Danielle Woolley, Customer Success Manager at Adestra, explains how to make marketing automation work for you
Marketing automation has been a hot topic for a few years, but could it be that media coverage misrepresents it? According to recent research by Adestra, presented in their Marketer vs Machine report, 25 per cent of senior-level marketers are not at all familiar with marketing automation. Forty-eight per cent of respondents also claim that they don’t have the knowledge to run their companies’ automation technology successfully.
This shows a real misalignment between general sentiment and reality. However, rather than suggesting that marketing automation is not needed, it signals a lack of education among marketers about how to implement it successfully.
Success ≠ plug-and-play
If you want marketing automation to help you achieve your goals, you have to stop believing it’s a plug-and-play solution. Make sure you at least get these three things right before you even consider implementing it.
First, identify your customer journey. If you don’t know the path that your customers take – from their first contact to their first (and subsequent) conversions – how can a machine know?
Secondly, make sure your data is clean and standardised for a smooth integration across different systems. Do you have a plan for feeding it into your automation programme to create, launch and report on your results accurately?
Thirdly, does your organisation have the necessary skills to run a marketing automation programme? Is your IT department on board and up-to-date with your technology requirements and intentions? Does the marketing department have the necessary understanding of the technology, and how it’s going to affect their processes? Do you need to hire a new person to fill the knowledge gap?
This third element can be managed with external help if you choose a technology provider that puts the emphasis on customer service. They could provide real-time support, training, project management and strategic advice right from the important implementation stage.
Identify which areas need automation
Even if you’ve completed the three elements above, you shouldn’t jump right into implementation just yet. Sure, you have the ingredients. But do you have the recipe? Mixing eggs, flour and milk can result in cakes, crêpes or bread. Before you throw them all together and add heat, be sure you know which you’re aiming for as a result.
To start with, there are two ways to examine your business to identify the key areas that would benefit from automation. First, go back to the customer journey and see where you could nudge the customer into conversion. Toinfinity, for example, used this strategy for their client Mango Bikes and achieved a 2,337 per cent ROI from a single campaign. They sent an automated email on the ‘anniversary’ of a bike purchase suggesting the customer either upgrade components or buy accessories. Which steps could you automate to enhance your customers’ journey and drive more sales?
The other way to look at this is to identify inefficient routine tasks whose automation would reduce costs. After all, higher profits don’t just come from increased revenue. They can also result from lower costs. Telecoms.com identified this issue with their daily newsletter. By creating four different feeds to automatically populate the majority of their email, they saved 8.5 hours a week, time previously spent manually copying and pasting content. Look at any routine or predictable tasks in your organisation. Where could your processes be made more efficient?
After you’ve established that, you can start putting together implementation plans. Remember, there’s no shame in starting small. If you’re in B2C, you can try simple, triggered messages like transaction-based emails, a welcome series, renewal reminders and birthday campaigns.
How can you tell if you’ve been successful?
Another misconception about marketing automation is the ability to ‘set it and forget it’. While it can help you decrease costs, or drive sales through nudging customers, it’s not a hands-free technology.
Marketing automation works best when you have a clear plan of action. Set achievable goals, start with the basics, benchmark along the way, keep testing and measuring, and see if you’ve had an increase – either in results or in efficiency. Be flexible in your strategy, keep an open mind to sustain continuous testing, and learn from successes and failures. That’s the only way you’ll gain actionable insight into your customers’ behaviour to drive your future marketing strategy.
What are the next steps?
Once you’ve gained a deeper understanding of your customers’ path to purchase from your first programme setup, it’s time to go to the next level. You can start mapping their path to support the creation of a more complex automated process. Try designing journeys based on whether subscribers open, click or convert from certain campaigns. Such automation programmes will allow you to respond more accurately to your subscribers’ engagement levels.
By having clear processes in place, a great understanding of your business and customers, and support from a trusted technology provider, you can unlock the gateway to highly-targeted campaigns that deliver impressive results.