Archive for the "Marketing Automation" Category
One of the benefits of consulting is exposure to a broad array of businesses and challenges. We recently dealt with a small high tech B2B company where it became apparent how crucial Marketing Automation has become in today’s fast-paced and hyper-competitive marketspace.
The company was in the middle of creating a marketing plan for 2012. One of the Line of Business (LOB) leaders came forward with a detailed and somewhat aggressive marketing plan that included a number of email campaigns with multiple touchpoints in each. The VP of Marketing almost immediately shot holes in the plan, reasoning that sending multiple emails in a single campaign is counterproductive – if the receipient is not interested in the first email they will likely unsubscribe when they receive a second email on the same topic.
Putting aside the basics of advertising (you need to hit people at least three times before they get a message), the first question on my mind was – why not evaluate their response and only send them the second email in that particular campaign if they’ve interacted with the material. For example, after the first email people who did not open or clickthrough that email would not receive any further emails from that campaign. After the second email people who did not clickthrough would not receive the third email. This approach would focus the campaign to 3-4 touches and would ensure that the LOB can send increasingly specific and detailed messaging for a specific product/service, but only to the people showing interest.
Furthermore, this same content could then be re-purposed into a perpetual nurturing campaign for any new prospects showing interest in this particular product/service. And if you have multiple nurturing programs of this type for new prospects you could route them through these programs based on which products they examined on your website.
Unfortunately, this particular company did not have a Marketing Automation system and so this particular LOB leader was left with a much weaker campaign and no ongoing nurture program.
In our experience, the companies that leverage Marketing Automation effectively are the ones that take the time to build a business case for automation, test their assumptions with live campaigns, and continually improve their processes and programs as they become more sophisticated with the tools. We’ve worked with companies in all phases of this maturity cycle and strongly believe that there are no short cuts.
Several of us on the Accelent team attended a great webinar the other day – MOCCA’s “Marketing Automation: Lessons from the Front” presented by Shelley West and Tony Anticole of the Corporate Executive Board. (View recording here). MOCCA is the largest group of Marketing Operations professionals in the country and a great resource for education and thought leadership, if you haven’t yet discovered them. (see more) The Corporate Executive Board offers comprehensive data analysis, research and advisory services that align to executive leadership roles and key recurring decisions. (see more)
Shelly and Tony provided some very interesting insights. For instance, the Marketing Automation vision for many organizations is often better than their execution reality. This really shouldn’t be too surprising since this is how nearly all new technologies emerge in markets – and as my colleague Andy Sayare notes, it is why the Gartner Hype Cycle was created many years ago. This vision/execution mismatch was validated by a recent Corporate Executive Board survey. We learned that approximately 2/3 of the companies surveyed that have invested in MA have not realized their overall vision. As a direct result, many companies currently are or will soon be looking outside of their organization for help with connecting their MA vision to their execution potential.
The survey results validate our own experience in the market. Most of our marketing automation projects could be described as aligning marketing automation strategy and execution with the overall business strategy and goals.
It is also interesting to note that the disconnect between vision and execution is almost never about technology. It is almost always about the people and processes first – technology later. In some ways, it doesn’t make much difference which MA system a company chooses. All of the basics will most likely be available in whatever credible tool is chosen. More important is the need to engage with an experienced team who can guide your organization’s people, processes, and technology in a way that supports your business objectives.
The savvy marketer has come to understand the value of marketing automation. Leads that have been nurtured and have demonstrated interest and engagement (so-called digital body language) with marketing assets over time are more valuable to Sales than purchased names. Using marketing automation, Marketing can play an active role in the development of leads through the entire sales funnel. This is well understood. However, some forward-looking companies have taken marketing automation beyond lead generation and have found a role for it with existing customers.
Since marketing automation is essentially a rules-based system that guides communications with a target audience, it is a natural fit for companies that want to increase customer engagement with their product, upsell/cross-sell, or renew subscriptions. Both on-premise and SaaS-based offerings can be a good fit for customer-centric marketing automation. As customers interact with your software or platform, usage information is gathered in the form of logs or through analytics. It then becomes a simple matter of grouping individuals with similar usage patterns and targeting them with messages that align with your business goals.
