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5 ideas for marketing automation

Author's avatar By Danyl Bosomworth 11 Nov, 2011
Essential Essential topic

My tips from practical experience

What is marketing automation (originally called email marketing automation)?

It's software platforms essentially, they enable marketing (and sales) departments to increase lead conversion by letting marketing teams leverage captured data to automate the execution of advanced segmentation and communication sequences. You've probably heard of many of the main marketing automation suppliers. Or more simply put, you can do more targeted lead based marketing for a lot less effort. You get to avoid the batch-and-blast approach to email marketing. Two forms of behavioural data are typically used to score and segment leads:

  • Implied - consumer site behaviour, i.e frequency of visit, looking at key pages, time on site, viewing product pages
  • Explicit - filling in forms, requesting information, online purchase, attempting online purchase

This data is used to then score (based on propensity to purchase - how "hot" a lead it) and segment (you segment on what you think). The segment determines message type and communication sequence, score changes how you might turn up the promotional heat, and indeed determine a sales call prospect from and email marketing lead.

It's not only for the big boys

Some of the latest research is indicating that 60% of marketing automation software installations are in businesses turning over LESS than $5m - so it's not for the 'big boys' only. The market size is also doubling this year over last to $325m as more players come to the market and business appetite grows. Vendors include: Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot, HubSpot, Infusionsoft, Genius, Aprimo, Neolane, Oracle, Manticore Technology, TreeHouse Interactive, SalesFUSION,  Silverpop, OfficeAutoPilot, MakesBridge, Right-On Interactive, LeadFormix, and Net Results. Read more on the research here. These are my ideas:

1. Get into the data and keep it simple

The business purpose of marketing automation, as I see it, is to send better messages to targeted recipients at the right time, to increase conversion and minimise database attrition. Largely email based but increasingly multi-channel dependent on the business and budget. It's purpose is not to facilitate automated mass emailing (though I hear people who are doing that).

With this objective in mind you really need to know who your lead types and customers are, you have to get into the data as it already is. I'd hope you'd be doing this anyway since you'll most certainly need a business case to get executive level buy-in, marketing automation takes a lot of resource to implement, though is not as expensive (in pure software terms) as you might think.

Understand the value of the lead types that you have, where conversion is good and bad, what are the opportunities. I can guarantee that sales will be contacting either too many leads (mass call / mass closing) or are unable to call enough of the right ones. Ironically marketing will get the blame, and to some extent fair enough! Start by looking for the sweet-spot where either "warm" (potentially high value) leads are getting missed or where warm leads that are not ready to buy and are getting burnt and wasted by sales. We did three things at i-to-i (I implanted an MA system in 2009) that generated a massive uplift in the first 3 months:

  • Automate customer upgrade / on-sell opportunities - after all customers are the hottest leads
  • Active leads showing low purchase intent were picked out of the sales process for marketing nurturing
  • Lead score was placed on the lead record, sales could see who marketing felt were ready to buy or not (this created great feedback!)

If you start simple, you can layer on the segmentation, communication sequences and appreciate the complexity of buyer motivation.

2. Remember that, unfortunately buyer motivations are complex

If you can design buyer persona / scenario (a matrix most likely) then use existing insight with additional surveys and focus groups with customers, you can plot the main reasons why people are looking to buy from you or a competitor. There is more than one motivation! Here's the tip - it's about them and not how your product compares to someone else's. Shopping cart abandonment is a big issue, and yet there's more than one reason for it. Understand how different types of buyers navigate pre purchase, the differing buy cycles (some may be last-minute, others considered over a few months), in B2B marketing you've also got different influencers on purchase outside of the budget holder.

Understand your customer's motivations, learn about what's driving them, plot how that marries with onsite behaviour and information gathering over time, and then grow the complexity of your communications sequences to marry with that. Makes email marketing exciting again, right?

3. 90% of leads (more even?) are not buyers today

The golden opportunity with marketing automation IS NOT driving sales. Well it is, but sales become the product of great marketing and generate themselves. Think more about the 80% who do nothing, who don't engage or get involved. How can you can leverage their motivation and behaviour, to tailor communications to inform and advance your organisation?

  • Design content that caters for people's unmet needs over positioning your product, flip it. Harping on about "you" is increasingly less about "me". Earn the right to sell later
  • Request feedback from anyone who downloaded your ebook. What are their other unmet needs, what other topics they’d like to hear about in the future.
  • Offer help to existing customers who have viewed the cancelation of returns page.

Of course sales are the ultimate goal, but by forgetting that as the single objective, you can garner engagement with cooler leads and be their go-to guys as they progress to warm on the purchase intent scale. In simple terms you can get valuable information to help you shape future marketing efforts, improve the product, or prevent churn.

4. Plug in sales and customer service teams

Marketing automation software is business wide since it's designed around the customer cycle (ideally!). So whereas marketing automation is typically used to send customers automated emails based on their activity, sometimes a personal phone call or persona email, or IM/chat is just better (if you're super advanced with social CRM then even Twitter).

Think about sequences from triggered events that enables your team to build relationships with the customer. Marketing and sales is always about relationships, right? Enable your team to get alerts when a highly qualified lead looks at the pricing page, for example, or when a valuable customer stops logging into your software as a service platform.  Setting internal notifications for major events in the customer lifecycle lets your account managers and sales team make a better decision about whether a more personal kind of outreach is necessary.

5. Remember content is King, Queen and in fact the whole castle

All of the technology in the world can’t beat a thoughtful and compelling message that is designed around me - my needs, my motivation, my worries. What is valuable to me? Remember those personas. Even if your marketing automation campaign is = perfectly timed and tuned into customer motivations, if the content is falling short – it still won’t deliver, it'll be lame email marketing that still feels like you selling.

To get the most out of your marketing automation, make sure you continually test different messages and subject lines to find the right match to your customers’ needs. As always, test and re-test. The good news is that all the efforts around the content and persona types is useful in the WHOLE of your marketing programme, content is marketing, so the time invested has a compounded benefit.

Have you experience and advice to share around your marketing automation - or got any questions or concerns to share. As always, let us know in the comments!
Author's avatar

By Danyl Bosomworth

Dan helped to co-found Smart Insights in 2010 and acted as Marketing Director until leaving in November 2014 to focus on his other role as Managing Director of First 10 Digital. His experience spans brand development and digital marketing, with roles both agency and client side for nearly 20 years. Creative, passionate and focussed, his goal is on commercial success whilst increasing brand equity through effective integration and remembering that marketing is about real people. Dan's interests and recent experience span digital strategy, social media, and eCRM. You can learn more about Dan's background here Linked In.

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