digital marketing

Marketing Automation tips: Key Lessons From Successful Implementations

Judging by how marketers are evaluating their own ability to implement marketing automation tools, they seem to be in need of sound tips from a field expert. Omnichannel marketing automation brings superior added value to retail and business-to-consumer businesses, especially regarding marketing and sales alignment. Even though it has been around for a while now, we asked ourselves whether marketers are using these tools to the full. To find out, we have perused a 2021 survey conducted by marketing research company Ascend2 and above all, we have asked Megan Hostetler, Global Senior Product Marketing Manager at Emarsys to share her best practices with our readers.

Marketing Automation tips : Key Lessons From Successful Implementations

marketing autmation
Marketing automation is now widely used. Its major focus is email, as shown in the results of the Ascend2 2021 status report. Yet, a lot of businesses are still facing challenges. To help them overcome these issues, we have gathered the main tips from successful implementations of marketing automation projects through an online discussion with Emarsys’ Megan Hostetler

Disclosure: Emarsys is a client of ours

Marketing automation and sales and marketing alignment

Marketing automation has become a staple of marketing and sales alignment and most businesses are using it. Ascend2’s status of marketing automation report is clear about this.

marketing automation tips
Source : Ascend2 State of marketing automation 2021 report

The marketing research company interviewed 300 marketing professionals in 2021 and it found out that a whopping 84% of respondents thought that their marketing automation efforts were successful, to an extent.

Megan Hostetler has delivered top-drawer tips for marketing automation implementation

The devil is in the details, though, ‘to an extent’ is a rather tale-telling expression.

Indeed, digging a little deeper, one finds some room for improvement in the way that businesses are using marketing automation with no more than 20% of respondents who state that they master those tools properly.

So, what of marketing automation in 2022? And how to improve one’s results? Megan Hostetler, Global Senior Product Marketing Manager at Emarsys shared her secrets with us and our readers.

The purpose of marketing automation

Megan Hostetler In a nutshell, Marketing Automation is about helping marketers to run multiple campaigns across multiple channels with less hands-on execution, it enables them to map out where the campaigns are going to land at each point in time.”

Concurrently, it helps manage certain evergreen campaigns that are going to be continuous throughout the year — transactional messages, password resets, birthday emails, or welcome campaigns for a new customer. Thus, it ensures scaling one’s efforts across each of the different types of campaigns.

marketing automation tips
Data is the biggest challenge with marketing automation Megan Hostetler explains and the Ascend2 2021 survey confirms that quality data is on top of the agenda

B2C is probably the major focus as consumer-orientated businesses are dealing with a multitude of customers, data types, regulations, and privacy laws. The biggest challenge that I see for marketers leveraging marketing automation is getting that data piece right for consumers and bringing it in a way that’s actionable.

What are the key lessons from your most successful implementations in the field?

MH Marketing automation has evolved a lot in the last few years. About a decade ago, you only needed two touch points to turn a prospect into a customer. Now you must manage six touch points on average to achieve the same conversion. It’s a big shift.

marketing-automation-tips: how many touch points in 2022 to turn a prospect into a customer? 6, says Megan Hostetler.

Marketers are moving away from batch and blast type of messages and adopting an omnichannel approach that provides a more relevant, contextual one-to-one experience.

These personalised experiences mean something to a customer

The successful marketers who incorporate dynamic and personalised content in these campaigns are able to double their ROI: $41 for every $1 spent on an email campaign versus $21 to every dollar spent on emails that rarely deploy dynamic content.

A bit of dynamic and personalised content works wonders, Megan Hostetler says.

The biggest and most common challenge in this domain is going to be data. We came across a report recently that stated that for 27% of marketers, data is the key obstacle to bringing personalisation into their campaigns.

It’s not that there is a lack of data – there are tons of it. What matters is the way we bring in data and use it in a clever, not creepy manner.

You must ingest that data to understand which part is actionable and could be used in your campaigns to give something back to the consumer. Hence, putting consumers first and understanding what data is going to build trust with them are the prerequisites to ensure they return to the brand as loyal customers.

