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Marketing Automation Creates A Lot of Noise. Here's How Marketers Are Breaking Through

By Mark Bornstein, Vice President, Marketing, ON24

Mark Bornstein, Vice President, Marketing, ON24

Today’s marketers are all about automation. And why wouldn’t they be? It empowers marketers to do more with less, helps campaigns reach a global scale and provides us with the time we need to come up with The Next Big Thing. But the problem with marketing automation today is that everyone is doing it — and almost everyone is doing it poorly. 

For example, how many times have you seen an email in your inbox address you with the good old fashioned “Hi [ENTER NAME],”? Or how many times did you get a follow-up email explaining that, oops, the previous email wasn’t meant for you? Automation can make marketing so easy that we literally forget about the human at the other end.

"The real way to harness the power of marketing automation is to pair it with interactive marketing tools, like webinars, that help you to build experiences and give you the ability to capture every action a prospect takes, assess that activity and share it with the sales team"

Let me throw some numbers at you to ensure this point hits home. According to an ON24-sponsored report from Harvard Business Review (full disclaimer: I work for ON24), four out of five marketers say they value human and personalized interactions over automated interactions. But those same marketers say the digital tools they use make it difficult to build genuine human interactions. In essence, we love personalization, but the everyday tools we rely on get in the way of building genuine connections. 

And there are other reasons why marketers need to prioritize personalization. One great reason: personalization pays. According to a 2018 MarketingProfs study, marketers found a 19 percent increase in sales when businesses personalized a web experience for a target account. In addition, a 2016 McKinesy study found personalization actually helped to cut acquisition costs in half.

So where does automation fit into all of this? Digital marketers are starting to understand how to make the most out of the marketing automation technologies they have and use them for a singular purpose. That purpose, from what I’ve seen at countless conferences and have discussed in just about as many conversations, is a better overall marketing experience. When used in service of a higher purpose, and combined with the right digital tools, automation can become the engine behind great, engaging, and genuine, experiences.

Take, for example, landing pages, the beating heart of many digital events. Under the right conditions, marketers can use automation to eliminate form-fills, one of the most tedious and registrant-repealing parts of signing up for digital events. We did this recently at ON24 and by getting rid of that small tedium — putting in names, numbers and email addresses — we crafted a better experience for return attendees and collected more accurate data in the process. This little experiment-in-automation was so successful, in fact, that we managed to see a significant jump in the number of registrants for a webinar series than we normally see.

The real way to harness the power of marketing automation is to pair it with interactive marketing tools, like webinars, that help you to build experiences and give you the ability to capture every action a prospect takes, assess that activity and share it with the sales team. There are two main reasons why recording and assessing activity is so great. First, it helps marketers hone in on their best leads and better understand audience behavior — creating the foundation for better deals and better content. Second, and best of all, feeding these qualified leads straight to sales provides a seamless conversation.

Webinar platforms can capture every click, question, download and more. This type of behavioral data will give you a much better picture of who your best leads and what their primary interests are. But that’s not all! By combining this webinar data with marketing automation and CRM systems, we can place these leads with this powerful conversational context into the hands of salespeople. Instead of following up on a webinar, salespeople are following up on a question, a download - even a theme if a prospect is watching a series of particular webinars — they’re continuing a conversation instead of trying to start one.

If you take a look from a 30,000-foot perspective you can see the big picture: that marketers and salespeople are starting to shift away from technology just for the sake of scale and towards technology for the sake of building an experience that converts. That’s something great. That’s something tangible. And that’s something that has to happen if we’re to get the most out of automation today.

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