Just yesterday I read through the recent Silverpop/Forrester report, “Automation: Redefining Marketing’s Game Plan.” The core concepts behind automating a company’s marketing effort are pretty well understood, but the devil is truly in the details. How each company — or even brand — leverages dynamic data, communication channels and all the other moving parts is where the “art” of marketing automation meets the “science” of the discipline.
And the study clearly points out a number of places for marketers to improve. While there’s virtually always room to enhance any marketing program, there were two core elements that the survey highlighted that I think deserve a bit more focus: success metrics and organizational alignment. And I’d suggest that the upcoming summer season might be just the perfect time to tackle some key improvements.
Unless you’re a highly seasonal brand like suntan lotion maker Banana Boat, things probably decelerate a little during July and August. More people are on vacation — both inside your company, and those on your mailing list — and you’re almost perfectly calendar-opposite the crushing holiday season. So now’s the time to take a deep breath and make a few structural enhancements to your email programs.
Elevating the Metrics Conversation
The survey response data in the Forrester report points out one major area for improvement: the success criteria for marketing automation. Figure 6 shows the No. 1 success factor is “response metrics” — in other words, opens and clicks. And the scary thing is that the percentage of respondents reporting this reason is 80 percent – almost twice that of the second place answer:
If you’re going to the effort of automating programs, this should be an early and quick stop on the way toward better campaigns. Even if your entire executive team is used to seeing simple open/click metrics — and you don’t think they could understand anything more complicated — I’d push almost every marketer to elevate their game. Keep your response metrics as a baseline, but elevate the conversation to focus on metrics like “incremental revenue” and “upsell” before your executives ask for it. This is better for two very important things in every marketer’s life: the financial health of your company and your career path.
So how do marketers move beyond opens and clicks? Again, this is the perfect spot for the crawl-walk-run theory of improvement. Unless you’ve got serious methodology and organizational rigor around an epic data point like Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), shoot for something more achievable like incremental revenue. Market related products to existing buyers and test what drives additional sales to those who already trust you. Don’t bite off anything you can’t measure discreetly with the resources you can control. Remember, you’re experimenting with program strategy and campaign messaging in search of repeatable, profitable tactics.
Busting out of the Bubble
The other opportunity highlighted by the report is improving organizational alignment — or what I’d more plain-spokenly call “getting out of the marketer’s bubble.” While we’re increasingly doing the product evaluations and making the buying decisions on platforms, it’s critical to remember a great marketing automation system will get us nowhere without serious peer collaboration.
Beginning as early as possible, work with IT to scope and choose platforms that integrate into your company’s existing technology infrastructure. Don’t choose solely based on how easy the integration will be, but recognize you’re not going to pull this off alone — IT is a key stakeholder in the system side of marketing automation.
And depending on the breadth and depth of your marketing function, you cannot ignore working closely with other groups managing key customer functions such as acquisition and retention. Understanding their data structures and offer strategies can help you dial in toward real revenue and sales lift based on well-executed marketing automation.
The same goes for the B2B world when using marketing automation tactics to improve the lead generation funnel. Building random rule sets and ignoring the input of the sales function is a recipe for certain disaster — or worse yet, being ignored. Take the time to work closely with executive management on the sales side to mutually define a lead scoring model that effectively moves early-stage leads into a call center or demand generation function — and then fill the senior reps’ queues with high-value, ready-to-close deals. You’ll be amazed at how much organizational consensus can be driven by good old-fashioned revenue!
Start building those bridges — both personal and technical — that will pay dividends in the future. Do something fun with your stakeholders from different groups, like a lake trip or a happy hour. And carve out some quiet time to think about your success criteria as opposed to just managing a number like you always have. Think evolution — not revolution — to really move your automation strategies forward in 2012 and beyond.
1) Blog: “Are You Making the Most of Reporting Tools? 5 Questions to Ask”
2) Blog: “15 Incremental Steps for Digital Marketing Success”