The bottom line of marketing automation focuses on one thing: optimising your customer’s or prospect’s customer journey, using his or her personal context as the departure point. In this article, I’ll lay out five conditions that will allow you to fully exploit the potential of marketing automation.
With marketing automation you can use software that will automate the various marketing processes that lead your (potential) customers through their customer journey. Predefined triggers determine the best time to serve up new and relevant content that eventually leads to conversion, or, if the person is an existing customer, persuade him or her to return, thus encouraging loyalty. The five points listed below are key ingredients for a good marketing automation strategy.
1. Make sure the data can do the job
If the data is to be up to the task, it must be in order. We often think immediately in terms of campaigns – the output of marketing automation – but successful marketing automation starts with integration and segmentation. Regarding the former, integration, what I’m talking about here is linking your data sources to the automation tool. As for segmentation, it’s all about filtering out groups of people who will be receptive to a certain message.
Using marketing automation entails taking a critical look at your data. What kind of data is available and, above all, what is the quality of that data? If you intend to connect different data sources, you’ll soon discover that not all data has been stored uniformly in the various, relevant systems. You’ll therefore need to look carefully at the basic configuration and the value- and field-structure. If your data input is in order, you’re well over half-way towards successful segmentation. This also lays a good foundation for the future. Within marketing automation, a great deal is triggered on the basis of historical data and insights. And with the advent of A.I., increasingly smarter and self-learning software is making it easier to respond in real time, such as with user-behavior or user-location, for example.
2. Choose the right software
It is, of course, important that you understand how the software works and that the tooling this software represents corresponds with the requirements and the knowledge level of your marketing department.
To this end, you should pay attention to the following points.
● A question that’s not asked often enough is: what is the knowledge level of the end user? If the tool is not tailored to the end user’s level of knowledge, you’ll be paying a lot of money for functionality that you won’t use.
● So make sure your tooling can grow in accordance with your needs and wishes. Scalability is key in this respect, in terms of both price and functionality. You don’t have to take the full package straight away; most software solutions offer the option of starting with the basics and then only scaling up once you’ve taken the initial steps.
● Marketing automation is more than “email marketing on steroids”. Make sure that your tooling can activate several channels and assess how easy it will be to access these channels, both now and in future.
3. Start by picking the low-hanging fruit
There are several standard campaigns that can be immediately accommodated by your marketing automation tool; such as newsletters and transactional emails. For newsletters with a relatively fixed format, you can configure campaigns using basic data as input for variables in the area of personalisation.
It all starts with your content. Take, for example, the recent use of a survey during the onboarding process at Basic-Fit. Based on the answers to questions in this survey, different personas were defined and specific content developed for these personas. Were we dealing with experienced fitness aficionados, for example, or with beginners who might have trouble using the equipment properly? During the campaign, the various groups were sent bespoke emails containing content that corresponded with their respective fitness profiles. Result: the people in the group that received these personalised emails visited the fitness center more often than the control group that did not receive them. Clearly, marketing automation makes it easier to facilitate this form of low-threshold content campaigns.
There are also substantial gains to be made with campaigns that are already up-and-running. Try testing different variations and then apply the most important lessons learned in your next campaign. Marketing automation will help make continuous optimisation an intrinsic part of your marketing process. After all, it’s better to realise a one percent profit gain in 10 different campaigns than a one-time 10 percent gain in just one campaign.
4. Make mobile central
Despite the fact that we are “always on”, thanks to our smartphones, mobile is insufficiently exploited as a marketing and service channel. Because today’s customer is always on, we must develop marketing programmes that are also always on. But these must go further than an abandoned cart flow in which someone who fails to respond to an email is eventually sent a push message. In the context of this example go directly to A/B testing. Will it be more effective to immediately send the push notification to activate someone, or should that still be the email?
An app is the solution here. Push notifications give access to a channel for communication purposes and localisation makes it possible to harvest context information about someone’s location. More context translates to more relevance, which, in turn, leads to a higher conversion rate. Here too, marketing automation is the solution. Effective marketing automation campaigns are prepared and triggered by consumer behavior. Consider the case of a retailer who sends you a message immediately after you make a purchase to tell you your reward points balance has increased. You also receive a €10 discount voucher for your next purchase via the physical shop or webshop.
5. Help and surprise your customers
Marketing automation has become almost synonymous with sales stimulation. However, much of its untapped potential is to be found at the service level; in other words using service as a marketing instrument by adding real value and being truly relevant for your target group. This can be done, for example, by setting up nurturing and service flows. Take a brand of jeans as an example. After purchasing a pair of jeans you receive a message informing you of the best way to wash your jeans (service), complete with instructions that specifically apply to the model of jeans that you purchased (personalisation).
Or you can surprise your customer with knowledge about the relationship you’ve so far built up. Such as an insurer who congratulates you on the anniversary of acquiring your current car and offers a discount on an anti-skid course; a simple campaign yet with a fun and relevant message and a sales-oriented call-to-action.
Another example of a campaign that reconciles personalisation and pleasantly surprising your customers is the bol.com jubilee campaign that’s illustrated above. Customers received an email with a mix of content based on date-of-birth, address, how many years they’ve been a customer, their first and last purchase, personal preferences and other relevant facts. Based on this data, it was eventually possible to tell some six million personal stories. And that, in a nutshell, is what marketing automation should be all about: a surprising and relevant contact moment, different to standard campaigns, between your brand and your target group.
Test, learn, optimise
Too many companies are exploiting just a fraction of the potential offered by marketing automation. Successful marketing automation encompasses all cycles of marketing, sales, and service. So get the ball rolling by defining processes where profit can be made quickly, start small and learn from what you do every step of the way, then apply it all again in the subsequent steps. We’ll be only too pleased to help.