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How Marketing Automation Made You Lazy

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 28 Nov, 2016
Essential Essential topic

Marketing Automation works best when you are constantly innovating

You, yes you. You're that marketing manager that is using your automation platform to do all your basic tasks. But you're not using it for anything else. Why? I don't know. There are so many elements of marketing automation you could be using, I imagine you don't know where to start. So I'm going to tell you where to start.

Marketing automation isn't going to take your job anytime soon.

My favourite expression from the unaware marketer is "oh but marketing automation will put me out of a job". I can assure you, used correctly, it will not. However, if you continue to use a marketing automation platform like a brain, that is to say only use 10% of it, you could be out of a job for not producing the results you anticipated from your MA platform.

It amazed me in the recent annual report that Smart Insights on marketing automation in 2016 shared that 85% of respondents found that tracking a provable ROI from their automation platform was a challenge. Yet 65% said the main benefit of MA was its ability to identify better quality leads. There's a link we're missing here people.

So what I want to do today is sit down and talk you through what you could be achieving with your automation.

Let me set the scene for you...

Your managing director has demanded that you achieve another 60% growth in sales in the following quarter. You, the overworked and understaffed marketing manager, panic. You quickly go into what we call "campaign brain", developing a set of objectives and briefs that cover every possible marketing angle you can think of.

You then divide this by what your team can do, how much you can automate (you'll probably only automate the email campaign, you don't have time to do anything else) and often throw the rest to an agency (social media, lead generation, events, PR...etc.) All so you can deliver the impressions, traffic, and conversions that are expected of you.

Three months later, you use a wide range of unaligned monitoring tools to try and analyse the results of your campaign. Except you're manually reporting on everything because your marketing methods were not all housed under one roof. And you can't attribute what happened in the buyer journey past the first and last click because none of it marries up.

Sound familiar? No wonder you can't find the link between where your higher quality leads are coming from and the ROI of your marketing automation platform. Many of you are only using the platform for a sliver of the marketing process.

You're using marketing automation as if it's just a lead nurturing tool.

The report by Smart Insights and CommuniGator shared that a welcome series of emails or auto-response to registrations were the most commonly used email marketing automation techniques adopted in 2016. Upsell, nurturing and triggered campaigns were also popular, which is good. But again I ask the question, is this really ALL you are using your marketing automation for?

What about the targeting elements? The fact that you can create an advanced find marketing list on any of your CRM data values you wish and build a whole campaign tailored JUST for that audience? 30% of you don't use targeting at all.

Many of you have started using landing pages for lead generation, in fact, a whopping 78% of you. But you don't use rule-based personalisation of content or offers within your email marketing. Personalisation has been cited as one of the KEY elements to engaging and converting prospects in 2017.

The fact of the matter is, if you don't adopt these features, your marketing will always be one step behind. Do you want to continue to be that overworked marketing manager that is always creating reactive marketing campaigns? Or do you want to be a proactive marketing specialist who can pre-empt when the goalposts are about to shift? If you want your marketing to be able to engage with target audiences in real-time, you need to be using your marketing automation to its full potential.

You need to align your marketing strategy and software.

I get it. You're scared that your marketing automation won't do what you want it to. Come the three-month mark your marketing campaign has achieved exactly zilch. Nothing. Nada. So you keep doing the same old things because at least you'll know that you'll get the same old results.

Be brave, marketer.

Now is not the time to be creating static marketing lists and batch blasting the same templated email newsletter you always have. If you want your marketing to succeed, you have to be doing new things all the time. Innovating, creating new messages, reinventing your brand...keeping pace with the changing demands of your consumer.

Instead of wasting your marketing budget on media buying, content production, agency relationships and reporting processes, you need to be focusing on your strategy. More importantly, how it can align with your marketing automation software. Once you have this in place, you won't be scared to take on the machine that is marketing automation and you'll be able to start using proactive, rather than reactive, marketing techniques.

But I don't know where to start!

I know. One of the key highlights from the 2016 B2B marketing automation report for me was the top two challenges marketers face. Namely, the fact that 55% of you have limited knowledge, particularly when it comes to skills for setting up rules, lead scoring and email sequences. Teamed with the 43% of you who said they struggled to develop a strategy for marketing automation, I know that you need a clear plan with goals.

I'm going to give them to you.

First, I want you to answer me a couple of questions.

  1. If you're in marketing, are you responsible for the creation of content in your campaigns?
  2. Have you, at any point in your career, been a copywriter?

