Read on for an introduction to Force24’s Ultimate Guide to Marketing Automation, or download the full version here.
We are regularly asked to consult on the best practice journey techniques for many different scenarios.
Over the past 11 years, we have developed a very good understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
In this guide, we will attempt to consider many different scenarios and offer our humble opinions as to the best practice approach.
Not all marketing automation platforms are born equal and with this in mind, we can only offer advice for customers with a Marketing Automation platform with equal or more power to that of the Force24 platform.
What gives us the right to comment?
As a leading UK Marketing Automation platform vendor, we have observed and helped shape the industry by developing tools and standards that help marketers all over the world do more.
Within the Force24 platform, we currently hold over 25,000 active customer journeys and have computed over 200 trillion actions and interactions on behalf of our clients.
We pride ourselves on making sure each one of our clients feels loved and supported, and we do this by offering free training and support for life! Generous hey?
Well yes, but there is a reason for it! Because we offer such a high level of support and contact with our clients, we get to hear first-hand what’s making their life hard or what they get most value out of! Our competition doesn’t quite see it that way!
What tools do I need to follow this guide?
That’s an easy question to answer! You need Force24!
As previously mentioned, we have honed our platform based on the advice and comments of our customers, which is why we are the fastest growing UK-based Marketing Automation services provider.
But… we understand we can’t work with everyone yet. In which case, the tools you will need are as follows:
- An email service provider with an email template editor that ensures mobile compliant emails – very important.
- The ability to monitor a user’s website engagement.
- A lead scoring platform.
- The ability to build landing pages – rather than direct traffic.
- An automation engine with the following features:
- CRM integration to push key contacts to the sales team. The key to discovering the gold is pushing the hottest contacts into the sales team quickly.
- An extensive external integration app library to the major marketing apps you use in your business. Where possible, automation is to take all of the load. Integration works to save the marketers time and not be relied upon for any part of the process.
- A delay module that can take into account times of day. A classic issue with automation platforms is not being able to reset a user’s activity back to optimal engagement hours. This means the time of day/day of week of the users original trigger action is ignored after a delay stage.
- An automation engine that can make decisions based on time of day. When sending an email, we need to know if the call/contact centre is open at the time we send the email – this may affect our choice on what to send.
It’s important to keep an eye on over-penetrating your base. But it’s also critical to not under-penetrate your base.
The symptoms of an over-penetrated base look very similar to that of an under-penetrated base. The key is to find the sweet spot as illustrated below:
Many marketers over-estimate the value of their communications and the attention of their readers.
To demonstrate this, we usually ask you to name one commercial email you received into your inbox yesterday. Nine times out of 10 people can’t name one, but occasionally when somebody does remember, they tend to recall a brand they are engaged with. This is the key – relevance rewrites the frequency rules.
Value of content
On average, it takes five to six commercial touches until the message has sunk in. So, don’t be offended if the uptake on your amazing content is low from the first email. Build your strategies to take this into account, and make sure you stop when the user engages.
Base your opinion after you have tried to push the message several times.
Connect up the sales team
If you do not have your sales CRM integrated with your Marketing Automation provider, we would recommend this is something you look into… empower sales with the power of your marketing, and power marketing with the power of the sales team’s efforts.
You should (at least) be able to push new contacts from sales and those in active discussions through to Marketing Automation as you may wish to treat these differently. You should also be able to create tasks for sales teams to call your hottest leads quickly.
Open rates are not to be trusted
Of course, open rates are a key metric within the marketer’s tool box on which to base opinions, but remember no two open rates are the same.
In today’s market, ESPs are faced with an awkward decision:
Display bot activity in “open and click rates” and show strong stats
Do not display bot activity and show a lower open rate
Now, in the world of automation it’s absolutely imperative that we only report the actions of users, and not the actions of spam checker bots making sure our emails are virus free.
Instead, focus your attention on the engagement of the base using an average lead score metric to demonstrate message fit!
Open rates are so far removed from bottom line profit, nobody on the board is impressed when you demonstrate a three per cent open rate increase. However, from our experience high lead scores are the pre-runner to ROI! Show a three per cent lift in lead score and the board will soon learn to get excited.
Follow the engagement, not the click
Before the advent of automation platforms being bundled with detailed web activity tracking, the click was all we had to go on! Now we can consider every page the user looks at and has ever looked at.
We want to know what they do while browsing freely, because that’s when we get the real insight.
To demonstrate that point, in the kitchen retail world, lower priced, value products generate the highest click rates – the same bargain hunters viewed and ultimately purchased more mid to premium products.
“Allow the engagement observed online to tailor your opinions.”
Email/SMS is the bait not the full meal
Let’s remember simple principals and componentise your collateral!
Deliver the content over time
Remember, you may have a complicated message to instil into your contact base, but that doesn’t mean they want or have the time to consume it. The power of automation allows you to distil the message down and deliver it over time in bite-sized chunks.
In a simple HTML email, we like to ensure no more than two paragraphs and at most two calls-to-action, whereas in a plain text email we are happy to allow more content but remain focussed on a very small and simple overall message.
One of the questions we get asked on web demos is “can we split test our email campaigns?” and of course you can… but let’s understand what split testing should be. A split should vary the mechanism message, content or offer, not just a subject line. Obviously, you should only split test one mechanic at a time. But these are the factors that drive engagement, and ultimately the bottom line.
Let’s put this in to context. If the wording of a subject line is the difference between the contact buying and not buying, we would suggest the brand relationship is weak and you may have some brand rep work to do to first, producing more relevant and targeted communications. So, let’s assume we understand our base and have identified what to say and to whom. The next stage is to consider the approach needed to pull the contact back into the sales funnel.
Perils of plain text reply management
Remember, when building a journey that utilises plain text, you must be able to manage the replies. You must use an automation platform that enables you to use direct replies from specific stages to specific sales users or a monitored marketing inbox.
Many contacts send messages as a reply back to these plain text messages – these may be unsubscribe requests or sales enquiries. Either way, you must review the replies and act accordingly.
The Force24 system allows the user to reply, and maintains the original message. If a contact requests to be removed you can simply scroll down and click the unsubscribe link in the footer of their email to remove them or update their subscription preferences.
Control the whole environment
One of the biggest factors to success in delivering a successful campaign is around controlling every aspect of the user’s journey. By that, we are specifically referring to landing pages! Every marketer knows they need to build an email, but few are prepared to build landing pages to support the campaign. Perhaps it’s too hard or they don’t have time. Either way, your biggest block to conversions will be “click leakage” around your website.
Giving users a simple, focussed page on which to land provides a seamless transition from what was discussed in the email or SMS. Conversion rates soar from one 1-2 per cent to 10-15 per cent.
Develop a campaign template
Time is of the essence and every marketer’s time is precious. It’s great practice to build very simple campaign templates, for both emails and landing pages, that can easily be swapped out to portray a new message. This allows you to spend more time doing what matters, and also gives that consistent brand message.
By providing this consistent approach, you are also able to accurately assess your evolution, content, and messaging credibility on the basis that the assets were identical.