When I first heard about marketing automation, I was running demand generation programs for an economic research firm. One year after I’d implemented it, marketing automation had saved me 1,832 hours across the entire team — the equivalent of one full-time hire.
To give you a little background, I’d previously been working in sales, where I’d learned the importance of developing a relationship with your audience through educational, entertaining materials, rather than immediately delivering a hard sale.
But going for a softer sell also meant that many leads were increasingly “not ready” to be handed off to sales, leading to pushback from my former colleagues on the sales team. We developed basic lead ranking, so that the sales team could distinguish between qualified and unqualified leads, and we trained the sales team to use sales automation tools effectively, identifying the leads they did want, and providing feedback to the marketing team.
But after a particularly successful promotion, we were faced with a mixed blessing: more leads than we could accurately rank using our current system. That’s when marketing automation appeared on my radar. Here’s how it saved my team major hours:
- Deduping. Updating leads from events, webinars, and external systems was a huge pain point. We were spending eight hours (or more) after each webinar just to properly dedupe and update existing records. With advanced marketing automation, this can be done in minutes.
- Autoresponders. This made each lead feel we acknowledged their request — regardless of how many leads we had.
- Automatic lead routing. With thousands of leads held back from sales in a nurture state, and hundreds more each day, I needed automation that could save me and my colleagues time better spent on creative work.
- Email deliverability. I needed a platform that would improve list performance and track individual leads’ engagement. Previously, I had only limited tools across several systems.
- Seamless integration with sales data. This ensures all the right activities and campaigns are updated in both your sales and marketing platforms.
- Sales funnel reports. I was doing this manually in Excel — very time-consuming, and prone to error. With marketing automation pulling these reports, my team would have necessary visibility into sales funnel data.
Now, let’s take a deeper dive into the three biggest wins — deduplication, autoresponders, and automatic lead routing.
Marketing Automation’s First Big Win: Deduplication
Deduping your database is a key data cleanliness task. It helps focus your sales team, while also ensuring a lead’s interactions are properly recorded. To give just one example, my colleague and I used to waste hours checking and dedupe webinar registrations. If we missed a duplicated record, we often annoyed a sales person who owned the original lead or we missed a chance to qualify a hot prospect.
Once we had marketing automation, we simply fed our spreadsheets into the system, getting all of our work done in minutes. Because we were running two webinars per month, often with 800 registrants each, that is a clear savings of at least 16 hours per month. That’s 12 months x 16 hours = 192 hours per year, on webinar dedupes alone. I also saved about four hours per live events, which I ran 20 of, saving me 80 hours per year.
In summary, deduplication capabilities saved the company 272 hours per year.
Marketing Automation’s Second Big Win: Autoresponders
Many software-as-a-service (SaaS) products and many premium content products offer free trial periods to build the funnel as well as the email list. The challenge is that marketers then have to sort the wheat from the chaff. I make it a point that every legitimate inquiry receives a response. Even if the lead is not qualified, I believe their first experience should be excellent. You never know who will be in a position to buy in five years.
Before we used marketing automation, I had to go through my regional email queue and my regional trial queue to sort up to 100 requests per day. Even with templates and an experienced sales mentality, I easily spent 10 hours per week sorting and routing emails and records. Now multiply this by two other managers and you’ve got 30 hours per week of time. (30 x 52 weeks = 1,560 marketer hours per year — almost a full-time hire!) Sure, an “intern” or “associate” could do this — if we had one. But why have anyone do this when you can use marketing automation?
So I built a series of workflows based on campaign codes, territory rules, and sales campaigns to do the following:
- Send an automatic response providing further details on the product in question, asking them nicely to reply if they were serious. Students received a special response, while spammers received nothing.
- Route inbound leads based on urgency factors such as real email addresses, product, location, and if they requested a call. This is important! Always make sure people can still request a direct call so the lead can qualify faster. And always review the leads to avoid ignoring a hot lead.
- Use lead scoring to help rank leads by activity and target audience qualification.
Setting this up took a few days and a few tests, but I gained back 1,560 hours each year, and 10 hours per week for three of us. What could your team do with 30 extra hours each week?
Marketing Automation’s Third Win: Automatic Lead Routing
If you have a sizeable database of prospects and customers, it can be tough to identify engaged or sales ready leads. With a marketing automation solution, you can easy score, rank, and route prospects who are engaging with your content. With marketing automation, you can then send the most promising leads (those who are engaged and in your target audience) over to sales as Marketing Qualified Leads.
Why is that important? According to a 2011 CSO Insight Survey, salespeople report spending 24% of their time researching leads and 41% of their time selling. If you rank leads based on predetermined criteria, you save time for your sales team to call more leads, and more qualified leads.
At the end of our first year with marketing automation, the solution had saved my team 1,832 hours per year across the entire team — or, as I’ve said, the equivalent of one full-time hire. Questions about how marketing automation can save you time? Drop them in the comments below.