, demonstrate the value of your offering and close deals. The final area of this automation tool is the service hub. This marketing technology focuses on converting customers into promoters. This part of the platform allows for customer communications, cases, and file tracking to ensure success that generates positive word of mouth.
HubSpot is both an automation tool and a database. (Although the database does integrate with Salesforce through a connector.) Through powering your multi-channel marketing campaigns through one unified platform, there is a smoother handoff between marketing and sales, which leads to a better experience for your customers. Because of HubSpot’s capabilities and ease of use, as well as limitations to customization and size, it is usually a better automation choice for small to mid-size companies.
Pardot is Salesforce’s B2B marketing automation tool and is a good choice for mid to large-size companies. Pardot is just an automation tool and connects with Salesforce natively as the database. Pardot’s main marketing automation features include email marketing, in-depth prospect tracking, lead nurturing, lead scoring, sales and marketing alignment tools, ROI and pipeline reporting, and a robust Salesforce integration.
Pardot’s prospect tracking is quite advanced and can identify and track website visitors before they submit a form. Additionally, Pardot offers social media, webinar, Google Ads, and other platform tracking. Pardot also offers personalization and dynamic content and list building automation to serve the most relevant and targeted content to prospects.
The reporting within Pardot is a great way to understand which channel or program is bringing in the most revenue and generating ROI using real-time data. Although this does require that all marketing attribution tracking is properly established in Pardot and that Pardot is linked to Salesforce opportunities.
Pardot is a great fit for companies that need a robust Salesforce CRM integration. Its tools like marketing automation, email marketing and landing pages make it a complete marketing tech stack. And finally, its ability to track prospects from first touch to close offers a huge advantage to sales and can help track prospects all the way through the sales funnel.
Marketo is known for being flexible, yet sophisticated automation software, which enables users to be efficient in marketing automation, customer engagement, and marketing management. The platform offers real-time personalization and is highly customizable.
Some of Marketo’s key features include message-based marketing (email, SMS, push notification), lead forms and landing pages, customer journey measurement/tracking, event management (webinars, live events, virtual events), sales enablement through marketing messaging (Marketo Sales Insight/Engage), and targeted digital advertising through connected Marketo data.
Marketo is particularly good in mid to large size companies, especially when there is either some in-house technical knowledge or a willingness to partner with an agency to customize setup since Marketo is so customizable, but also very technical. Because Marketo does not have a set way to do most things, a solid marketing strategy is also key. The customization to each piece can be exciting or frustrating depending on your technical setup. For example, there are multiple ways to send an email, and so organizations with fewer technical resources may find Marketo daunting compared to other easier-to-use marketing automation platforms.
What are the benefits of some of these?
- UX/UI is great. HubSpot is really easy to use
- HubSpot as a marketing automation solution is focused on aligning sales and marketing
- It works whether you sell a product or a service and is quite flexible as an automation solution
- Pardot’s workflows and lead nurturing are easy to use and have really in-depth reporting (at each step)
- Tracking for individual leads is very advanced and gives a complete insight into each engagement across emails, landing pages, etc. You can dig into specific click-through rates for emails or see the first and last touch a prospect had before converting
- Pardot’s biggest advantage is its integration with Salesforce. Sales reps have direct access to all lead information captured in Pardot and previous engagements
- Marketo is one of the most flexible of the marketing automation software options and is quite open-ended in how you can approach a problem and implementation. However, this can have a negative impact if your team is not very technical
- Once configured, marketing users within Marketo can operate quite efficiently without technical support to build out emails, landing pages, forms, and campaigns
- The way that Marketo has set up sales enablement helps align marketing and sales teams, through shared messaging, ranked prospect lists, and prospect behavior
What are the cons?
- Not ideal for larger companies (not customizable enough, still use outbound, and literal limit with things like smart lists and workflows)
- Inbound marketing is all about lead generation and managing/nurturing those leads. With HubSpot as your database grows (and you are more successful), the cost increases because the price is based on the number of contacts
- Reporting is pretty basic and not very in-depth
- Pardot does not offer a monthly option, and so you are locked in for a year. Additionally, they do not have a trial or demo, so you’ll only be able to see and test the software through a Pardot sales rep
- AB testing is only available at the Pro level ($2,000/month), which seems like a pretty standard service for email marketing
- There are no social media management tools unlike HubSpot or Marketo, so you will need a separate platform for social community management (like Hootsuite or Sprout Social)
- Marketo has a high learning curve and can be difficult to understand both from a strategic high level, and from the technical details
- Marketo reporting can be limited. Although the platform does have canned concepts, drill down, and custom reporting, it is still better to interpret real-time data through a data visualization platform like Bizible
- The marketing automation system requires a lot of attention and upkeep as performance degrades over time. In general, it is not very forgiving to non-technical users working at scale
The pricing for each platform is different, and there are levels of pricing within each offering as well that depend on your digital marketing needs
For HubSpot, packages typically start at $200 per month for Basic and go up to $2,400 per month for Enterprise
Marketo has the most significant range, with packages starting at $1,195 and going all the way up to $11,995 per month. For enterprise packages, prices can be even higher
Pardot pricing starts at $1,000 per month and goes up to $4,000
Setting up a solid marketing automation strategy is imperative to successful setup and implementation in the long-term. If you need more help in your decision-making process or are interested in our Marketing Automation Services to scale your marketing efforts, let’s chat.