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Marketing Automation in Action

There has never been a better time to be a digital marketer. With an incredible abundance of data and immensely powerful tools at the ready, today’s enterprises can deliver compelling messaging in a manner that excites and directs users toward conversion – and with almost shocking ease.

The available technologies, and their proper implementation and utilization of course, afford consumer and conversion focused enterprises an opportunity to deliver more comprehensive, thoughtful, and efficient messaging experiences in order to market and ultimately sell their products and services – be it information or a physical good – to both B2B and B2C consumers.

You don’t need to look far to see firsthand how the most successful digital brands in operation today deliver personalized, real-time and cross channel messaging and communication to their users – if you’ve ever bought something online, just check your email inbox as chances are very high you are in a marketers database and have been delivered an automated message.

Executed well, automating “marketing” can yield a much better experience for users and a more profitable one for businesses, but how are these companies achieving success with such solutions and the efforts required to manage them? They are leveraging their data in creative and useful ways and thinking through the entire customer journey, taking advantage of some very powerful solutions like marketing automation software along the way to make it happen.

Those now engaging in initiatives to automate and optimize their marketing and sales efforts, and investing in one of the many integrated systems available, are promised sizable increases in user engagement and greater profit performance – and invest is exactly what enterprises appear to be doing.

THE MOVE TO AUTOMATE

The software market related to “automation” systems (a broad category) is expected to continue growing at 8.55% year-overyear, unlocking a potential market capitalization of US $ 5.5 billion by 2019 (source: Markets & Markets, 2017). Marketing automation is big business because it works and adoption has been rapid. According to Emailmonday, for example, more than 51 percent of companies are currently using marketing automation systems, and 58 percent of B2B companies are planning to adopt such technology solutions and practices.

It’s easy to see why marketing automation solutions are so appealing. These are systems that provide continuous, autonomous optimization of messaging and the customer journey across channels, enabling marketing teams to review, analyze and execute on behavioral and demographic data in a real-time manner. By almost any measure, marketing automation as a recognized practice has arrived, but what will the role of marketers be in the future? Instead of spending hour upon hour preparing reports and analysis, there will be more time for strategy and finding creative ways and means to encourage customer interactions that directly benefit the bottom line.

But you don’t need another set statistics or a list of the leading solutions (which Website Magazine readers will happen to find in the March 2018 Top50). What you need is some practical insights for getting started.

AUTOMATION IN ACTION

Each customer journey is unique and that in itself can be challenging for most enterprises.

A prospect might find your company through search (organic or advertising), for example, ‘like’ a company’s social profile, or visit a web property from a referral which in turn results in their eventual conversion. Integrated marketing systems can help brands connect these various touch points and channels, nurture their prospects over time into customers based on the activity and interaction data they collect, and continue managing that relationship over the long term.

Success with marketing automation is not without its challenges, of course. Despite the obvious value these systems and the practice itself can provide, most brands suffer from lack of an effective strategy and struggle with the often complex nature of a truly automated approach.

Know at the outset that automated marketing and sales efforts are not going to solve all of a business’ problems. These solutions can amplify the success or failure of decisions made related to strategy (focusing on the correct market or messaging) and tactics (delivering messaging at the optimal cadence or frequency). With a good plan, relevant content and sufficient data, however, improvements in business performance are inevitable.

What those responsible for the success of their enterprise need most is an action plan, and in this months’ feature article in Website Magazine readers will discover several possible marketing ‘workflows’ to make the most of the investment made in business software solutions that enable the practice of marketing automation.

THE WELCOME
At the very minimum, businesses need to concentrate on the automated messaging that is delivered immediately following the submission of any information by the user – such as that required for creating an account. Think of it as a good will message and one of your first and best chances to make a good impression. Whether that message is transactional, informational or navigational in nature there are many tactics that can be employed to make these messages useful. Let recipients know what sort of communications they can expect to receive in the future and how often (the cadence and frequency), share information about you individually or your company perhaps, and of course, take every opportunity to direct them back toward related, additional or supplementary products and services. The ideal welcome series typically consists of several messages delivered over a series of weeks but track the performance of each delivery and optimize the frequency and content with split testing to see gradual improvement for your specific audience.

THE POST-PURCHASE
Post-purchase workflows can serve several purposes and they’re one of the most effective methods available for businesses today. Implementing (and auditing) a post-purchase email marketing workflow, for example, could enable businesses to gather customer feedback. Ask customers to rate their purchase experience, leave a review, share a photo of the unboxing, provide a link to a customer support representative, or suggest a personalized offering based on any data available (e.g. previous order, source of the first click, etc.). A personalized follow-up campaign that targets customers who buy certain products or requests specific information offers invaluable up- and cross-selling possibilities too, and savvy marketers know not to ignore this important message type.

FEEDBACK WORKFLOW
It is impossible to improve (be it revenue, experience, or perception) without gathering some measure of feedback from users. There are going to be satisfied customers and dissatisfied customers so tracking that (at least in aggregate) provides exactly the data needed to deliver better messaging and/or advertising in the future. That feedback can come in the form of qualitative or quantitative data but the important thing to remember is that this information must be acquired. Setting up a feedback workflow is important for those that track NPS (Net Promoter Score) specifically but again, can be utilized by anyone seeking out greater clarity into the usefulness and quality of their products or services (or lack thereof) as well as the communications they send to users.

