Marketing is always one of the first aspects of a business that embraces change. It is like a trailblazing business department, always at the forefront of business innovations. This is why marketing automation has become a very serious “thing” which most businesses and most marketers are doing their absolute best to adopt. As a SaaS business owner, the ability to hand off repetitive marketing tasks and automate actions and responses through most of your customer journey cycle holds the key to scaling your business, reducing overhead, and generally spending less while making more. So, how exactly does SaaS marketing automation work?
What is SaaS Marketing Automation?
SaaS marketing automation uses software tools to automate and simplify repetitive and time-consuming tasks in your marketing strategy, leaving you (or your marketing team) with more time to focus on creatively engaging with your customers in a more personal way. From automating customer data management processes to setting up automated email responses to customer actions, marketing automation allows you to spend more time exercising your creative muscles to find better ways to make your customers stay with you. Here’s an excellent analogy to explain marketing automation: say you are a carver, carving figures out of wood, and have a round block of wood, a whittling knife, and an ax. You need to split the block of wood into smaller pieces before you can begin carving. Now, you can choose to pick up your whittling knife and start trying to split the block of wood with it. You might succeed (or not), but the blade would be so blunt when you are done, it will be useless for actually carving the wood (which is its primary function).
On the other hand, you can pick up the ax, split the wood and then pick up your still-sharp whittling knife and start carving with ease. Marketing automation is our ax here, helping you split the wood of repetitive marketing tasks and processes, so you (or your team) can retain the sharpness you need to take on the more creative aspects of marketing. Now, let’s look at some real-life examples of SaaS marketing automation.
Examples of Saas Marketing Automation
Have you ever searched for, say, a particular mobile phone on your Facebook account or viewed posts about a specific type of shoe? And then, when you log in to your Instagram account, you see ads about the product you viewed on Facebook. That is an excellent example of marketing automation. The two platforms are owned by the same company, making it possible for them to use your data on one platform to target you with specific ads on the other platform. This type of automation uses your data (the kind of posts you view frequently, the pages you visit) to present you with targeted ads that match your perceived interests.
This salient piece of software is being employed by nearly every SaaS company out in the trenches these days. These automated bots allow you to take your customer service to another level by ensuring that no matter when your customers or leads come with questions, they always get an answer. Portfolio-building website and talent network, ClearVoice has a perfect example of this piece of marketing automation software. Their chatbot answers nearly all the questions you can think of to ask about the platform and helps you meet with human customer reps to answer those questions it cannot.
This is another type of marketing automation, one that is triggered by user actions. Pop-up forms usually want you to sign up for things like newsletters (which is a neat way to send a lead into your email drip campaign) or to receive free products like ebooks. MailChimp has an excellent example of this. When you register for the service and click on sign up, a form pops up asking you to enter your email to receive a free ebook on email strategies.
Benefits of SaaS marketing automation
So how exactly do you benefit from automating some of your marketing tasks and processes? What are the immediate effects of employing automation software for marketing your SaaS product? Here are some statistics defining the extensive impact of marketing automation in the SaaS industry:
According to 74% of marketers, the biggest benefit of marketing automation is saving time. Marketing automation allows you to carry out those repetitive tasks that take up most of your time at a much faster rate. You no longer have to manually send every post, reply to every email or nurture every lead. The software will do all these for you. Also, you can create a centralized dashboard where all the data flows about your lead acquisition and management activities come together, making it easy for your team to access the data they need.
Better targeted messaging
Marketing automation allows your os to send more personalized messages to a broader range of audiences without resorting to email blasts or other such techniques. A survey from Ascend2 shows that 94% of marketing professionals believe content personalization has improved greatly through automation. You can create customized emails and other content and send it out at scale using automation software. This allows you to reach a lot more people while maintaining the integrity of your outreach.
More leads and higher conversion rate
Since you are sending the same quality of messages to a broader audience (in less time, too), it stands to reason that your conversion rate will shoot up. The average time it takes you to acquire one lead will reduce significantly making it possible to get more leads in less time. And the more leads you have, the more you can convert to paying customers. According to this stat from Venture Beat, 80% of marketing automation users saw the number of their leads increase and 77% saw an increased number of conversions.
Employing marketing automation allows you to better employ marketing strategies like lead scoring, which help you assign scores to leads based on their actions. And with data from lead activities, you can quickly identify which customers are in danger of churning from your business and retarget them with better ads to prevent the churn. In a more general view, marketing automation improves your relations with your customers, which is the best recipe for reducing customer churn. According to Moosend, 58% of marketers consider upselling to be one of the valuable uses of marketing automation.
Types of Marketing Automation
The beauty of marketing automation is that it is not limited to one aspect of marketing alone. It encompasses all the different stages and cycles of convincing an audience to buy your product. If it is related to marketing, then some parts or all of it can be automated. And the implementation and effects of automating your marketing processes are not limited to marketing alone. It links up with other aspects of your business, leaving you with an overall net positive effect on your business. With that said, here are some of the major types of marketing automation you’ll come across:
Email marketing automation
Email marketing has always been one of the most favored outreach methods for SaaS marketers and marketers in general. Email marketing automation software allows you to gather contacts, create and manage lists, set up personalized campaigns, and create targeted content. By automating your email marketing strategy, you take off the weight of one of the most tedious types of marketing. Imagine if you had to manually send every email you’ve ever sent to a customer. Crazy, right? That is why email marketing automation exists.
Social media management
Social media is one of the biggest time-wasters for your marketing team. Creating content, posting it, monitoring your posts, replying to comments, and so much more, all across several different platforms. To be honest, it would be impossible to run this aspect of marketing at scale without automation. Social media automation tools allow you to manage all your social media accounts on one dashboard. You can schedule posts, track engagements, reply comments, etc., without having to skip from platform to platform.
