Recently, we’ve come to realize that there is some confusion around the term “marketing automation” within the A/E industry. This post provides an overview of the technology marketing automation truly refers to and how it can impact an A/E firm’s marketing activities. Covered in this post is everything an A/E marketer needs to know about marketing automation, including an overview of the technology, its benefits, what to look for in a solution, and the cost to implement.
First, let’s provide some clarification around what we’re talking about when we refer to marketing automation compared to other automation solutions out there.
Marketing Automation vs. Proposal Automation
Marketing automation can most often be confused with proposal automation. In actuality these are two very different technologies. Marketing automation is a tool that collects behavioral data on the visitors to your website and allows you to market to them based on their interests. It is designed to streamline the process of marketing to your clients and prospects, making both marketing and business development activities easier and more effective.
Proposal automation, on the other hand, is software designed to help marketing departments to streamline the process of developing proposals, presentations and responding to RFPs. It is a technology that is usually provided as a feature set within a broader CRM solution. Companies that offer proposal automation include Deltek and Cosential. While Axomic’s Open Asset product is actually a digital asset management system, in a way it assists with many of the tasks of proposal automation as well. While proposal automation helps to streamline the proposal process, it is very different from marketing automation in that it’s useful once an opportunity presents itself. By contrast, marketing automation is most useful before an opportunity has been identified.
Marketing Automation vs. Content Management
The term marketing automation is also occasionally confused with content management. Content management platforms are designed to allow marketing departments to control the content on their website without the aid of a web developer. A CMS is used to manage all of a firm’s externally facing website content such as portfolio items, service pages, people pages, blogs and thought leadership such as research reports, whitepapers, and webinars, etc. While marketing automation is usually handled separately from content management systems, such as the case with Act-On and Marketo, some platforms combine automation and content management in one place — HubSpot, is an example.
Benefits of Marketing Automation
Here’s a look at the benefits a marketing automation platform can provide AEC firms. For more information, you can also read An Introduction to Marketing Automation.
- Visitor tracking and micro analytics – Marketing automation allows you to track the behavior of individual visitors to your website (whether you know who they are or not). The platform should also provide analytics on the pages users have visited and the content they’ve consumed. Analytics on this information is beneficial in business development conversations because it can help the business development person understand what interests a prospect based on the content they’ve consumed and even make inferences about where the prospect might be in the buying process.
- Lead scoring – Any marketing automation platform allows you to assign scores to your website visitors based on their demographics and what actions they take while on your website. Someone with a low score (say 10) may not fit your profile of an ideal client or may have shown very little engagement with your site content (maybe they’ve only been there once or twice). On the other hand, someone with a high score (say 100) would likely fit your profile of an ideal client and have shown a lot of activity on your site (downloading research reports, interacting with thought leadership and case studies). You should be using lead scoring to inform your proactive business development efforts.
- Automated campaigns – The power of marketing automation comes into play with the ability to set up automated email campaigns. This functionality allows you to set up email campaigns for audience segments based on their profile and/or their behaviors. Ideally, automated campaigns help you guide a client through the buying process based on the content they have shown interest in and actually want to read.
- Visitor insights – The technology also allows you to collect data on visitors to your site even before a conversion takes place (that is, before they reach out to you). This is powerful because you can know a lot about a user before they ever directly come in contact with someone on your business development team. Once that first interaction does occur, your business development people will be much more informed and therefore much more effective.
What to Look for In A Marketing Automation Solution
Below is a brief list of what you should be looking for in a marketing automation solution. Any marketing automation platform should offer the following basic functionality:
- Provide metrics – An automation platform should provide you with metrics on emails sent out through the system, telling you who receives, opens, reads, and clicks the email. Additionally, it should provide you with detail about their onsite behavior — specific pages they’ve visited and content they’ve consumed.
- Cut through spam – The platform should also be sophisticated enough so your email messages are delivered to your audience’s inbox and do not get caught in spam filters.
- Organize leads – It should allow you to search, segment and organize your email lists based on audience demographics, their behavior when visiting your site, as well as any other custom metrics you create.
- Custom web forms – An automation platform should allow you to create custom forms on your website for capturing leads.
- Offer insights – Look for a marketing automation solution that can offer additional insight on who a site visitor might be before they complete a form on your website and convert.
- Integrate with data providers – The platform should have the ability to integrate with data providers so you can research and target prospects to build marketing lists within the platform.
How Much Does It Cost?
Depending on the size of your firm, the capabilities you’re looking for, and the number of contacts you manage, a marketing automation platform could cost anywhere from $500/month to $2,500/month (or much more for a very large, global firm).
You can find pricing on the following platforms here:
What Existing Integrations are there for Deltek and Cosential?
Currently, we are not aware of any A/E CRM platforms that have an “out of the box” integration with any marketing automation software (this is not to say they don’t exist). However, based on our conversations with both firms, we have a hunch that you’ll see some integrations coming down the line in the near future.
Ultimately, we’ve found marketing automation to be a critical web technology for a lot of our professional service firm clients. Used correctly, automation forms one leg in the stool of web marketing systems — the other two being content management (CMS) and CRM. To learn more, read Your Website as an Integrated Lead Development System.