We've been spending a lot of time this year analyzing different Email Marketing solutions for customers and prospects. On Thursday, Mathew Sweezey, of Pardot Marketing Automation, talked to a group of us about marketing automation. 

To my surprise, Mathew took a historical approach back to 1999 when marketing automation was, more or less, just a mythical creature. In doing so, we were able to see how far marketing automation has come and the depth of where we are with it today.

10-15 years ago many businesses were just beginning to use websites, email marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. It seemed a feat just to get all these technologies up and running effectively. In today's world, these technologies are common place and the challenge exists in getting them all to talk to one another, and flow seamlessly back and forth.

The advances in these technologies have actually enhanced the relationship between sales and marketing departments in many organizations. For example, back in the day I would create a call to action on our website and when a prospect filled out a form, I would immediately toss it over the wall to sales. Good luck, lead! Odds are that first form submission was not a warm lead, yielding a discouraged sales person and lackluster continued follow-up, if any additional follow-up occurred at all.

At that rate, why would sales care for marketing at all? At the root of it, marketing is the 1st step in the sales process; therefore, the relationship between the two is of great importance. 

With the birth of marketing automation, this relationship was immediately strengthened. From a marketing perspective, we now have the ability properly nurture a prospect for a great length of time (if necessary) before passing the prospect off to our sales team. 

At a time when a great portion of business and research is done online, allowing prospects to search for what they truly find important to them, we need to take a stronger behavioral marketing approach and marketing automation is key. 

Nurture marketing is one way to attack a big, or little, prospect list. Nurturing is behavior based and has the ability to be very engaging. Once you uncover a prospect's interest, you have the ability to talk to them about what they want to be talked to and potentially, when, and how, they want to be talked to. Here's an example of a Pardot nurture marketing workflow:

Setting up a Drip Marketing Campaign

You now have the ability to send prospects specific emails, at intervals you choose, depending on what they click on in the previous email. You can also add them to non-email lists. For example, if you have a call-to-action on an email that indicates the lead would be a hot lead, you can immediately add them to a call list for your sales team to reach out to.

Another great thing about marketing automation is behavioral tracking, in essence, scoring. Within your email marketing tool you have a scoring system, allowing you to assign specific scores to links, downloads, etc. For example, if a prospect clicks on a specific link they get a certain score, if they visit a certain webpage they get another score and if they download a white paper they get an additional score. You can set it up so that when the prospect score reaches a certain number, workflow will alert your sales team to call into them. This omits the entire issue of throwing potentially very cold leads over the wall to your sales team, allowing them to spend more time concentrating on warmer leads. This generally makes sales happier, in turn making marketing happier, creating a more effective team.

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