And yet, there are still vendors who seem not to recognise a customer who has been with them for more than a decade now

Mapping out a goal for marketing automation

MH Brands are now realising the benefits of getting customer data right up front. Whenever we talk to marketers who are getting started in their digital transformation journey, we ask them to begin by mapping out a goal. So, they are commencing with a goal tied in some way to the overarching business objectives. That’s step one.

Goals could be different things. It could be driving a first purchase, reducing churn, or it could be increasing premium customers’ footprint and the revenue that they’re bringing. Once you have those identified, then you can start to think through what strategies are needed to take you there.

It’s not only a matter of getting your data right, but it’s about team dynamics and priorities. I’ve seen a lot of teams that don’t have the right team dynamics in place to operationalise digital transformation. Here’s what I mean: there are about 55% of marketers who say their time goes into execution across channels. But on the other hand, 65% of marketers say that they spend significant time on measuring and reporting. The inference it yields is that teams which do it right are having the right balance between execution and measuring & reporting.

Coming back to the goal part, there are many marketing automation implementations that are just looking at engagement data or open rates. But if they don’t have a goal in mind with strategies to achieve it in place, it’s hard for them to understand if they are moving the needle. They may simply end up spending the entirety of their time in the execution mode, keeping batch in blast emails like birthday and welcome campaigns – without optimising to create tactics that are at that given time and place going to get the job done. Things change all the time.

Marketers who aren’t constantly measuring and looking at their data cannot succeed

How can marketing automation enable brands to deliver a consistent experience for each individual customer?

MH It’s about data again. Let me elucidate the point through a real-life example. Puma, a big sportswear brand which is present in multiple countries and deals in multiple languages, was trying to grow their database. Their marketing teams struggled to grow the database with clean data that is collected in a consensual way giving a benefit back to the consumers. Also, they wanted to have a complete view of the customer with that database. The focus was on bridging the gap between their different systems.

25% extra revenue for Puma in six months. Segmentation is really worth it.

By segmenting their audience and focusing on highly engaged audiences, Puma grew its database by 50%+ and increased its revenue by 25% within 6 months.

They had data collected both online and offline. The idea was to identify who that customer is no matter where they are engaging with that person. When they were able to identify who these customers were across every digital touch point, they could then identify which segments were highly engaged. Now, it was about spending their time and effort on those campaigns for the highly engaged segments and not spend resources on those less engaged segments as often as they previously did.

That’s a huge mental shift of segmenting your audience and sending relevant content based on different segments and different stages of their customer lifecycle. As a result, their database grew by more than 50% in six months, and then they ultimately increased their revenue. So back to that goal, ‘ultimately, we want to improve business outcomes’. They increased revenue by 25%, within six months.

That’s precisely why data and the business metrics go hand in hand.

Do you have to ask permission to track people across different channels?

MH You do have to ask for peoples’ consent! There are many regulations out there. So a lot of what marketers need to do to grow their database is what one calls progressive profiling. There are multiple channels that marketers are starting to bring into their portfolio — email, web channels, SMS, or chat apps as well as push notifications. All of these are different touch points for which the audience can decide to opt in, receive communications from the brand. Marketers are then able to use the channels that customers have opted into to introduce them to maybe other channels or other ways to get involved.

A loyalty programme is a great example. If you can use your existing channels that you do have opt ins for, introduce things like a loyalty programme to be able to bring them onto a different channel where they haven’t subscribed to. It’s going to be a matter of profiling customers to understand their needs and the channels they like to engage on over time.

Is permission-based marketing a driver or an inhibitor for such projects?

MH I believe it’s a driver. It’s from the lens of putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes. All of these regulations do make it harder for a marketer but in the long run, they help you clean up your data. It ensures that the time you are spending on campaigns is focused on those people who really want to receive communication and engage with you.

What organisational inhibitors are hampering marketing automation implementations?

