People are becoming increasingly able to engage with brands on their own terms. In both B2C and B2B, the user journey flits from online and offline across multiple devices throughout the buyer journey. Customer expectations keep increasing, and loyalty is becoming harder to achieve, as it’s easier than ever to switch between brands. As consumer demands increase, marketers need to shift from mass appeal to personalisation, or else their messaging will be lost among the busy digital landscape.
To really engage with prospects and customers, marketers have to be ready to serve the right message, to the right users, at the right time. That’s where marketing automation comes in.
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation software automates, integrates and tracks marketing actions. It centralises data points and enables campaigns to be managed from a single platform. Marketing automation allows businesses to automatically send customers personalised messaging to engage them across a range of channels throughout the buyer journey.
A well-known example in B2B, is that lots of businesses try to capture your personal data by offering a whitepaper in return. From here a user then enters an automated sequence of communications defined by a set of workflow instructions. If done using best practices, this potential customer will follow different routes of a nurture workflow based on what we know about them, their needs and behaviour. This enables marketers to guide customers through an optimum buying funnel, by serving relevant information at exactly the right time.
Why Should your Businesses use this Technology?
Marketing automation is still in the early stages of adoption by businesses. For customers and prospects, it still feels that there is more quantity than quality in digital communications.
Companies still invest heavily in customer acquisition and, in general, tend to be good at getting new customers in. However, engagement after this is often not well thought out and fails to take into account the need for a considered strategy.
Too often we see brands using marketing automation as though we’re still in the days of the ‘email newsletter’, with content being sent regularly to everyone in the database. Often in these cases, the only personalisation is a first name tag.
Another frustration felt by customers is the overly-apparent ‘trade-off’ for their data. How often have you given details to a company in return for some content, and then suddenly received messages from sales people or unrequested calls, long before you were ready to buy?
Most businesses will acknowledge that they’re guilty of these practices, and that there is still a lot of friction between brands and consumers in the day-to-day experiences offered.
In the era of high customer expectations, good marketing automation can help you to:
• manage multiple channels effectively;
• provide more relevant content, building trust and loyalty;
• save time and money by communicating more efficiently;
• build up a solid customer database which is actively engaged in the content you share with them, to warm them up for sales.
Ideally, the customer gets a more useful, consultative journey and you get more time, data and qualified leads.
Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management
Marketing automation tends to be regarded and used as just a list of features. Marketers expect that if they buy the ‘best tool’ they will get easy, out-of-the-box functionality that will solve all of their engagement problems. The result of this thinking is that businesses end up investing a lot, but with the same or marginally improved outcomes.
In reality, marketing automation is about much more than just the automation aspect. It is about:
• building a relationship with the customers in your database.
• developing a long-term strategy to grow trust and loyalty.
• maintaining and improving data so that insights can be acted on.
The expectation is that, as a brand, you are able to connect all the different online and offline interactions in the customer journey. This is difficult, but marketing automation can help, provided data inputs are properly set up.
A good start is to develop a customer data model first. This requires an audit of all your existing touch points where data is/should be captured. You can then apply this to your marketing automation so that your database can drive personalised campaign delivery.
When you have done the first step by developing a data model, you can start to analyse and build insights around audience, journeys and behaviour. This leads to a much better picture of your customers and strategies for targeting them. Evaluate the gaps and any short and long term actions required to fix them.
But remember that this isn’t a ‘one time’ project. To maintain success, you must always be improving your understanding of your audiences and adapting when they do.
Process, Process, Process
Marketing automation gives you a centralised marketing platform, allowing you to map out and join up processes across departments.
The introduction of such a platform into any organisation requires willingness to change and adopt new ways of working. It is a pitfall to expect that you can introduce a big new marketing automation platform and achieve better outcomes, if you just use the same ways of working.
Marketing automation should be seen as a key part of digital and business transformation, not as simply buying another tool. As with any approach, develop a proper strategy, starting with your users, data, process and capabilities, instead of focusing on shiny features that will not be used to their full potential.
What Marketing Automation Platforms are there?
Nurturing prospects, optimising current customer engagement, decreasing churn; it can be hard to know where to start. There are many tools available offering marketing automation capabilities to help solve all of these. For example, Salesforce Marketing Cloud (which is used by Adidas to give their staff a single customer view), Adobe Campaign (used by RS Components to increase clickthrough-rate and make analytics accessible across the business), and Hubspot (used by Tui to help nurture leads).
Suitable for businesses of all sizes, across all sectors, a robust marketing automation platform is a powerful addition to your MarTech stack. It enables marketers to implement data-driven strategies that improve customer experience and, ultimately, conversion. If it’s not on your MarTech shopping list already, it really should be.
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