How to approach marketing automation
January 29, 2015
84% of top-performing companies are already using or plan to use marketing automation before 2015
Over the last couple of years, the market of Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs) has grown in vendor numbers and has become more consolidated with the entry of several big players such as Adobe, IBM and Salesforce. At the same time, digital maturity has increased, so for many businesses implementing MAPs and gaining new competitive advantages is the highest priority. This is reinforced by the fact that 84% of top-performing companies are already using or plan to use marketing automation before 2015 (Gleanster, 2012).
MAPs hold great potential for demanding customers by tailoring communication on an individual, personalised level. A study by Aberdeen Group has shown that Marketing Automation users have 53% higher conversion rates in their response to marketing-qualified leads than non-users (Aberdeen Group, 2012). But leveraging the MAP potential still seems to be a big hurdle. This blog post sheds some light on a couple of areas that, in my opinion, are commonly underestimated in the adoption of a MAP.
One of the main ways to capitalise on the potential of a MAP is to expand multi-channel communication towards your customers. This approach, though, can have a big impact on your organisation. Channel ownership will partly move away from individual platforms, as MAPs need real-estate to deliver content specific to your customers' preferences. Similarly, they affect lifecycle states, which can have the below impact on the organisation:
- The cross-channel team collaboration needs to be agile to support daily updates.
- Technical resources move into the digital marketing team to maintain the platform.
- New roles such as a Campaign Technician and a Cross-channel Dialogue Manager would usually become a part of the digital team.
- How to measure channel specific ROI by introducing an attribution model.
- How the responsibility of the Customer Experience in a given channel becomes shared.
A big advantage of bringing in an MAP is that it can become the catalyst for driving these organisational changes so your business becomes more agile and multi-channel oriented in its digital presence.
Often, content is created as usual when an MAP is implemented. However, there are a couple of differences to consider in the content creation process for an MAP. Basically, content should satisfy three requirements:
- Provide the customers with relevant information to meet their goal on your website.
- Drive conversions.
- Extract customer data.
While the two first requirements are quite traditional, the third is something that only few think of. Segmentation is built on customer data, so knowledge about your customers is essential to become relevant to them. At Valtech, we’ve succeeded in integrating customer input into the core of the navigation and the customer experience. Customers are more willing to give away personal data when they are given something in return that fulfils their goals.
Another important aspect to consider is when to start identifying content requirements and thus, producing the content in timely manner. Many digital projects have a tendency to start too late with content production, resulting in the delivery of sub standard quality.
When introducing an MAP, many businesses think they can rely on their existing content; unfortunately, they, as a rule, cannot. New concepts, such as personas or target groups, are an important tool for content relevancy and content should therefore be written to these specific groups. This means that the generic content you have on your webpage or newsletter today would require multiple versions tailored to each persona. This of course expands the scope, especially if you as a business think that just re-using your current content is sufficient.
Furthermore, many businesses are very silo-oriented in terms of working with and optimising their channels, which affects content creation. Usually, very little content exists to close the gap between multi-channel interactions. Here are some questions you could ask yourself to close this gap:
- Do your different channels have content to follow up on what an individual has done in another channel?
- Does the specific channel have content for more than a few stages of the customer lifecycle? (I.e. social has regularly been used as a post-purchase channel to drive loyalty and ambassadorship, and display ads have only been a traffic generator pre-purchase)
Closing these gaps is essential if you want to leverage the potential of using an MAP to communicate in a personalised manner through the entire customer lifecycle.
A MAP investment is often made to ensure that marketing possesses the newest techniques to optimise website personalisation and trigger-based emails/SMS and to increase customer tracking, among other things. Although there is tremendous potential, there are also some challenges. The launch of any new system will always be a ‘best guess’ in terms of UX, design and content. This also holds true in the case of Marketing Automation. Generally, we see inadequate resources allocated to the optimisation of the platform, especially as every business will also traverse a learning curve with the system itself. To confront this, I recommend that you start with only using parts of the MAP and then expand the usage of its functionality over time.
For example, many companies first start to work with more advanced dialogue flows when the implementation of a MAP is done. This means that the foundation for creating data-driven decisions will be added to the system when the flows are up and running. Only when the actual customer data enters the system will you actually know how the best guess is performing and your internal knowledge of the dialogue flows efficiency can be evaluated. This is in direct contrast to the fact that we frequently see fewer resources devoted to the project after the initial implementation. So instead of allocating fewer resources, it is a matter of reallocation of resources – more analytics competencies in the later phases instead of communicative/design ones that were needed in the setup phase. According to eConsultancy’s best practice report on Marketing Automation, this initial optimization phase can be done within 3-6 months, when estimating for projects.
So to sum up, when you want to achieve a 53% higher conversion rate, you should be aware and embrace the organisational changes an MAP can enable. You should not underestimate the content requirements for the system and plan with an initial 3-6 month optimisation phase when the system is implemented.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any comments or questions about my post, marketing automation or digital strategy in general.