This article was first published in Email on Acid.
Marketing automation has long promised a sort of magic — using technology to reach the right leads and customers at the right time with the right message, with better reporting and better returns. But in the wrong hands, with the wrong strategy, marketing automation doesn’t lead to magic. It leads to mayhem.
Mayhem can show up in a number of ways: invalid data, communications failure, lack of leads. One company tried to learn their platform themselves and ended up moving leads to the end of campaigns, skipping all the emails that were supposed to be sent.
Another had to get new instances of their marketing automation platform because it was so messy that it was unusable. Mayhem can come from a lack of focus and understanding of who is handling what, and it can ultimately drive your leads and customers away.
You don’t want that. You want the magic. Here’s how to bring it.
Understand how the magic works
To talk about where we are, we have to start at the beginning. Everything changes over time, and stagnancy equals irrelevance. The magic of Houdini’s incredible straitjacket escapes has evolved into airplanes appearing out of thin air on-stage. The same is true of marketing automation.
What started out as a tool to deploy emails has become a vastly powerful discipline that crosses channels, harnesses data, tracks behaviors, scores leads, connects with technology stacks, personalizes, customizes, targets…. the list goes on and on. So, if you’re simply thinking you’ve got a neat email tool, you aren’t doing Marketing Automation, you’re missing out on an opportunity — and you’re paying for the privilege.
You may now be wondering: “what do I do” and “how do I start?” First, you need to understand what marketing automation can do for you and take out barriers to using it. As a starting point, your business should look across channels and remove any silos between groups, specifically sales and marketing. This way you can understand the full need for marketing automation tools and create the right journey for your leads and customers, from their first interaction with your brand and beyond.
The right automation platform will be driven by your sales and marketing needs: the data integration, channels, lead scoring, and dynamic content that are important to you.
You should explore solutions both specific to your industry, as well as generalized tools that fit the nuances of your company. Before making your final decision, you’ll want to narrow it down to two strong choices that you do trials or demos with, which will give you a true look into the tools. If this feels overwhelming, you’re not alone! You may also choose to work with an outside agency or consultant as they will remain agnostic in their recommendations.
Create your magic potion
If you want to create magic, you need a magic potion. In the world of marketing automation, data is the magic wand. Bad data in equals bad data out. If bad data is driving your marketing automation efforts, you’re sure to have challenges. One company didn’t ensure its data was cleansed, and sent out a communication with “Daughter Killed in Car Crash” as part of their name field. You don’t want this to happen to you.
If you have just obtained a CRM system or marketing automation platform, it is imperative to do a data audit or cleanse before you simply populate these tools. Ensure accurate data that is formatted and mapped as desired is loaded in.
If you’re already past this point, don’t worry, it isn’t too late. Once your systems are running you should still be using data clean-up processes like sunsetting programs and audits. Have a regular cadence of data audits set up to ensure you are compliant with data and email laws, and that your data is properly flowing through your systems. You should also be strict with system access, giving only those that are able to make changes to data or assets the edit features, while the rest can simply view.
Pull a rabbit out of your hat
You’re ready to learn magic now, right? The answer is a big maybe. Because in order to pull a rabbit out of your hat, you need a magician: a marketing automation expert.
This is where many companies fall down. They either hire someone that has experience in their particular systems, or they have their current marketing team try to learn the platform. So you have someone who understands the software but not the marketing ecosystem, or someone who understands marketing but not how to bring it alive through the platform. Because marketing Automation is an art, you need someone who understands the specifics of the platform you have chosen in full and the strategy and best practices of the marketing automation discipline and channels. If you only have one or the other, your customer experience will fall flat.
Give ‘em the ol’ razzle-dazzle
You’re now armed with your magic potion and you’ve got the right pieces to pull a rabbit out of your hat, but you can’t make magic yet. What kind of experience would it be for consumers without a little razzle-dazzle?
Brand experience starts from a consumer’s first brand interaction. According to PwC, in the U.S., even when people love a company or product, 59% will walk away after several bad experiences, 17% after just one bad experience. Even more interesting is that 65% of U.S. customers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising, and 73% of customers point to experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions.
Experience is everything! You can’t simply create a variety of communications that aren’t connected for your leads and customers. They expect the right message, with the right channel, at the right time, and personalized to them. Disney, for example, has been doing experience marketing for years, and marketing automation has made it better. Once you book a trip, mail comes with your wristbands, emails come with travel plans, and when you arrive they meet you at the airport with their Magical Express. At every step of the way, you experience the same personalized and on-brand messaging and feel, regardless of the channel.
Take the time to create a plan. Customer lifecycle or journey mapping is one great way to build out your strategy by understanding how your leads and customers move through the path to purchase and on to loyalty. This also allows you to record what each of your departments or channels is currently doing. The more time and thought you put into this phase of the process, the better experience you will end up with for your leads and customers, so don’t skimp here.
So, you now have your magic potion, you can pull a rabbit out of your hat and you understand the importance of a little razzle-dazzle. You’re ready and armed with the right tools, talent, and strategy. The stage is set, the audience is seated. Now it’s time to make some magic.
Looking for some magic assistance?
Did you know that 63% of companies using marketing automation outsource all or part of it? It’s okay not to fully understand the marketing automation platform you have or the strategy behind creating amazing experiences with it. At LC, we offer he expertise you need, whether staff augmentation services for onboarding, set-up or training, help on strategy development, or full-service start-to-finish planning and execution. Our team has been in the trenches and understands the challenges and opportunities that exist. Visit our Email Marketing & CRM Services page to learn more about how we can take your brand from now to next.
Interested yet? Schedule a FREE email and automation platform audit now.