EVANGELIST WORKFLOW
If you are fortunate enough to have loyal, influential brand advocates, it’s a major mistake not to leverage these customers to further grow your enterprise. Access data related to social shares to identify existing brand evangelists and encourage further participation in exchange for a co-promotion or special discount. These type of marketing automation workflows often require a finely tuned personal touch so this may be one of your most dataintensive processes – but it could also be one the most rewarding.

LURKER WORKFLOW
There are evangelists and there are “lurkers”, those that may be aware of your brand but simply don’t interact (for whatever reason). Often, those simply lurking around a website are in the early or nascent stages of their customer journey. In this instance, delivering educational content to this segment could prove useful. Lurkers can also take other forms – they may be competitors conducting research and monitoring price changes or potential job seekers looking for work. Understanding page-level viewing habits of users is critical to delivering the right message to lurkers.

TOPICAL WORKFLOWS
Enterprises that publish educational content do not have to miss out on the marketing automation trend, and they may in fact be best suited to the practice. Creating workflows around the industry-related topics enterprises develop content about will enable brands to increase the opportunities afforded to them and increase lifetime value dramatically. Say, for example that a contact downloaded an ebook. A workflow can then be triggered that sends that periodically sends related content. The more a business knows about its prospects the better the messaging can be and the closer their customer will be to completing the user journey.

ABANDONMENT WORKFLOWS
E-commerce enterprises that don’t approach shopping cart abandonment seriously are destined to miss out on an incredible amount of future sales. When someone adds an item to their online shopping cart but leaves your site without completing the purchase, trigger an email workfl ow that reminds them of their forgotten purchase and motivates them to complete the transaction by offering a special discount code or some other incentive to buy.

UPSELL WORKFLOWS
Ideal for those offernig a range of products or different tiers of services, notifying customers about opportunities to upgrade or add-on to their order or pruase is a very sophisticated approach. The technique requires great awareness over the state of buyer, a fi nely tuned messaging strategy and exactly the right data (primarily past purchase, feedback and activity data). Create lists of contacts who purchase a certain product, gather information on their usage, and deliver an upgrade or offer for enhancement based on that information. It’s an important workfl ow to maximize lifetime value of customers and should not be ignored.

THE WIN BACK/RE-ENGAGEMENT WORKFLOW
Even customers you’ve sold to or gathered data from previously shouldn’t be excluded from brands messaging strategies. Targeting customers after period of inactivity to win them back is good business (at least if we buy into the idea that it’s more cost effective to retain than to acquire users/clients). If someone hasn’t visited a website/application, logged in, purchased or made some activity (like a site visit) in the last 3 or 6 months, send an email “reminder” that recommends products or information they might value or perhaps even a message highlighting new features since their last visit. Other effective win-back strategies including offering early access to an upcoming product, providing access to exclusive content based on their previous activity, or incentivize their re-engagement with a special monetary offer.

EXPIRATION NOTIFICATION
If a customer relationship is nearing its completion, marketers have an obligation to notify users about it. Doing so ensures customers are retained and the benefi ts can be immense. Even small uplifts in customer retention result in signifi cant increases in profi tability, so if your product or service can be renewed or repurchased on a cycle, make sure that one of the automation workfl ows in place at your enterprises is an email that gets triggered automatically to notify customers of the event.

LIST CLEANSING
Keeping a “clean” email list is important if brands want to achieve sustainable growth and high engagement with their email marketing efforts. Automation can help senders clean their list through a re-optin process. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, removing people from an email list in this way is good for a number of reasons. First, it can help improve engagement rates of email campaigns. By eliminating uninterested contacts, you can be sure that you’re only communicating with qualifi ed leads and have a clearer picture of performance. The second reason is that establishing this workfl ow is important is because it lowers spam complaint and unsubscribe rates (increasing deliverability rates in the process).

STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT

The benefi t of automating at least some of your marketing (as a practice and as a technology) is that it quickly proves to be the virtual workhorses of the business (and can replace people and systems alike). There’s a whole lot more that’s required to achieve success however.

Strategy is far and away the most vital component to accelerate the success of an enterprise through marketing automation. Without a clear plan which outlines the aims and objectives, selecting a solution and putting that offering to its best use will be incredibly diffi cult. Say for example that a small business interested in marketing automation has the objective of getting its users to interact – be it through visiting an offl ine store with greater regularity or simply returning to the website for access to new information. A larger organization, however, might not be as interested in generating in-store or website visits, and are focused exclusively on nurturing relationshps with the aim of getting a user closer to a sale in the future over the phone. The former would use more inbound techniques while the latter more outbound processes.

There are, of course, many other factors involved in success with marketing automation. In addition to failures on a strategic level, many enterprises also stumble when it comes to aligning the people within their organization to the processes required for success. When organizations/companies are set up in a way that limits exposure to other key data and decision makers, it can make marketing automation processes another stumbling block in an otherwise effi cient process. With the right strategy, people and processes in place, however, marketing automation solutions and practices are incredible opportunities to accelerate the success of any enterprise.

LET THE AUTOMATION BEGIN

There are several forces that are going to drive the success of such marketing automation workfl ows – you need content, you need an effective funnel, clear-messaging, comprehensive reach, and fl awless integration. It’s vital that marketers understand that success with such initiatives is less about the technology stack and more about the actual prospect or customer. Focus accordingly.
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