One of my favorite keynotes at the 2017 MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum was Christopher Penn's talk on artificial intelligence. Many people think only of the potential downsides of increased automation, but Chris emphasized the unprecedented opportunities for marketers to streamline and enhance their efforts.

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Another proponent of marketing automation and predictive analytics is Bruce Swann, senior product marketing manager for Adobe Campaign. Bruce has more than 15 years of experience in marketing, along with in-depth knowledge of marketing topics, including CRM technologies, marketing automation, predictive analytics, and marketing resource management. At Adobe, Bruce focuses on marketing and product strategy for cross-channel campaign management.

I invited Bruce to Marketing Smarts to discuss marketing automation—what it is, what it can do, and how your organization can use it to get better marketing results.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

"Marketing automation" doesn't have to be complicated or intimidating: You can start small (01:56): "My definition of 'marketing automation' is simply planning, launching, and measuring the results of marketing campaigns and marketing efforts across different channels.... It's bringing together many different activities that maybe used to be handled in different departments or different technology solutions—like email, for example, or mobile, or event management strategies—and bringing all those capabilities under one platform so marketers have one place to go and a single system of manage what they're doing. What's great is marketers should have the approach of starting small or starting where they need to be, having a strategy, and growing into it. Bite off what you can chew and then ease into it."

Don't implement automation for automation's sake; assess how it streamlines marketing operations and improves results (03:06): "[Marketing automation] should save time. Tasks should become more repetitive, easier to understand, easier to measure, but also a result should be more effective marketing, which could be higher lead conversions, higher email opens and click-through rates, more frequent conversions and purchases, and things like that."

Marketing automation looks different for every organization (03:39): "A couple of different ways to [implement marketing automation] would be incorporating lead management and lead nurturing into the mix.... As new leads come into an organization or a system, it's being able to determine the quality of those leads but then also how quickly they should be followed up on, and doing so in very automated way: If the lead comes in and it warrants an immediate response, it could be automating an email or an alert to a salesperson to give that lead a call, and then automating a subsequent activity that just nurtures that lead along."

Don't just jump into marketing automation; lay the groundwork for success (07:22): "It starts with data, and then building upon that—getting an understanding of who customers and prospects are and what data sources you have. From there, layering on marketing automation or marketing automation-like capabilities to create segments of customers and prospects and [to] understand who they are, and then incorporating that type of insight into cross-channel strategies. And along the way, you continually measure and monitor the effectiveness of what you're doing, and learn from it. Celebrate successes, but also make course corrections where course corrections are needed." 

Marketing automation isn't just about email; you can use it to enhance any communication (08:17): "It could be automating a message across any channel. It could be a push notification or an SMS message, or automating an alert to somebody in Sales, for example. So if you open up an email, end up on a landing page, and start to fill out a form where you're registering for a webinar, it's just automating an alert to a sales professional that one of their leads exhibited a certain type of behavior.

"There could also be many things that are automated internally, in the way marketers do business with automating approvals to where; if I have a campaign that I've planned and I need the copy approved, it's automating a sequence of events to get my legal team, my creative team, my manager, all on board approving, so I can continue on with what I need to do. There are many different ways to automate what the marketer can do."

To learn more, check out the Adobe Experience Cloud blog or follow Bruce on Twitter @btswann.

Bruce and I talked about much more, including how B2B companies and B2C companies might use automation differently, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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