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Sifting Through the Marketing Automation Toolbox

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by: Ellen Valentine (@EllenValentine)
24 July 2012

Nearly all of us have worked for companies that have undergone the implementation of new general ledger or order management systems. Typically these require extensive setup and business process changes prior to implementation, and additional stresses before and after — especially for day-to-day users and the MIS department.

Perhaps that’s why Forrester Research found that nearly 95 percent of marketing organizations have yet to implement a full-featured marketing automation system. Many have heard about the extensive process changes required to be successful with marketing automation and have decided that reengineering and deploying a new application may be too difficult a task to take on at this time.

My advice? Think of marketing automation as a large tool box containing items like screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers and pliers, as well as more specialized tools such as a circular saw, electronic stud finder and carpenter’s square. The tools are available for you based on your needs — you can use what you want, when you need it.

And with marketing automation, you don’t need to go through the same all-or-nothing cut-over process like you would with other production systems. Instead, you can choose to phase in functionality gradually or implement just a few features from marketing automation’s comprehensive tool set, including:

  • Landing page design and hosting
  • Web forms (including progressive forms)
  • Web tracking of anonymous site visitors
  • Program or campaign automation
  • Segmentation, list building and queries
  • Application Program Interfaces (APIs)
  • Personalization and dynamic content
  • Email
  • Lead scoring, alerts and routing
  • Reports

Better still, many of the capabilities under the marketing automation umbrella don’t require process alignment with other departments; instead, they’re focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness within the marketing department itself. In addition, many of these features can be implemented independently of others. Let’s look at a few examples:

1) Web forms and landing pages: The marketing automation platform can host these landing pages for you, which means that you don’t have to get MIS or another department involved. Better yet, you don’t need to convert all your existing pages over to the new technology. Instead, you can use your marketing automation platform to improve the creation and deployment of any new pages and forms.

2) Campaign automation: Want to shift from batch-and-blast emails to drip nurture or rule-based email communications? Campaign automation can make it happen. Once your program is designed, sending a series of emails will happen on the schedule you determine. Rules that you define will dictate who can be added to the campaign and who will exit. Again, this tool can dramatically improve efficiency and effectiveness without requiring a high level of buy-in or process realignment with other departments.

3) Personalization and dynamic content: These tools can really improve the open, click and conversion rates of your marketing efforts. You can use database fields such as first and last name, country, market segment and more to personalize the messages you're sending. As long as you’re collecting the information in a database or relational table, it can be used to tailor the message to the user.

4) Send Time Optimization. With this Silverpop feature, a recipient’s email habits are maintained within the database. Over time, the system learns at which times each recipient is most likely to open his or her email. Emails are then delivered at the precise time at which the recipient is most likely to open, be engaged and convert. Silverpop companies that have activated this tool have realized up to a 50 percent increase in open rates and 75 percent increase in email-generated revenue.

5) Lead scoring and routing: This is one area that will require the marketing department to be in alignment with sales on what constitutes a lead and how and to whom leads should be routed. While marketing can work independently to develop scoring models and routing within the marketing automation system, involving sales in the definition and development of these important processes will ensure maximum success.

So when you’re considering whether to implement marketing automation or put it in the “too hard” pile, remember that you can phase in the functionality gradually. You don’t have to have complete process reengineering across all departments to get started and realize benefits.

This concept is covered extensively in Silverpop’s eBook, “Best Practices for Marketing Excellence & Operational Efficiency.” Over time, you’ll be proficient with all of the tools in your marketing automation toolbox, but the key is getting started now.

Related Blogs:
1) "Best Practices for Marketing Automation"
2) "STO Revisited: What We've Learned About the Best Time to Send Email"
3) "15 Incremental Steps for Digital Marketing Success"


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