Gemma Banks, Senior Marketing Manager at dotMailer, explains how automation can increase the value and impact of content and enhance the overall customer experience
Whilst talking to several of our customers at dotMailer recently, the subject of marketing automation has cropped up with remarkable frequency, and we have noticed a lot of misunderstanding about what exactly marketing automation systems deliver and how effective they are.
In a nutshell, a marketing automation system combines the key elements of web, CRM and email to deliver an integrated suite of applications that captures and reports on all interactions between your customers and you, thereby helping marketers to better manage the customer experience.
Marketing automation allows you to tailor the messages you send. Rather than sending out mass emails, you can target your email content to individuals and engage with them on a much deeper level. The more seamless the customer experience, the more likely they are to buy, remain loyal, and become advocates of your brand, products and services.
It sounds simple enough. But as with everything technological, the success or failure of any marketing system relies on the way it is set-up and implemented. The reality is that effective marketing automation calls for a lot of planning, rules, processes, triggers, objectives, tools and data, and above all, an intimate understanding of your customer journey. Marketing automation is the tool. It’s not the marketing strategy.
Right message, right person, right time
At the heart of the marketing automation conundrum sits the question ‘Just how much can you automate?’ One of our clients, City & Guilds, are three years into a very comprehensive four year programme that sees the integration of website, CRM and email, and is already enjoying significant benefits in terms of increased departmental efficiency and quality of output.
City & Guilds’ ultimate aim is to create an automated solution that uses the web as the main point of contact for all customers in the pre-sales, sales and post-sales phases. It is designed to allow around 90 per cent of customer interaction to be automated and delivered online, from choosing educational courses to actually purchasing and being kept up to date on legislation and course content changes.
The system has been designed to be so intuitive that it will recognise an individual visitor to the website using cookies, then use this information to access that person’s relevant history and purchasing information. Not only will the customer receive appropriate follow up emails from their visit, the actual web content they see will also be tailored to their own specific interests and needs based on their job roles and titles.
The transparent interface
City & Guilds’ system is a dramatically powerful use of marketing automation and gives a fascinating insight into how our interactions with systems can become so personal and intuitive that the man/machine interface can become transparent.
So if that’s the brave new world of marketing automation, how do we get from today, where most people still define and process output manually, to tomorrow’s world where the day-to-day routine tasks of customer management, analysis and reporting are transferred to self-service websites, allowing you to focus on higher value, and more strategic tasks?
The first step has to be building a detailed understanding of your audience. Traditional B2C mass marketing is based on big numbers, whereas today the talk is of ‘big data’. Broadcasting to a demographic is the antithesis of focused direct marketing – at which marketing automation excels, allowing you to set up the parameters to market cost effectively to different audience sectors – from groups of thousands to universes measured in single digits.
Know your customer
The second step is understanding your customer behaviour and what motivates them to buy. While demographics still have a role to play in the marketing automation environment, the devil is unquestionably in the detail. Specifically the amount of detail you hold about each customer. Simply put, the more you know about a customer, the more effectively you can tailor content and offers to match their needs.
At a recent dotMailer roundtable event, Holly Leigh-Harvey, Head of Operations at Cabbages & Roses explained how their marketing automation solution, which integrates CRM, Magento and email, allows them to segment customers to an extremely high level and automatically send out different offers.
The system can differentiate between those who will only buy in the annual sale and those who want to be first to see the new products, and so will order from a picture before the goods are even produced. It comes down to knowing not just who your customers are, but also what motivates them and how to tap into their preferences and emotions. Effective marketing automation allows you to change the paradigm from selling to customers to helping them to buy.
Work smarter, not harder
Last year upmarket brand Dove Spa won a DMA Award for Best Use of Email for its campaign on ‘Strength Within,’ an anti-wrinkle supplement. The campaign delivered a 77 per cent repeat purchase rate, over twice the industry average for this category, yet it was entirely automated, using triggers based on purchase habits, likely behaviours and timing.
Dove Spa, like our other DMA-winning client, ODEON Cinemas, succeeded by creating parameters in their systems that identified the people most likely to respond to specific offers and delivering timely emails with relevant offers to trigger those purchases.
Research from the DMA shows that this kind of trigger-based marketing can produce over twice as much interest as general emails, so there is powerful evidence that marketing automation’s ability to relate content, timing and preferences provides a powerful and effective tool.
The best thing since sliced bread
Marketing automation has the ability to increase the value and impact of a marketers’ content, capture leads, improve lead-to-sale conversion rates, drive up repeat purchasing, and enhance the overall customer experience.
By incorporating marketing automation into your business you can respond to enquiries immediately. Did you know that you are a hundred times more likely to close a sale if you responded within five minutes rather than 30?
Whether you have already implemented a marketing automation solution, or are considering it, the keys to success lie with a defined process, people to support the growth, and relevant content. In short, marketing automation is a game-changer, effectively giving marketing departments a competitive advantage over traditional marketing techniques.
Effective marketing automation solutions:
Integrate web, email and CRM
Provide detailed analytics on all customer interactions
Deliver customer intelligence to drive offers
Allow triggered messaging and abandoned basket rescue
Shorten sales cycles
Deliver continuous feedback to improve campaigns
Increase customer value
Provide higher quality leads and opportunities