Marketing Automation ~ What are You Automating?

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emotional marketing

Neal Schaffer and Brian Mahony have created Social Tools Summit 2015, a different type of conference where panels of vendors and power users discuss important topics and issues. You can find out more here.

I am moderating the marketing automation session, designed to address the efficacy of marketing automation tools.

Preparing for the summit has been illuminating. There is so much I will address the topic in a series over the next months. In this first post, I’ll address some foundational issues and key challenges. In subsequent posts, I’ll address process and best practice topics.

I am hoping readers will join the conversation by adding their perspective in the comments at the end of each blog post.

As I conducted research to identify VOC (voice of the customer) topics and issues I made some interesting discoveries.

The first discovery was a bit disturbing A VentureBeat commissioned study indicated that 70% of those purchasing a marketing automation system were either not happy or only marginally happy.

I had a flashback to earlier days when information technology was rapidly expanding into a paper-based marketplace. It seemed as though automation was perceived as the office organizer solution. Many thought that if your data and files were in chaos the solution was simply to automate it. The conclusion is obvious. One quickly discovered the resulting computerized chaos. This was the genesis of the popular GIGO (Garbage in garbage out) acronym.

Computers and technology were useful in creating incentives for businesses to think about and organize their processes so they could harness technology to improve efficiency. Now the notion that technology could bring order to chaos is laughable. As I started researching marketing automation practices I noticed eerie similarities.

According to Wikipedia marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks.

But marketing automation has become a buzzword. Many use it interchangeably with lead generation, lead nurturing, and CRM. It seems as though the mechanics tactics and technology have hijacked and distorted the concept.

Some view marketing automation as little more than an automated email marketing campaign tool. Still others talk about marketing automation and CRM as though they are the same thing.

In an environment where empowered consumers are seeking more personal and relevant customer experiences many would argue that even the term marketing automation is misleading and diametrically opposed to the ultimate goal of highly personalized segments of one.

One post, from a solutions provider, suggested that the rationale for selling the CEO on marketing automation software was in:

  • Aligning the sales and marketing functions
  • Consolidating various independent tools into a single end to end platform
  • Being able to measure through a more closed system
  • Putting the focus on the customer
  • Empowering the sales force
  • Taking care of existing customers

What are you automating?

Before we start evaluating marketing automation tools, let’s do some homework to understand what marketing automation is and where it has value. Brian Halligan, President of Hub Spot, identifies 5 automation issues.

One of the key issues Brian recognizes is that marketing automation only addresses a small portion of marketing challenges. He explains this by breaking the sales or marketing funnel into five stages and illustrating where marketing automation can be effective. I like the way Brian describes the progression of stranger to visitor, then visitor to lead, lead to qualified lead, qualified lead to customer, customer to delighted customer.

I would suggest mapping the customer experience from stranger to delighted customer is a great place to begin. You can read more about mapping the customer experience here. Today’s empowered consumer may be well along the buying journey before they find you. If you have already mapped the journey, audit it; make sure it’s still relevant and accurate.

You will want to think about strategies and messages that will attract strangers who will then become visitors. Consumers buy from brands they trust and creating helpful content that teaches and educates is a powerful strategy, but it requires patience and hard work. Rachel Miller, offers some ideas on how to sell by helping.  I realize we are in business to make a profit, it’s our approach that has to be transformed.

Once you have mapped the buying journey, use it to audit the processes you want to automate to ensure they represents value to the audience. Are the communications and resources you are about to automate relevant for the consumer or are they repurposed features and benefits from your brand’s perspective?

What are some keys to successful marketing automation?

Marketing automation is a tool not a strategy. Recognize that marketing automation is most useful in the lead generation and lead nurturing processes.

Marketing automation messaging must be focused on the buying needs and behaviors of real audiences. I recommend reading Adele Revella’s Buyer Personas. It’s an excellent guide explaining a process that can help you discover the voice of the customer. Typically we know about our customers; however, many of us don’t have a process for learning directly from our customers. This is an interview process with lots of open-ended questions; it’s not a satisfaction survey or something similar.

Next Month I’ll address questions like:

Is there a role for marketing automation? If so, what is it?

What’s the best way to evaluate a marketing automation system?

Please ask your questions and offer you insights in the comments below so we can all benefit.

Maximize Social Business

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