Marketing Automation and Marketing Workflow Automation

Different Benefits, Different Uses and Why You Need Both

After a steady ascent over the past decade, Marketing Automation (MA) has solidified its place in the market. Most organizations today, including smaller and medium-sized businesses – not just large, technically advanced ones – recognize that to perform marketing functions at any scale, they need technology to make it work.

Marketing workflow automation (MWA), on the other hand, is not widely understood. While there may be a few reasons for this, one of the most obvious is that it is not a named category of software. MWA tends to span multiple software categories, including digital asset management, localized marketing automation and marketing resource management. Also, MWA solutions tend to go by different names; where one company calls their particular product a brand management system, another company with a strikingly similar solution may refer to it as marketing asset management software.

Regardless, these tools are designed to seamlessly connect the dots from initial need to final output in marketing production. They streamline the management, creation/customization, sharing, distribution and tracking of content and marketing materials. They eliminate inefficiencies and bridge disconnects in the marketing supply and distribution chain that “marketing automation” doesn’t fully address.

Nearly all existing MWA solutions rest on the critical premise of marketing automation – yet they are not called “Marketing Automation.” While they share this commonality, MA and MWA offer separate, unique advantages. Organizations that employ both as a part of their overall martech strategy can realize significant and measurable impact to the bottom line.

Marketing Automation: The Well-Established Star

Marketing automation (MA) software streamlines and automates ongoing engagements and interactions with its target audiences. It executes systematic communications tailored to segments and goals, such as lead conversion and building customer loyalty. It also connects multiple channels for a more holistic engagement, tying in social media, landing pages, dynamic forms, calls to action and other multichannel elements. It is an enabler of inbound marketing methodologies, a core principle for industry software leaders like HubSpot.

MA, when optimized, can facilitate heavy-hitting benefits like pushing leads through the sales funnel and providing companies with deeper insights into target audience interests and behaviors. For example, MA intimately tracks prospect engagement at an individual level, allowing businesses to see the progression from a Tweet to the download of a free resource, and days later the prospect investigating pricing on the company’s website. Rather than ad-hoc monitoring, MA can be set up to automatically alert a sales team of such an action. But Marketing automation requires marketing teams to invest a substantial amount of time into learning the system and then creating the campaigns and content that drive quality inbound leads into the top of the funnel. Where will that time and those resources come from in marketing budgets that are always tight? Marketing Workflow Automation may hold the answer.

MWA technologies resolve project execution inefficiencies in ways that MA simply doesn’t. It also directly empowers non-marketing entities and independent operators to simultaneously fulfill their own needs and carry out marketing leaders’ strategies and programs. These technologies also play a critical role in freeing up resources on the back end. One example includes standardizing a global direct mail campaign that can be modified for local relevance, by local channel operators. With a localized marketing workflow automation system, fulfillment of the deliverable can now be done in moments and without the involvement of central marketing teams.

Marketing Workflow Automation: The Unsung Hero

It is clear that MA acts as a revenue driver by helping marketing and sales to nurture leads, engage the right prospects at the right time and increase customer purchases. Marketing workflow automation (MWA) can also impact the bottom line in a positive way, though a bit less directly.

MWA services center on internal optimization of project execution and operations. It connects assets and data with content and helps marketers gain control over an ever-expanding variety of formats – from traditional channels such as direct mail and signage to digital marketing like online advertising and email. MWA tools do not typically create real-time, ongoing interactions with customers and prospects but they do allow you to deliver highly relevant content more quickly, easily and efficiently.

What Marketing Workflow Automation Can Do for Your Team

It’s your people – their experience combined with creative, interpersonal and analytical skills that make your marketing come to life. But are they caught up in endless email chains to approve projects? Do they spend a substantial portion of their time searching for content and assets? How about reinventing the wheel every time a local branch rep needs customized material? Or constantly discovering that brand standards have been compromised?

MWA is ideal for agile and lean marketing operations methodologies, ultimately delivering the elusive “more time” prize coveted by nearly every employee in today’s fast-paced business environment.

Technology that supports MWA can take formerly labor-intensive processes and streamline them – or completely eliminate them. Some of the core capabilities of marketing workflow automation tools include:

  • On-demand content customization
  • Easier, faster content discovery
  • Web-to-print (aka Print On Demand)
  • Management of physical inventory, vendors and fulfillment
  • Tracking and reporting on content usage, purchasing and moreCentral repository for accessing and managing digital files, collateral and marketing-owned business resources like brand standards and training materials

Using MWA to free up staff’s time and headspace is invaluable. They can dedicate more time and energy to developing more creative campaigns, writing unique content, investigating new approaches, etc. (In other words, all the marketing functions that technology alone could not accomplish heretofore.)

MA Plus MWA Equals a Sound Martech Strategy

Leveraging your martech stack for MA and operational improvements is key to a more expanded optimization of marketing. With both technologies working together, marketing can create more relevant customer and prospect interactions, more easily localize content and keep costs under control.

For example, marketing automation helps marketing nurture leads to the point of being sales-ready – identified by MA’s ability to track behavior and engagement along the way. While they can easily hand off “hot” leads for sales to contact, there are limitations in its ability to deliver specific materials (in a variety of formats) to sales to prime the conversation.

So what does it take to get that content customized and into the hands of the salesperson? Here’s where marketing workflow automation comes in. For example, a sales representative can use a self-service MRM platform (a software solution with marketing workflow automation at its core) to quickly customize materials from a kit pre-built by the marketing team. They could download the latest sales presentation PowerPoint, not having to worry about starting from scratch for each new prospect meeting. The entire process is now done in minutes rather than days, without marketing staff and design teams being pulled away to locate the right content and then make the necessary changes.

With MWA in place to increase efficiency of operations, eliminate silos and free up employees’ time, businesses can further leverage the advantages MA has to offer, maximizing ROI and results. And that’s a win-win.

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