How to make marketing automation work for you

Marketing automation can be a powerful way to manage, identify and nurture leads throughout the customer journey, to sale and beyond. But with great power comes great responsibility.

Done well, marketing automation can deliver results that make you look great in front of the board.

You can scale your marketing, track performance and monitor leads. But if marketing automation is done in an ad-hoc way and then left to run wild, it won’t do you any favours.

In fact, it can do a lot more harm than good. It reminds me of a quote from my favourite film,

“… but your [marketers] were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

(Name that film? Anyone?)

So where should you start?

Plan, but first, know your customer

I’m serious, people. The idea of a marketing automation system sounds cool – heck, you’ve just drunk the cool-aid and you’re riding the wave of excitement about this shiny new toy you’ve got your hands on. But, with any centralised point of control for contact information, marketing content and performance analysis is going to get messy over time, so setting off on the right path is crucial.

Most marketing functions think from the perspective of ‘What do I want to say?’ and therefore plan campaigns around their messages to market. By bringing in an automation tool, it gives you the opportunity to rethink things and rather than going from your frequency, or focus, you can turn things on their head and think about it from your customer’s point of view.

In essence, if you were your customer, what would you want to know in order to make a decision? How often do you need to hear from the prospective seller and which touchpoints would you want to be contacted on?

Taking a customer-centric approach to planning will help formulate the messaging, sequences and programmes you create within the marketing automation platform. So rather than defaulting to the ‘standard’ programmes that the marketing automation software vendors suggest, really think about what your customers want and need.

Simply put, it’s not easy. You have to always ask ‘if I was buying this, what would I ask? What would I need to know?’ – and keep yourself in that state. (You’ll probably find it’s not all the same – so you’ll need to do a bit of customer profiling, segmentation and customer insights analysis).

Put pencil to paper

When you get going with the planning, sketch it out. You’ll need to create standard campaign flows, ad-hoc campaign flows and nurture scoring. Once again, before defaulting to the standard process, just give a thought to your customer and ask yourself if you’d want to be in this machine? (You’d probably say no, unless the message is of value).

At this point, it’s worth considering scenario planning so that you can shape the rules of how ‘active’ contacts behave within the database and set best practice rules for capping frequency of contacts with a person (throttling comms).

You might find that there are certain hierarchies of communication that trigger the throttle or product areas that take precedence over other types of communication.

Scoring and moving contacts down the funnel

Ooh, I’m not sure I like that language, but I’m bought into the whole thing and it’s how the industry talks about it. I don’t like it because it dehumanises the customer and emphasises the automation. Unfortunately, if you’re using a marketing automation system, you have to set criteria for performance and therefore have to default to the system’s funnel and qualification process.

There are two key transitions that need to be considered. Contact to MQL (marketing qualified leads) and MQL to SQL (sales qualified leads). Map out specifically how you’ll move contacts between these stages and how to recognise which stage a customer is at.

With marketing automation, it’s rather dehumanised as it comes down to a number (or score). When a lead development or sales person gets in touch and qualifies the contact in or out, then there’s human interaction. The question is, how does the human interaction relate to the machine interaction – and how are you going to ensure it integrates seamlessly? What are the rules you need to define this process?

Make your systems work together

One of the keys to successful use of a marketing automation system is the ability for cohesive integration. There have been plenty of times that we’ve seen campaign metrics shown clearly but rarely do we see full closed-loop integration right through to sale. This requires rock-solid integration with the CRM and the ability to push information in and out across both systems.

Make sure the integration works well. This isn’t simple stuff, yet it’s so important and most people push it to one side. But if your CEO asks for the ROI on the investment you’ve made with this pretty big piece of marketing tech, how are you going to prove it?

Food for thought. We’d be happy to help. Tweet me or message me on LinkedIn.

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