24 Feb - 2018

Marketing automation trends to look out for in 2018

More than 50% of companies worldwide are using marketing automation, and 58% of B2B companies are planning on adopting it at some point during the year. Also, marketers and businesses alike, are expected to spend baffling $32 billion on marketing automation in 2018.

Now, you are probably wondering: Why emphasise the numbers at the start of a story about the latest trends in marketing automation? Well, if numbers are getting this high, so should our expectations.

What is marketing automation?

First thing first: Marketing automation is a nothing more than the software solution that automates tedious tasks of your sales and marketing processes. It will allow you to nurture leads, help leads find their way to the purchase, retain customers and reduce churn.

From email follow-ups and social media to specific website actions, automation has saved a lot of time to a lot of different companies, providing them with an abundance of contacts for them to nurture. Additionally, it enables a single person to complete a job that required 20 marketing and salespeople in the past. Ruthless? Maybe… But the marketing usually is.

Is marketing automation still worth it?

Should you invest in marketing automation? Yes! Will it solve all your problems and increase the number of prospects tenfold in an instant? Well, no…

Whatsmore, Hubspot claims that many marketing automation investments fail due to unrealistic expectations users have from the software. According to them, the most common mistake owners make (among others) is introducing this practice to their business without the essential ingredients for creating effective marketing automation: adequate number of organic leads going down the sales funnel.

However, if you feel you have enough people showing interest in your business and your product, nothing is stopping you from helping them down the funnel by using marketing automation. And here’s why you should:

  • It benefits the business – Increases revenue and average deal size, improves efficiency and accountability, reduces staffing costs;
  • It helps your team achieve better results – simpler and more effective lead nurturing, more precise targeting, increased customer lifetime, scheduling social media posts and emails ahead of time;
  • It benefits sales – Reduces lead conversion time, prioritizes leads with lead scoring, allows you to know exactly who and when to call;
    Implementing marketing automation is a way of process optimization: It will enable you to optimize everything from staff’s time and effort to mundane tasks people usually do not enjoy doing.

Marketing automation in 2017

During the last year, it was B2B companies that most often opted for marketing automation. Out of 34 existing software solutions, six emerged and established their position as dominant technology during last year: Act-on, Eloqua, HubSpot, Infusionsoft, Marketo, and Pardot. These tools have 57% market share. As far as marketing automation trends of 2017 are concerned, there are four that managed to stand out:

  • Predictive analytics – Knowing which leads are likely to convert and when is every marketer’s dream, as it makes their jobs that much easier. Predictive analytics are used for modeling customer behavior, lead qualification and prioritization, and specific content targeting.
  • A mixture of content strategy and marketing automation – It is all about showing your leads what they want to see, when they want to see it. If you manage to pinpoint the moment they are trying to find a solution to the problem they have, and offer it in the form of content, be sure that you’ve got their attention, and (most likely) their money. Marketing automation (alongside predictive analytics) allows you to observe visitors behavior, path, and actions and determine the perfect timing for a pop-up or an email.
  • Account based marketing – More profitable than other marketing initiatives, ABM has been adopted by more than 70% of B2B companies worldwide. Principally, this alternative strategy concentrates on a specific set of accounts and tailors personalized campaigns that yield high success rate. Paired up with marketing automation system, ABM can produce some outstanding results.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) – Gathering, sorting and interpreting data, as well as personalized conversations with customers. The former plays a crucial part in predictive analytics, while the latter was adopted by digital business far and wide. Nowadays, vast majority of product/service websites have a chatbot. However, credit must be given where credit is due, so hats off to Slack and their amazing Slackbot.

What to expect in 2018

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves: 2018 is still young and there are many speculations when it comes to new technologies and trends in digital marketing and marketing automation software. And while there is more than enough room for all kind of revolutionary solutions to emerge, it’s most likely that we will witness smaller improvements of the methods already known and loved by all. So let’s get down to business and see what we can expect:

1. Predictive lead scoring

Predictive analysis is not new and revolutionary marketing technique, but tools using it are getting good – really good. Using probabilistic calculations, software can determine and pinpoint which leads are likely to convert into customers. Likewise, predictive lead scoring enables marketers to identify which channels are most effective without having to wait for the extended periods of time form test results and analysis reports.

2. Better chatbots

Thanks to improvements in data collection and natural language processing, chatbots will become a first pick choice when it comes to lead education. Also, AI will be able to analyze visitor’s behavior and share relevant content at each stage of a buyer’s journey. Finally, ever-expanding integration possibilities will enable communication with other tools in a marketing technology stack of an organization.

3. Behavioural email marketing mashups

Similarly to predictive analytics, behavioral email marketing is something that’s been around for a few years now, but (again similarly to predictive analytics) it’s going to get better with time. And 2018 will be all about combinations with other forms of interaction. And while you will still be able to send a targeted email when visitor applies for a newsletter or visits the FAQ page, combining it with chatbot or a guided tour of your website will be your best bet for customer conversion high success rate.

*Note: If you are managing a business operating in Europe or targeting European audience, you have to prepare for EU Data Protection Directive when handling personal and private user data. This directive states that “ Once collected, personal data should be kept safe and secure from potential abuse, theft, or loss”, so if a hacker or a negative SEO attack occurs, you are responsible it. Be sure to protect your website from hackers, and if you are using WordPress try these WordPress protection tips.

4. Focus on loyalty programs

As it costs much less to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one every time someone leaves, it is likely that companies will focus heavily on loyalty program automation. Every customer is a micro-influencer (for better or for worse), and their attitude toward a brand will determine how people close to them perceive it as well. By providing their customers with multichannel experience, business will have to assure that every interaction leaves them feeling not only relevant but important as well.

5. Multivariate testing

Two variables are no longer enough. And thus, A/B testing needed to evolve. As a result, we got multivariate testing which offers more data and a better insight. The number of automated marketing tools that are offering multivariate testing is increasing daily, and for a good reason: campaigns that are generated based on a combination of multiple variables allow marketers to determine what is effective, and at the much higher rate than A/B testing previously allowed.

6. Linkedin ABM

With LinkedIn account-based marketing, it will be easy to automate highly-targeted campaigns. Linkedin as a service is rich in data on metrics like company size, headcount, and industry, so marketers aiming for ABM approach will tend to reap the benefits of it heavily. Paid advertisements will enable them to quickly upload a list of specific companies they want to target and rely on automation process to have an appropriate copy or link delivered without further intervention. 2018 will be the year of quick connections via profile, personal messages, and email – all tanks to different automation techniques.

To wrap things up

Should we have high expectations of marketing automation in 2018? Definitely yes! But will there be a revolutionary breakthrough that will flip world of digital marketing, remains to be seen. We are witnessing steady progress which promises advancements and a potentially new era of niche we know as marketing automatization.