This article is based on my master’s thesis published in 2017: Facilitators and impediments in the adoption and implementation of the HubSpot Marketing Automation system. The case company involved in the research is a B2B software company founded in 2014, and the research method was action research.

A version of this article has been published also in Journal of Excellence in Sales in 2018.

Marketing is one of the fields that has been dramatically affected by the emergence of Information age and the development of ICT technology. During the last decades, it has been going through profound changes with customer buying behavior, communication methods (e.g. social media) and new technologies, such as sales and marketing automation.

Customers have a better access to information and more buying power. Thus, companies must adapt new tactics to answer to their customers’ needs and succeed in the competition. This logic has been understood first by B2C companies but B2B companies are also stepping in and leaving traditional methods and channels behind.

Following Customers’ Actions in Real Time

Marketing Automation (MA) is based on an idea of following customers’ actions. Therefore, it is all about customer behaviour and data. When a customer* makes a move, a certain marketing action follows. In example, if a website visitor subscribes to receiving a newsletter (and gives her contact information in return), the newsletter will be automatically sent to her via email. If she then clicks on one of the links in the newsletter, the automation software tracks the lead’s navigation path and gathers information of what the lead is interested in. This data can be used to send better-targeted information and respond to the specific needs of these leads.

Marketing Automation is tightly connected with content marketing, but it can neither be separated from sales. On top of helping companies to create brand awareness, MA can be a useful tool in generating leads and shortening sales cycles with quicker response time.

*Customer = existing or potential customer (lead)

Content Marketing Goes Hand in Hand with Marketing Automation

The case company is one of the businesses who believe in the power of marketing automation and making sales and marketing together in a modern way. The company acquired HubSpot Marketing Automation software in Spring 2016. The main purpose to acquire the system was to automate digital marketing and boost sales.

At the time of taking the system into use, the company was still very young (founded in 2014) and just developing its sales and marketing processes. Thus, it took time from the company to start using the marketing automation system properly and gaining benefits. One of the biggest impediments the company had with the implementation, was a lack of content. The company had just launched its website and was starting to write a blog and create other digital materials.

“Having a sufficient amount of interesting and relevant content is essential for implementing a marketing automation system successfully. “

Within the implementation process, the company learned that there is not much use of marketing automation, if there is no relevant and interesting content to be shared. Hence, marketing automation is not just a magic trick that solely works on its own. It requires that company knows its target group and can focus on generating targeted content and create functional processes, such as lead generation. Furthermore, the co-operation between marketing and sales needs to be seamless.

Increasing Brand Awareness and Generating Leads

By learning from customers’ needs and how to create compelling content (e.g. blog posts, downloadable guides, and newsletters), the case company started to see the true value of marketing automation. After 10 months since adopting the system, the company had succeeded in growing its number of social media followers and website visitors significantly. In example, the company was able to increase the number of its Twitter followers from less than 100 to more than 10.000. The company also generated a respectable number of marketing and sales qualified leads.

All in all, marketing automation has aided the company to steer its marketing and sales activities in the right direction and create functional processes. Along with the lead generation, the company has improved its brand awareness in Finland.

“Marketing automation is a powerful tool, but people and processes make the difference.”

Yet, it must be said that the success of the implementation process of MA is more dependent on the organizational capabilities and overall performance of the sales and marketing activities than individual product features in the system itself. Thus, marketing automation is a powerful tool, but people and processes make the difference in how successfully it will be used.

If you want to learn more about the study, read it here. You find data about marketing automation, impediments and facilitators for the implementation process and guidelines for implementing a marketing automation system successfully.