MH For one, it’s the absence of a customer experience position. There are still brands that don’t have this role. In which case I would reckon that it’s a big inhibitor which holds back from creating sophisticated and relevant one-to-one experiences. The reason why this is such an important role is because they are channel agnostic.

This role is only going to succeed if they don’t have like a number tied to a specific channel. The end goal is to engage with customers and essentially direct each of the channel teams to be talking to each other.

In large organisations a siloed approach to work maybe another impediment

As much as you can get your data in an infrastructure that ensures you don’t have to change it a lot, the better it is. That way, you are set up to be more flexible and agile in the way that you go to market with your campaigns.

marketing automation tips
58% of MarTech tools are being used to their full potential. As far as marketing automation is concerned, the sad truth is that number is down to 20%! – Ascend2 marketing automation status report — 2021

I have read that 58% of MarTech tools in general are being used to their full potential, and that’s been flat since 2019. So that tells me that MarTech platforms are sometimes innovating a little bit ahead of where marketers want to be. Thus, it’s a precautionary measure to use a few features properly first before going all-in on these technology platforms.

How can brands measure and optimise their campaigns with marketing automation?

MH The good thing is that while you’re running these campaigns, you get a lot of feedback. If you can take this information and make it actionable, you can easily optimise your campaigns by testing and learning along the way. It’s better to start off with 2-3 goals and run some automated marketing campaigns on these specific goals that get you in the door to not only test and learn, but also validate if it is working. At a later stage, you will know whether you need more investment or more buy-in from other teams. At the end of the day, this would highlight as well that you’re impacting the overarching business.

With marketing automation, you will get a ton of data. Make sure you’re looking at it!

But do not only focus on the good metrics! Also look at areas that are not performing well, or maybe campaigns that have failed. After all, if you don’t have the campaigns that fail, how are you going to learn? It’s about identifying the gaps as well as the opportunities for increased revenue, both current and future opportunities down the road.

Do not only focus on the good metrics!

There’s a lot of innovation happening where marketers are playing catch up. I think the future and where people are looking to get is omnichannel experience. From a retail perspective, for anyone who has an offline experience like a store front, these are being evolved to where customers spend less time in stores and moving more to an online presence. We want to maximise everything we can out of those experiences in store. Hence, a lot of brands out there like entertainment brands, for example, are trying to get people to come into their experience.

Using Marketing Automation to Its Full Extent

Megan’s tips will prove invaluable to those marketers who are grappling with the implementation of their marketing automation projects. The Ascend2 survey we have already mentioned in this piece is bringing more insight as to the barriers that are preventing marketers from successfully deploying that kind of technology.

marketing automation
Barriers to the proper use of marketing automation tools by marketers

As you can see from the above diagram, those barriers are manifold. As always with MarTech projects, they are the result of a mixture of business and technical issues. Marketing automation is immensely powerful but it requires a lot of technical and business acumen as well as a lot of time and effort put in its tuning.

It’s hardly surprising. For automation to work, one needs to juggle many balls over and beyond database quality (which is key as Megan explained): content, profiles and segmentation, analytics, scenarios and messages, personalisation…

Implementing marketing automation is a bit like driving a Formula one car. It’s bound to be a lot more powerful than your average Ford Focus, but it also requires a lot more preparation, a top-notch tuning team, its maintenance will be more costly, and it might take a few dozens of thousands of miles driving in circles around Brands Hatch before your master it. If you ever do. Not to mention that you will have to avoid a few crashes.

That said, no plain vanilla motor car will help anyone be on par with Lewis and his friends. And this is why it’s worth the investment.

Yann Gourvennec
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Yann Gourvennec

Yann Gourvennec created in 1996. He is a speaker and author of 6 books. In 2014 he went from intrapreneur to entrepreneur, when he created his digital marketing agency. ———————————————————— Yann Gourvennec a créé en 1996. Il est conférencier et auteur de 6 livres. En 2014, il est passé d'intrapreneur à entrepreneur en créant son agence de marketing numérique. More »
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