What To Do About Marketing Automation?

Posted by Mark Gibson on Sep 13, 2016 2:42:01 PM

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CRM has been a “dirty word” to many, and to some, marketing automation sounds awfully similar. The truth is that marketing can’t get done what it needs to today without some automation, but there is a wide spectrum of “marketing automation.” Where to start?

In its early days, CRM cost millions, was designed by IT, and was ignored by marketing and sales. So it accomplished little. In recent years, salespeople trained on LinkedIn and SalesForce have seen the value of warm leads, prompted follow-up, and automated tracking and reports. 

So where does that leave marketing? It’s very difficult to “feed the beast” of CRM manually without marketing automation. And many marketing teams simply don’t have the analytics or human capacity to devise and measure all the sales and marketing campaigns that management dreams up. The truth is – it’s past time to automate. 

Campaign Management

But how do you justify the expenditure, and where do you start? First, you don’t need to boil the ocean on day one. There are relatively inexpensive tools that will allow you to automate portions of the campaign development, implementation, and measurement process. And most of these more than pay for themselves, allowing you to demonstrate return on investment to management before proceeding.

For instance, have you automated your email campaigns? There are several providers offering “plug and play” systems that allow you to run (and measure) hundreds of campaigns a year.

Are you still manually developing your campaigns? There are pretty slick campaign management tools readily available. 

How about legal and compliance approval? Still cutting and pasting e-mails? There are now systems that automate the entire process, including sharing your campaigns with regulators when they visit. All of these begin in the low tens of thousands of dollars a year, which nearly every organization can afford.

Finally, there are service providers, like direct marketing firms, that offer automated leads management and results measurement tools as part of their value proposition, at little or no additional cost.

Analytics and Targeting

In addition to basic campaign management, marketing needs to up the ante in terms of data analytics and propensity modeling. Marketers are typically drowning in customer demographic, transactional and behavioral data, yet unable to translate that richness into actionable programs that generate results. 

Two important functions you should be building toward are: an integrated customer profile and predictive marketing (see diagram below.)

Whether you own your firm’s data warehouse or not, marketing needs to take the reins in terms of who the customer is, how they use various channels, and what their current situation is ( their integrated relationship profile.) Additionally, marketing should either “build or buy” a propensity model that scores each existing customer on the likelihood of buying each of your additional products and services. This is what you use to feed that hungry CRM that is providing warm leads to your sales force. Without this model, you are wasting much of your sales team’s time following up on untargeted prospects. 

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Source:  Revenue Architects, Capital Performance Group

So, why haven’t you built your propensity model? Probably because it’s complicated and time consuming, especially if you have multiple customer segments and products. The good news is that there are firms in virtually every vertical that have already built these models and are willing to let you have access to them.  They’re called “marketing service providers!” But, buyer beware! Interview them carefully to make sure they really have what you need, and that it’s based on actual experience with companies like yours.

You might call these various tools “piecemeal” solutions, and they are. But they will begin to familiarize your staff and executives with the benefits and payback of automation, helping to pave the way for a more complete solution that incorporates leads management and delivery, landing page and web visitor tracking, and multi-channel customer engagement.

Finally, as you proceed to full scale marketing automation, remember what most people forget – you can’t automate what doesn’t exist! Marketing automation, like CRM, is not a panacea for ineffective marketing.  You need to have effective and successful manual marketing programs before you can automate them. 

Want to learn more about marketing automation and the other tactics that are crucial to keep in mind as you plan for next year? Sign up to attend our upcoming webinar on Oct. 20, "The Seven Imperatives for Marketing Planning 2017." 

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