Social media automation also also allows you to set up complex user journeys and execute them automatically. You can trigger email notifications for users that sign up to a form on one of your social channels, or send a direct message with a link to a product that corresponds to a post they interacted with. Your team can experiment with different creative approaches and triggers to help users engage online.
Marketing analytics automation
Analytics is the backbone of marketing. If you can’t measure the effects of your marketing strategies, you can’t improve them. Despite its importance, manually counting the number of website visitors and calculating new sign-ups might prove too strenuous for even the most determined marketers. Several marketing analytics automation tools exist for this purpose, helping you to track all your vital metrics across different platforms and giving you reports. If it can be measured, then the act of measuring it can be automated.
Managing customer resources and data is a totally different ball game using automation software. Imagine tools where you can easily access data about your customers’ locations, occupations, even their birthdays. It makes it easy for you to get more personal with them.
Marketing requires content, and more often than not, that means creating multiple content types across multiple channels targeting different stages of your customer journey. With content automation platforms, you can create content more easily, share them faster and track the engagement better.
Top 15 SaaS Marketing Automation Tools
Now, let’s take a look at some of the most popular automation tools that exist out there and which ones might be right for your SaaS company.
Email marketing automation tools help you create customized and automated email campaigns. Some of the most popular are:
- Mailchimp: One of the original email marketing tools, MailChimp has been around forever and offers one of the best email marketing automation services out there.
- Drip: Drip has an open platform that offers you email marketing capabilities for eCommerce businesses.
Social media management
These tools help you manage your social media accounts and automate tasks like posting and engaging with followers. They include:
- Hootsuite: Hootsuite is one of the biggest names in social media management, empowering you with a comprehensive platform that allows you to completely handoff the minutiae of managing social media to automation.
- Sendible: Sendible’s customizable platform offers one of the top automation services for social media lead generation and management.
- Zoho Social: Zoho Social provides an extremely easy-to-use platform for team-based social media management.
These tools help you track your marketing metrics across multiple channels and create concise reports that give you actionable insights. They include:
- SEMRush: SEMRush is an SEO analytics tool that helps you provide a comprehensive report on the SEO value of your website and content.
- Pardot: Pardot is a branch of the Salesforce company that focuses on helping you track analytics across all your marketing channels.
- Hotjar: Hotjar uses interactive heatmaps to give you comprehensive analytics reports on the behaviour of users on your website(s).
CRM tools help you curate and manage customer data and resources, making it easy for your marketing team to access all the customer data they need from a central dashboard. They include:
- Salesforce CRM: Salesforce has one of the best CRM platforms, part of their overall suite of marketing automation tools.
- Oracle Netsuite: Oracle Netsuite is a popular CRM solution for small eCommerce businesses. It gives you all the tools you need to better understand the buying habits of your customers.
- PipeDrive: Pipeline offers a unique visual interactive interface with drag and drop capabilities that gives you a complete picture of how each stage of a customer’s journey is progressing.
This set of tools help you manage your entire content creation and management process. They include:
- WordPress: WordPress is the biggest name in content management services and rightly so. They have an extremely easy-to-understand interface on both their commercial hosting wordpress.com and the self-hosting wordpress.org.
- Joomla: Joomla is another popular open source free hosting platform that gives you most of what you need to properly manage your content creation process. You have to pay for a domain name and web hosting though.
- Drupal: Drupal is also one of the top names in open source CMS platforms that offer top-notch content management capabilities. It requires a bit more technical knowledge than WordPress and Joomla though, and as such is more popular with developers.
All-in-one SaaS marketing automation tools
While the tools we listed above are the best in their specific automation niches, some tools create an ecosystem encompassing more than one type of marketing automation. These tools are built to allow you to concentrate all your automated processes in one platform, controlled from a single dashboard. Some of the more popular ones include:
- Hubspot: Hubspot is one of the biggest (if not the actual biggest) name in marketing automation. Their all-in-one automation platform has capabilities for CRM, content management, customer data management, analytics and so much more.
- GetResponse: GetResponse is a popular choice with mid-sized businesses for marketing automation. Their base plan gives you email marketing capabilities but you can upgrade to include almost any other form including CRM, autoresponders, eCommerce tools, and more.
- Drift: Drift provides an all-in-one engagement and lead nurturing platform for taking your leads from the beginning of the customer cycle all the way to the end.
- Marketo: Part of the Adobe Experience Cloud, Marketo is a leading all-in-one solution for account-based marketing and lead nurturing.
According to statistics, 51% of companies have already adopted the use of marketing automation in one form or the other for their business. As a SaaS business owner, you have more incentive than most to follow the path of these majority and incorporate automation tools into your marketing processes. The SaaS space is getting more congested and competitive every day and you need all the advantages you can get to stay ahead of the competition.
Does SaaS marketing automation mean using robots for marketing?
Thankfully, no. Or else, all marketers would be out of a job. Marketing automation allows you to use tools and software to augment your marketing activities, taking off the weight of repetitive tasks to focus on being creative.
Do I need to be a developer to use automation tools?
No, you do not. Most SaaS marketing automation tools are designed to be easily used by anybody.
Will automation not make my marketing boring and lacking personality?
No, it will not. Marketing automation allows you to hand off repetitive and rote tasks so you can spend more time being creative. It also allows you to personalize your marketing at scale. So you can actually get more personal with your customers and more creative with your marketing.
How expensive is it to invest in automation for my SaaS business?
There are automation tools for all levels of budget and even a lot of free tools (though you shouldn’t depend on these). Therefore, you can choose just how much you want to spend to take your marketing to the next level.
How long will it take to see the effects of automation for my business?
According to Marketo, 76% of marketers see a return on their investment in automation within a year and 44% see returns within six months.