Most software and platforms directed at the enterprise were built with a set of core capabilities that have been augmented and enhanced over time. Very few were built with marketing-to-customers as a core capability. At best, some systems have automated system messages based on triggered events. Rather than spend precious development cycles building rules-based messaging into your product, why not leverage one of the many marketing automation platforms available today and develop simple integration between your product and a marketing automation platform. The integration doesn’t need to be real-time in most cases, nor does it need to be bi-directional. Simple file transfer using FTP can often suffice. Let’s look at a couple of real-world examples from our clients.
Let’s say that you have a Social platform targeted at the enterprise. You know that everything begins with a robust profile or graph – and without one, the engagement with your product will be minimal, at best. Why not build a campaign that targets those individuals who have only partially completed their profile? To accomplish this, you will first need to get the “qualified” individuals into your marketing automation system. Once the list of names that meets your criteria is in the marketing automation system, it then becomes a simple matter of developing a campaign that encourages individuals to complete their profile. It could be an award of some type, or simply a series of reminders sent over time. Once they have completed the profile, you would remove them from the campaign by updating the “qualified” list. Maybe you then target them with another campaign as they move along your product’s “maturity” cycle.
In another case, let’s say you have a SaaS-based offering that requires an annual renewal for an enhanced level of service. Why not use marketing automation to target those companies that are coming up for renewal in the next 60 days. You could message them with actual usage statistics that demonstrate the value they have been receiving from the service over the past year, and offer special deals for customers that meet certain criteria. Most marketing automation systems allow you to store a number of data fields in the contact record that can be used to drive content in communications. You can use those fields to store data from your product and deliver custom, fine-tuned messages that drive conversions.
These are just two ways that Accelent clients are currently using marketing automation to target existing customers to drive revenues – beyond lead generation. How are you using marketing automation to drive revenue?
It is undeniable that any B2B company stands to benefit from a Marketing Automation system and many companies already have. This fact is well illustrated by the literal arms race that has erupted in the space driving down prices and increasing provider options. In this post I will bring up some points to consider as you start thinking about whether you are ready to make the leap and acquire a system.
1) Vision. Without it, you will end up with another expensive system that is not used enough or is misused. I’ve seen so many companies acquire a Marketing Automation system and use it to just batch-and-blast emails. Or, some parts of the process are automated and others are not. Or, automation is setup once and never revisited – over time causing great damage to the business. Have a clear vision what you are trying to accomplish and make sure you can execute it against other items on this list. It’s OK to start small, but know where you’re going.
2) Time. Any automation system is a multiplier of efforts – you generally invest the time up front to configure the system so it can then perform the same action a dozen or hundred or hundred thousand times. Make no mistake about it – you will need to invest the time to configure the system each time you want the system to do something. This time investment will generally be greater than the cost to perform that thing once or twice the way you’re currently doing it.
3) Budget. Remember, when you purchase an automation system you are not just paying for the system itself. You are paying for the configuration of the system, integration with your other systems, as well as ongoing operation. These systems can and do pay for themselves many times over, but you do need to make that initial as well as ongoing investment.
4) Systems. Your Marketing Automation system will become your marketing database and a powerful tool in executing your strategy effectively. It is important to remember that it does not exist on its own. Generally, you will want to integrate it with your CRM system, as well as other systems potentially. Here are some of the questions to ask yourself and start thinking about your strategy for dealing with them. How clean is my current CRM/marketing data? Who will own this system?Who will maintain it? What systems will I need to integrate? Which system will be the data master? How will the data flow between multiple systems?
These are just some of the things to consider prior to acquiring a Marketing Automation system (or any automation system for that matter). Mind you, in my experience 75% of companies who acquire these systems fail in at least one (if not all four) categories. They end up paying for a Ferrari and driving it like a Fiat. An alternative is to start thinking about your strategy for rolling out a system like this and be one of the 25% that will drive the Ferrari effectively and win with it.