It's been a little over a year since IBM acquired Silverpop and began to expand our global reach. Since then, I've traveled around the world, talking to sales and marketing leaders from top companies in the United States and abroad. Along the way, I've learned a few new marketing automation lessons. I've also been reminded that some things never really change. While technology continues to evolve, giving companies new and improved ways to communicate with customers at scale, business is still about people connecting with people.
These four marketing automation lessons will help you beef up your technology and your relationship with customers:
1) Thought Leadership Trumps Sales Pitches
If your blog posts, email marketing and social media articles are all about your company and products, you've got a problem. Consumers who want to learn more about your offerings know how to find that information on your website. But that's not why they go to Facebook or keep coming back to read your blog posts.
To engage users with content marketing, it shouldn't be all about you; it should be all about them. Offer information and insights they can use to improve their businesses and lives. By interrupting your regular stream of promotional messaging with content that's informative, educational or entertaining, you build trust and loyalty in your brand. You also give your customers a reason to keep reading.
2) Conversations Lead to Conversions
Business-to-business (B2B) salespeople know all about the importance of conversation. We sit down with customers, talk with them and learn all about their business challenges. Once we know what they need, it's easy to tailor our pitches and explain exactly how our products and services can help.
Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers rarely get the chance to have one-on-one conversations with customers. However, with the right marketing automation system in place, you can understand what they want from your brand and ensure that's exactly what they're getting. With this sort of digital conversation, you capture insights that enable you to deliver one-to-one marketing across channels, serving up the right content at the right time in the right place.
3) Face-to-Face is Powerful
Even in the digital age, the personal touch still matters. Many B2B companies have cut back on business traveling, encouraging inside sales and marketing teams to connect with clients virtually. Big mistake! Especially in highly competitive industries, we still need to get face to face with the people we serve. This forms real human connections.
What does this mean for B2C? Just because you can't sit down and chat with your customers doesn't mean you can't engage them on a person-to-person level. Video marketing and in-person events are great ways to put a face on your business, to let customers see and learn from actual human beings. It's also a smart move to connect marketers with the sales associates who interact with people at brick-and-mortar locations. By aligning your salespeople's insights with marketing data, you get a more complete picture of who your customers are and what they want.
4) Data Is Useless Unless You Can Act Upon It
Data has been all the rage in marketing automation for years now. Unless you're collecting data on your digital customers, you have no idea who they are or what they want. This means you're sending every user the same information and hoping it appeals to at least a few of them. However, data is useless unless it provides actionable insights you can use to engage customers.
Data that is six months old will not do that. Nor will a customer profile someone filled out years ago. To deliver a personalized, relevant marketing experience, you need to know what your customers are doing, thinking and wanting right now. The only way to see this bigger picture is to connect all your data sources, such as mobile apps, preference centers, social media, email marketing, e-commerce tools and in-store transactions. When all your systems are talking to one another, you get insights that are actionable, automated and extremely relevant to individual customers. That is the end game of great marketing.
What marketing automation lessons have you learned in the past year? Send me your thoughts @TMcCormick2011. (For more lessons I’ve learned, see "Top 2014 Learnings to Jump-Start Your 2015 Marketing Strategy.")
1) Marketing Automation Ebook: “Best Practices for Marketing Excellence and Operational Efficiency”
2) Blog: “5 Ideas for Closing the Customer Experience Gap”
3) White Paper: “The New CMO Guide: A Handbook for Marketing Leaders”