Marketing automation has come a long way.
Considered an emerging technology as recently as a few years ago, estimates are that more than half (59%) of Fortune 500 companies now use marketing automation along with nearly all (95%) of SAAS-based companies.
Yet many of those who have implemented marketing automation are struggling to use it to improve overall marketing performance.
According to a recent Econsultancy survey, less than 5% of marketers in Australia and New Zealand consider their automated email campaigns ‘very successful’.
Additionally, more than 90% considered their marketing automation capabilities as ‘basic’ at best.
So, what is the problem? What do marketers need to do to get out of the ‘basic zone’ and deliver marketing automation excellence?
To find out, we spoke to dozens of marketers at our recent Digital Cream Sydney about how they overcome the issues they faced when implementing marketing automation.
Delegates agreed that marketing automation has an aura of being a ‘magical tool’ which will help marketers deliver the right message on the right platform.
Implementation, however, often leads to disappointment. Initial projections were rarely met, and many felt that their original goals for marketing automation were ‘drifting’.
On the whole, participants said that they were still ‘pursuing the dream’, but many have become more realistic about their marketing automation ambitions. Instead of expecting marketing automation to be a ‘silver bullet’, they are following several steps which, they believe, achieve more realistic incremental goals.
Below are the five steps which attendees agreed are leading them toward ‘marketing automation excellence’.
1) Start with a basic marketing automation programme
A rookie mistake of implementing marketing automation, according to participants, is to first choose a marketing automation solution and then try to figure out how to use it.
In these cases, a company signs up with a provider and dutifully links up the customer database, the email engine, and the website. Once everything is up and running, however, marketers realise that the programme does not have a clear goal and enthusiasm for the project quickly wanes.
A better approach, according to delegates, is to review existing marketing strategies and pick one or two activities with well-known outcomes and work on a way to automate the tasks.
For example, an ecommerce company may have data which shows that encouraging customers to return to the site every 3 months reduces churn and increases revenue.
In this case, a marketing automation programme might just ensure that each customer is emailed relatively frequently for three months following a purchase. No new technology may be required at all.
In time, marketers may use solutions to make these emails more sophisticated, but before investing in marketing automation technology, according to participants, they should first successfully launch a basic programme.
2) Identify data sources
For even the simplest marketing automation programme, marketers rely on data. It may be as simple as the date of the last purchase or as sophisticated as customer behavioural data, but marketers need to have access to customer information for automation to be successful.
Attendees felt, however, that accessing customer information was a significant roadblock as the data is often spread out throughout the organisations.
In our recent survey of marketers in Australia and New Zealand, many in the region agree. When asked to identify the biggest barriers to implementing automation ‘integrating data’ was the most popular response from the client side.
No single solution to the problem was provided on the day, but participants acknowledged that obtaining and integrating data sources was an issue that everyone faced on the way to a successful marketing automation programme.
3) Implement data governance
While identifying data sources is an essential first step, marketers also need a strategy for how they are going to source data on an ongoing basis.
Initially, the data required by the programme may be relatively easy to obtain, but participants indicated that marketers will eventually have to work with departments who may be reluctant to share their data.
Several attendees said that having a written data governance policy makes obtaining data from other departments much easier.
Such a policy should let other people in the organisation know how you intend to use the data and your strategy for maintaining data integrity and keeping sensitive information secure.
One participant indicated that appointing someone as the ‘data steward’ to deal with policy and inquiries helped a great deal with internal data acquisition.
4) Have clear success metrics from the start
Participants also agreed that even the most basic marketing automation programme should deliver results which demonstrates the value of the programme to the business.
In order to make this happen, marketers need to be clear from the start about what metric they are trying to improve.
If the purpose of marketing automation is to increase web traffic, noted one attendee, then marketers should not include email open rates in the performance report.
For those marketers whose sponsors only look at top-line figures, they should ensure that the success metrics are focused on how marketing automation is increasing revenue.
Without agreeing on what constitutes success from the start, marketing automation, like any programme, will be at risk of drifting from its original goals and losing sponsorship in the process.
5) Always look for opportunities to expand the programme
The final step toward marketing automation excellence is that marketers must learn from the initial programmes and be on the lookout for other ways to use automation.
Those who successfully implement an initiative which provides relevant offers based on purchases may look to do the same with content. Or, if web activity and email have been automated, marketers can also look at ways to deliver more relevant content to their audience via social media.
Regardless of the results they have had with it so far, participants agreed that marketing automation was still worth pursuing and that it will be a significant part of their agenda in 2017.
A word of thanks
Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day and especially the moderator at the marketing automation table, Steffen Daleng, General Manager – Digital, The Co-op Bookstore.
We hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!