Marketing Automation Success Factors – time to make it work

Do you work or own a company who got sold into buying a marketing automation solution (e.g. Adobe Campaign, Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, Hubspot etc) and yet is still in the dark as to why the solution you have purchased has not completely delivered the business benefits the salesperson of these automation platforms have promised to you?

Why did all the other companies who have used the same platform seem to have achieved success based on what you’ve seen or heard? 

Out of every publicised successful case study of companies that have deployed a well-oiled marketing automation system, there are probably a few others, like yours, which may be quietly, struggling and wondering as to why your marketing automation system is not delivering the maximum benefits it was touted to do.  

A marketing automation solution is not just a magic panacea or a “one-pill-cure-all” to all your marketing challenges, as soon as you switch it on. It cannot simply fly on auto-pilot or organically evolve on its own after you have implemented it.

Much like a chisel that sculptors need to sharpen to carve great masterpieces, your marketing automation platform, is also a tool or a technological enabler, that equally requires constant polishing and regular maintenance for your company to derive competitive advantage from.

A solid digital marketing transformation and innovation strategy is the basic foundation of your marketing automation platform’s optimal performance.

In my 20-year professional experience in digital marketing, including 10 years in marketing automation, an effective digital marketing transformation and innovation strategy, transcends beyond having presence in online digital channels through your own company website, and making your web pages available through the “spiders” of search engines, or being actively seen commenting on social media channels and sending out automated email messages through your marketing automation platform.

It is a marriage between art and science.

In the pre-digital era, the images you see on glossy printed magazine or newspaper advertisements, the catchy slogans you hear over the radio, or engaging story-lines you watch on TV that allow people to trust your company or brand, and entice them to buy a product, solution or service from you – are some of the tried-and-tested marketing considerations. Today, marketing is more than just the classic art of pure creative persuasion.

Automation has now made marketing a science, in the same vein as medical breakthroughs happen in laboratories through tireless research, testing and development. To succeed, your company must consciously promote and embark on a culture of observation, experimentation, and innovation.

It takes continuous improvement and practice to get all the elements of the marketing automation engine right. Great mastery can be achieved through an agile, scalable and repeatable process of testing, learning and iterating based on data-driven decisions. Concepts around “growth-mindset” and “growth-hacking’ are related to these.

As newer and fresher marketing technology methodologies and applications are discovered, your digital marketing strategy should evolve and move with what’s current. You cannot just copy boiler templates from how other companies built theirs.

Each company’s journey to a successful marketing automation practice is unique. But the fundamental framework in taming this beast of a platform remains the same.

Below are the five key things which I believe which you need to successfully automate your marketing:

1. A reliable and well-maintained CRM database

My all-time favourite definition of what marketing is, is that it is the science of data flows. Once data is processed, organised, structured or presented in a given context to make it useful, it becomes information, which companies usually store in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database.

Image result for Marketing automation

A reliable CRM database allows you to carefully segment or group your audience, create various buyer personas, and then map them to their buyer’s stages. The marketing automation platform, when properly aligned to the CRM information can be programmed to deliver highly-targeted, campaign messages with appropriate calls-to-action.

Having a “single-source-of-truth” about your prospect and customers’ demographic profile (e.g. first name, last name, contact details, interests, job, country, etc) is a must.

It is likewise important to ensure you are capturing your target audiences’ behavioural signals, through their digital “body language” or engagement when they consume marketing content on digital platforms such as website, email, mobile, social media sites, search engines, online chats among others.

Examples of behavioural activities include tracking links with email opens or clicks, the number of times a video content has been watched, browsing specific pages on your website or when they comment or share your stories via social media.

Based on their reaction, you could then fire up content drip feeds to continue the engagement through your marketing automation platform. If your audience is unresponsive, you must also pick up those signals to back off and stop sending useless email messages.

Simply put, your company’s prospect, lead or customer information is the oil or “black gold”, that fuels any marketing automation platform. 

What you might be missing: Buyer persona mapping. Demographic and behavioural lead scoring (if you have a lot of “web form completions” that your sales people struggle in prioritising). Data Stewardship including data operational processes on data purchase or rental, data-mining or data analysis, data visualisation, data cleansing or hygiene, de-duping, append or enrichment.

One of the most current data-driven activities that is gaining traction right now is not just first party data collection (e.g. your marketing automation capturing all the information about your prospect or customers) but also appending 3rd party intent data (e.g. information from other sources about your buyers’ intent).

2. The right content at the right time

Marketing automation has been used in a lot of companies as a glorified and expensive email delivery tool. Time and again, I have seen how many marketeers have spammed their database with email content that may or may not have any relevance to their buyers’ intent or state of mind.

A high email unsubscribe rate is a tell-tale sign that your audience have tuned out of the flood of messages that you have sent over to them.  

Not all people are sales ready when they first get introduced to your company’s product or services. To deliver the right message at the right time, you need to draw a content plan, plotted to your buyer’s nurture “journey” streams or workflows.  High readership or viewership of your content is typically a sign of how genuinely engaged your prospects or buyers are, and their propensity to purchase.

Marketing automation allows you to create 24/7, “always-on” campaigns to help you drive lead volumes and speed up the velocity of your buyer’s journey from awareness, evaluation, through to conversion. When used right, marketing automation platforms can help you serve the right content at the correct buying stage to your prospects. 