Now the majority of marketers I speak to will say yes to the first question. Only a very small percentage will say yes to the second question. Yet, as our Head of New Business Marketing at CommuniGator will tell you, content forms the centre of most marketing strategies. From lead generation to lead nurturing, you need a lot of supporting content.

There are four key steps she always promotes, both within our own marketing and to our clients. Use these as baby steps to creating your own strategy.

Step 1: Review your personas

If you are having a face to face conversation with someone, it's easy to tell when they become bored of listening to your voice. Their eyes wonder, their body language changes and they simply stop the conversation. You don't have that luxury with digital marketing. So you need to know who you are talking to. Review your current customer base, their top target data and how their customer journeys went in order to know who you should be talking to and HOW to talk to them through your content.

The more personal you are with them, and the more targeted you make your email campaigns around these personas, the more effective your marketing will be. Failing to personalise your emails with details such as their first name and what they've interacted with in the past will see your conversion rates be lower and your sales slower. USE these tools – we've included them in the marketing automation platform for a reason!

Step 2: Create a content structure that matches your funnel

We all know the sales funnel. Your lead nurturing technique should match this funnel. So, for example, we use four levels:

  • Intrigue (blogs, infographics, hints and tips, videos)
  • Discover (whitepapers, guides, best practices)
  • Consider (feature pages, solutions, case studies)
  • Decide (offers, prices, demonstrations)

Each topic that we focus on (lead generation or marketing automation for example) will have all the content around it split into these four tiers. If you don't have that much content, you can simply focus on one topic stream at a time.

Do a content audit. See which content pieces fit into which level under which topic stream. (I imagine a table would help here to get started). This will help you pinpoint areas that you need more content and what level you need. This way, you're not creating content for the sake of it all the time.

With the average content production costing around £3-5K, you should be squeezing every last opportunity out of your content as you can. Don't be afraid to reuse it in any number of campaigns. If it draws the leads in, keep repurposing it.

Step 3: Put your content into lead nurture streams

We've talked about how at least 40% of you have adopted triggered workflow campaigns within your marketing automation, which is great. This content strategy works WITH that. Align your email rules as per the four levels. For example, a lead goes into a new campaign at the intrigue level. They read your blog posts for a couple of weeks and once they establish a certain lead score within your platform, they are moved onto the next level of the campaign 'discover'. On it goes until they are at the decide stage and ready for a sales call or message.

This is all achievable within your marketing automation platform, you just need to include these rules in order to optimise your marketing performance.

Now this could be implemented for any number of campaigns. Perhaps you want to target all of your contacts that have a particular CRM and want to work on their lead generation for example. Or you could run this automation for a large scale, quarterly campaign.


Start off with a small campaign (perhaps an event promotion campaign) and see for yourself how it works within your marketing automation. Once you see it performing, you'll be able to implement it across your marketing – becoming that proactive marketer we talked about earlier. We have seen CTR’s in email streams go from sub 1% to an average of 11% (in some tiers 50% plus!) with this strategy.

Step 4: Create a content treasure box

As we mentioned, there is no point creating constant content that will go to waste. Instead, focus on the topic streams your audiences are interested in and the levels you need to convince them throughout their buyer journey. The brilliance of a content box is that it can help you align your entire marketing strategy, no matter how many channels you use.

Not sure what I mean? Ok, here's another example for you.

You have a report on marketing automation for 2016. This is the backbone of your treasure box. You then create an opinionated link bait piece to entice readers in, (such as this article). You create a number of blogs and soundbites to support it, social media posts, case studies, a stream of email messages. Eventually, you have what we call a content treasure box that can be implemented into any campaign.

So you remember that story of the managing director that set you a seemingly impossible task? Now you don't have to run around like a headless chicken planning a campaign that doesn't align across each channel. Instead, you build one around your content boxes, with a TARGET AUDIENCE in mind and run as much of it through your marketing automation platform as you can.

What you can realistically achieve with your marketing automation platform

Social media, tracking which website visitors come to your landing pages based on which emails they interacted with....everything. It CAN be reported on from within your marketing automation platform. Because your platform is designed to encompass all marketing activities, not just your email.

Don't be the lazy marketer who automates campaigns that could go through a standard email marketing provider. Be bold. Be brave. Be better than your competitors. Don't be afraid to TRY. Make your marketing automation push itself. That is the only way your marketing will succeed in the digital marketing world.

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