What is marketing automation?

I can remember speaking to my grandfather, God rest his soul, about when he started his own business. I was around 13 or 14, spending one of many weekends at his house. One of my fondest memories of him was simply sitting down, watching the Six Nations and shooting the breeze. Him, with a double Scotch in one hand and the TV remote in the other. Me, drinking my third Shandy Bass of the afternoon and believing I was going to have the mother of all hangovers in the morning.

We'd speak about anything and everything. Sure, with the ruggers on the TV, we were mainly caught waxing lyrical about how good Jason Robinson was on the wing as he ripped open Scotland at Twickenham (personally, I felt he was better at full back).

But one thing that has been on my mind recently was when, on one of these glorious Saturdays which I would kill to experience just once more, Granddad Albert first opened up to me about his own business venture.

In 1969, he launched Canterbury's first mobile butcher's shop - Alfies. A regular at the city's Wednesday market, I can't help but think of him whenever I walk down my hometown's high street.

But, yet again, I digress. When I think about marketing in the modern era, there have been so many developments in the 51 years since Alfie's was rolling through.

Digital technologies have changed everyone's lives, let alone marketing developments. Back then, my granddad had to rely on word-of-mouth, a small amount of branding on the side of his van, and - being in a town market environment - having quite the Brian Blessed bellow. He spoke about those times with such passion and melancholy, it's making me a little emotional thinking about it.

Times have changed. No longer is it who shouts the loudest gets the sale - although that does still help. Today, a finesse is required. Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to the point of this blog article.

Marketing automation is one of many of those developments. But what is it? There are a plethora of so-called definitions, but effectively, it enables businesses to communicate with their customers on multiple channels and automate repetitive tasks using software.

However, I'm not one for definitions - some things in this life aren't so rigid. When I tell my friends the above definition, they just give me a blank look. Therefore, I prefer to look at marketing automation with an example.

Let's say, you have an online portal, or maybe even an e-commerce shop. You require users to sign up using a form with their email address and other key fields, like first name, last name, company name, mobile phone number - anything you like. This form would be integrated with your CRM system, so all information collected on your form would be fed directly in to your database, stopping the need for manual input, which anyone who has done admin work at any point in their life would say is an absolute godsend.

Simultaneously, upon completion and submission of that form, this would trigger an email, or maybe even a text message, which would contain a verification link, which the user needs to click to verify that they are a real person, and not a bot. Upon clicking on this, perhaps another email will be triggered, welcoming them to your portal or store, providing them with key information about who their account manager is, features they have access to, or even offers to get them to the payment stage of the buying process as quickly as possible.

Ideally, upon the clicking of the verification link, it would only be then when their information would be fed into the CRM, to stop it being cluttered with poor information - definitely best practice within the GDPR era we find ourselves in.

These emails can even be laced with personalisation, using the information they gave you when they submitted the form. Personalisation is a key tool in a marketer's arsenal nowadays - on the top-level, Amazon are the kings of it, suggested what you may like based on what you've done before. Personalisation has been proven time and time again to improve conversions, better lead generation, higher engagement levels and - most importantly - more sales, and it relies on a good marketing automation setup.

Back to the analogy - fast forward a couple of days. The user still hasn't paid, yet they have visited a few key pages of your website. Dependent on the pages themselves, an email would be triggered, providing them with more offers, more bespoke ones based on those pages. If still nothing after a few more days, you'd try again with another email, or maybe this time an SMS. This is called nurturing, and is a key practice for digital businesses to be successful. People are certainly much more marketing savvy, but they need a reason to buy from you.

The best marketing persuades someone to buy, but has them believe that it was all their own fantastic decision - a quote no one has said, ever, but maybe it holds a small amount of resonance here.

This, in essence is marketing automation. But the beauty of all this is it is, well, automated. This would have been set up - you wouldn't have to do anything. These technological advancements would basically be your customer journey or onboarding process. Aside from A/B testing subject lines, content, and monitoring and reporting, this leaves you open to do the things that actually matter on a day-to-day basis.

Before I started Speakeasy, I was Marketing Automation Manager and then later Communications Manager at a Swedish telecommunications company, one of the largest in the world. In all honesty, it was a role I found myself in by chance during a restructure as the company took its first steps into becoming the international juggernaut it is today. But I was proud in the success I found in the role, stepping up the marketing automation efforts there, leaving my measurable mark in terms of sheer numbers and giving the impression that the company was exactly it was - a streamlined entity with a clear customer journey from signup to payment, to aftercare and customer relations.

In fact, after the company's rebrand in 2019, a project I was heavily involved with, Forbes listed them as one of the biggest companies you've never heard of - so in the wise words of Ron Burgundy, "I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal".

Man, even writing that self-promoting, self-righteous nonsense made me shiver on this lovely Summer day.

If you want to find out more about how Speakeasy can help you improve or even build your marketing automation efforts from the ground up, check out the dedicated page on our website, or feel free to get in touch here or on Facebook.

Finally, on the off-chance that time is cyclical and not linear - Granddad, if you're reading this, thank you for everything you taught me, squire.

As we begin to settle into the new reality and rhythms of life, we recognize that the world has changed dramatically in the past couple of weeks. But just because things are not as they once were does not mean all is lost. These days are certainly unprecedented, but so too are the ways that communities are coming together. From delivering food to vulnerable neighbors, to participating in block-wide front porch fitness exercises, people are trading fear for courage and isolation for introspection.

Over the years, we’ve curated some incredible innovators, creatives, designers, marketers and entrepreneurs for our Table for Ten pop-up dinners. With Thanksgiving approaching, Manifesto proudly partnered with Hazelfern Cellars and Stone Soup to create a Table for Ten experience unlike any other.