Every business leader worth their salt is aware of marketing automation and the benefits it can bring. The internet is awash with articles urging B2B sellers to automate their emails, ASAP, to streamline the sales process and to engage with prospects on different stages of the buyer journey. Spend enough time on B2B websites and you can almost repeat these mantras verbatim. It doesn’t require intimate knowledge of the leading marketing automation tools and their pros and cons to appreciate that much.

Knowing all this is one thing however – getting round to implementing it is quite another. Be it due to reluctance to deviate from what they already know, fears that the process will be overly-complicated or that age-old excuse – no time – too many sellers are dragging their heels when it come to taking the plunge. The truth though is that setting up email automation is far simpler than you’d think and, once in place, you can’t ‘set and forget’ but you can certainly ‘set and let it do its thing’ while monitoring results and optimising accordingly.

Like investing in a good mattress, setting up marketing automation is one of those tasks that, when it’s done, leaves you ruing the fact that you didn’t do it sooner. Here are just a few reasons why your business should be using marketing automation.

Automation does the hard work for you

If there’s one thing computers are especially good at, it’s performing the sort of repetitive tasks that drive humans to distraction. In Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mr Bucket worked in a factory screwing the tops on toothpaste tubes. If you’re not using automation, you’re forcing your marketing department to screw on toothpaste caps, when they could be using their initiative to close leads, deploying the sort of skills that convinced you to hire them in the first place. Leave the tedious stuff to the computers: you and your team have got better things to do.

Marketing automation allows for better personalisation

You’d think that a machine-operated process would be colder and more clinical than its human equivalent, but nothing could be further from the truth. You see, with marketing automation not only are those emails crafted by humans, but each one is designed to appeal to individuals who are at different stages of the sales cycle. No more scattershot marketing campaigns to everyone on your list. No more alienating existing customers by trying to sell them products they’ve already bought.

Automation means personalisation. Create highly specific marketing messages and then, using segmentation, send them solely to the group that will benefit from them. The result? More click throughs and more conversions. According to one survey by VentureBeat, 80% of companies who tried automation reported more leads and 77% reported more conversions. You can’t really argue with figures like that.

Automation provides a better client experience

Let’s consider an example of automation in action. Say you’re a company who specialise in SaaS and your website has three lead capture pages. One signs visitors up to your general newsletter. One provides them with a free download to a PDF on how to save costs with cloud computing. And the third provides a free month’s trial of your analytics software. Instantly, you’ve got three distinct segments, with each group at a different stage in the buying cycle.

So far, none of these groups has spent so much as a dollar, but each has the potential to be nurtured into a paying customer. Go in too hard with the sales pitch for your newsletter subscribers however and you risk alienating them. It’s only a matter of time before they unsubscribe, or worse, drag your emails into the folder marked spam. With the group who’ve signed up to trial your free software, there’s clearly more buying intent. That’s not to say you should start hammering them with entreaties to upgrade to the full version, but imagine an automated sequence that includes case studies outlining some of the cool things users have done with the full analytics toolset.

There’s also another group we haven’t mentioned yet: customers who’ve already bought from you. That’s another extremely valuable segment, but one which clearly demands a different strategy to casual visitors who’ve signed up for your newsletter on a whim. You’re obviously looking to up-sell or cross-sell to existing customers, but you’ll almost certainly want to intersperse these emails with others showing them how to get the most out of the software they’ve already bought. Without automation, how do you expect to engage with existing customers – by emailing them an annual Christmas card? In the competitive world of B2B, that isn’t going to cut it, cos if you’re not interested in setting up marketing automation, your rivals certainly are.

Automation provides valuable analytics

The insights you will gain from automated email sequences is hugely valuable. Because email is one of the best digital mediums for tracking engagement, it’s extremely easy to get a feel for what’s working and what’s not. Building up automation sequences means you’re now dispatching more than just a generic monthly newsletter. Now you’ve got dozens of emails ready to roll at a moment’s notice, and with each one you send out, your trove of data grows, giving you an unprecedented insight into subjects that members of your list are extremely interested in – as well as identifying areas they’re shunning altogether.

The same VentureBeat survey from earlier noted that businesses reported an increase in revenue of 20-50% after adopting automation. With machines taking care of the automation, your marketing team are free to analyse the data and identify areas that are ripe for targeting with a view to increasing B2B sales.

Automation allows you to stay relevant

There’s another, final reason why marketing automation is a wonderful thing. After you’ve segmented your database into broad lists, you can then divide these into further, highly specific lists. If you find that a prospect is consistently viewing information for a particular product, you can send them additional content that’s focused on this. A customer might initially be interested in one product your business offers, but as their needs change, this product may become less relevant to them. Using smart automation, it’s possible to pinpoint these trends, and to retarget the prospect with content that is now more suited to their needs.

Just as no one ever regretted going for a workout or tidying their bedroom once the job was done, no business ever regretted setting up marketing automation. It’s one of these tasks which, once completed, is easy to keep on top of – just like a tidy bedroom. It’s up to you how you use your human resources: you could have your marketing team spend their days screwing caps on toothpaste tubes, so to speak, or you could free them to do something that matters – something that will make a real difference to your bottom line. In other words, ask not whether you can afford to set up marketing automation. Ask whether you can afford not to.