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Introduction to marketing and sales automation

Rutger van der Pol
Rutger van der Pol
Co-founder The Sales Strategist
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Automation mini-guide part 1: Everything you need to know about marketing and sales automation

I would like to share with you some insights on marketing and sales automation, and the change it can bring to our sales process and the way we interact with prospects and customers. Automation is a broad term that can be applied to many different domains, in this Mini-Guide we focus specifically on workflow automation and sequences in the execution of marketing and sales. In this first part of the series, we will look at what automation is and what different forms of automation exist. You can find all parts of this Automation Mini-Guide here:

Marketing and sales automation

Marketing and sales automation is amazing. There’s nothing better than letting robots set up meetings, coordinate calendars, and automate other repetitive tasks that take people out of their work flow. You can automate anything from outbound messages to internal actions that improve data quality. Moreover, automation allows you to be much more precise in marketing and sales, for example by automatically sending more personalised messages to targeted contact segments in your CRM database, making your messages more relevant and effective.

Marketing and sales automation has been around for plenty of years now, but there are still a lot of companies that are figuring out how to make the best use of it. Many of them have not yet reached the stage of growth where automation becomes relevant. When a young company is just starting to grow, it should not immediately start automating their marketing and sales, but should focus on being in direct contact with their market to gather feedback and refine their approach and messaging. After all, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, automation will only magnify the imperfections in your sales process.

It is often best to stick to the basics in the beginning, not to implement too much or too extensive automation in your processes at once, and only to replace small parts of your process with workflows little by little. In this way, you keep the best control and overview of what is happening and you are still able to apply improvements if you see that things are not going well. Because there is nothing worse than spamming your entire contact database with emails without realising it is happening, or having no idea why all your automations are interacting and thus creating a deadly spiral of email spam.

That’s why it’s important to start with a well-defined plan for marketing and sales automation: what exactly do you want to happen at any given time? On which conditions do those actions depend? And how should different workflows interact; should a certain automation be stopped when a contact qualifies for another, or can they be executed simultaneously? If you work everything out well in advance, you avoid having to untangle a whole bunch of automations afterwards.

Marketing and sales workflows

There are different types of automation that you can create with a typical marketing and sales automation tool. Below we show some of the most common actions you can automate with workflows. A workflow is a feature in your automation tool, for example in HubSpot, that allows you to create automated actions in a visual way. You do this by setting the workflow’s trigger (the condition that starts the workflow) and then linking different actions, delays, segmentations, and follow-up actions together. There are numerous possibilities when it comes to automation, but we distinguish at least the following four types of automation:

  • Outbound actions: to automatically reach out to contacts, such as sending an automated email or direct message to a contact.
  • Internal actions: to send alerts to team members or notify them of potential risks/opportunities, for example by creating tasks or sending internal messages within the CRM.
  • Sales facilitation: to eliminate repetitive tasks in the sales process, such as rotating leads between owners or creating opportunities in the CRM.
  • Data admin: to clean or change data entries, for example copying property values from contact to company in the CRM, making certain fields required to be filled in by the sales team, and alerting if data quality or completeness is dropping below a certain threshold.

Additional automation functions

Finally, there are elements that are influenced by or executed in conjunction with workflows, but are not part of the workflow itself. Some examples are:

  • Personalisation of content: one of the most interesting applications of automation is the personalisation of content, in an e-mail or on a web page, based on information about the contact that is present in the CRM. For example, you can automatically adjust blocks of text or parts of your website based on the lifecycle stage or the industry of the contact.
  • Marketing lists: dynamic contact lists have their own place in automation and, besides being used as a trigger or as a condition within a workflow, they can give insight into the size of different segments within your CRM database. A dynamic contact list is a list of people in your CRM who fulfil a certain number of conditions. For example, all people who have downloaded a whitepaper in the past year, or all contacts in a certain part of the funnel, or just those for whom no one in the sales team has planned any future activity.
  • Manual property updates: some fields need to be manually updated during the sales process, for example when an opportunity moves to a new stage and you want the Account Executive to update the closing date and opportunity value. An automated on-screen popup can be used to alert users in the CRM to make these changes.
  • Chatbot automation: is programmed through its own specific type of workflow and can segment actions and conversations based on data that is shared in the chat conversation. This is a specific type of automation, where in its simplest form you only set up a conversational interface in advance: a combination of a number of open and multiple choice questions that allow a website visitor to leave their details or request more information.

Automation Mini-Guide

You can find all parts of this Automation Mini-Guide here:

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