Besides your message, the way you craft and present your content also has an impact on how your marketing automation platform can deliver your desired business results. Implementing email best practices, understanding the concept of User-Interfaces (UI) for your content library and overall User Experience (UX) of landing pages, and web form designs, or any digital content should be reviewed for effective demand generation marketing automation campaigns.

How do you personalise the customer experience and articulate your business value through informative content that you publish to drive purchase conversions?  If you don’t have a content marketing strategy in place, then you might wrongly blame your marketing automation as the cause of the campaign’s failure.  

What you might be missing:  Marketing content and digital marketing channels mapped and aligned to your buyers’ journey. Have you also looked into how offline marketing activities such as PR, events, sponsorships, offline advertising can drive digital sales engagement? How do you differentiate your digital content from your competitor’s marketing messages?

3. A Robust Marketing Technology stack

The massive explosion of marketing technology applications from about 150 in 2011 to over 7000 in 2018, has allowed marketing automation platforms to harvest more granular and smarter business insights about a prospect’s response to marketing campaigns across a plethora of digital marketing channels.

Examples of different marketing technology platforms which can send data feeds through to the marketing automation platform include: web content management, search engine and website reporting and analytics, live streaming webinar, video broadcasting and hosting, social media amplification, content syndication, webinar-on-demand, Artificial-Intelligence (AI) driven chat-bots, conversational marketing, online eCommerce shopping cart and many more applications.

If done right, the inter-operability of your marketing automation tool with the rest of your marketing technology stack including your CRM can truly empower your company to become better and be more precise on programmatic and predictive marketing at a tactical level.  

Having a blueprint on how all your marketing technology platforms seamlessly bolt together permits you to exactly pinpoint blockages in terms of data flows and where valuable data may be underused, undermined, or could be aggregated by the marketing automation platform.

The seamless “plumbing” of all these marketing tech platforms also guides you on correct lead source and sales success attribution.

A buyer goes through so many touchpoints in their journey. According to Sirius Decisions, a respected global industry think-tank, anywhere between 12 to 18 non-human and human interactions, both offline and online, need to be accounted for in the buyer’s journey map.

Capturing those “interesting moments” and logging every action or response to an individual’s “campaign history” will make it easier for your company to follow through with a phone or face-to-face sales conversation. Your marketeers also gain better insights on which types of content, from which channel are working, that they should be investing more of their time on producing.  

What you might be missing: Do you have a map of your entire marketing technology stack and how data flow seamlessly from one platform to another? Do all your systems “talk” to each other, which give insight on your next-step, course of action to follow through your prospect, lead or customer? Is your marketing technology stack good enough to allow you to scale to your growth?

4. A seamless sales and marketing business process

When the question of tightly-knit company business processes arises in relation to marketing automation, the primary discussion focuses around the alignment between marketing and sales.  

Do these two teams closely collaborate with each other in your company and jointly share the sales funnel? How does it look like? What is the marketing-to-sales lead enquiry handover process? What marketing automation trigger alerts to sales have been set up?

Industry-wide statistics indicate that up to 70% of buying decisions have already been made through people doing research online, even before they start talking to a salesperson in your company.

Whilst it is excellent to have the buyer’s journey mapped out, it is equally of paramount importance that the digital marketing and sales strategy should be clearly in sync as well, with agreed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and incentives in place to drive the right behaviours between teams.

What you might be missing: Is your business more B2B (Business-to-Business) or Business to Consumer (B2C)? Are you selling mostly to other companies or to consumers? Key focus areas on the application of marketing automation based on your business type may bring slight differences.

If you’re in B2B, you need to have solid processes around: Account-based marketing, content management, campaign management, offer management, offline marketing campaign management, lead management, common definitions of Marketing and Sales Qualified Leads. Upselling and cross-selling to existing database.  

People make technology work

It cannot be overly emphasised that it’s the people who can make or break the success of any given undertaking.

Ensure you have a qualified staff resource. Whilst choosing people based on them having the right certification for the marketing automation tool is a good start, practical real-life cases of “digital marketing business transformation” he has achieved counts a lot.

A marketing automation practitioner’s innate talent, years of practical experience in digital and field marketing, combined with keeping up-to-date on industry trends and a forward-looking vision of how the tool can be used on the type of business challenges you have as a company, are integral elements to the value he can bring to the table.  

If you don’t have this in-house talent, you can engage specialist agencies who have seen and worked with so many clients on marketing automation cases.

So many companies fail because they get so hung up on technology for technology’s sake.  Additionally, there are organisational, psychological, business, sales and marketing enablement factors, that invisibly influence its success.

Without understanding the inter-relationship between these five key success pillars – having the right CRM data, marketing content, the alignment between your people, business processes and company technology platforms – then it may take you time to fully reap the competitive advantage that a marketing automation technology as an enabler brings.

With so many intricate moving cogs and wheels to power you through to achieving your business goals, everything must be carefully orchestrated so your marketing runs smoothly and seamlessly to acquire and engage net new customers and retain your existing customers.

Marrying the Art and Science of Marketing

What Who (Strategy) – People Technology System/Platform Used Process / Business Value
Content Brand Manager Marketing Manager Product Manager Sales Manager Website, Social Media Channels and Digital Asset Management Create, design and publish creative information/content, imagery and experiences which drive brand engagement, consideration and consequently delivers business revenues
Data Marketing Teams Sales Teams Customer Support Marketing Automation System Customer Relationship Management Key repository of all prospect and customer information. Allows both marketing and sales to:  Segment, Target, Qualify and Convert suspects into prospects and from leads to sales opportunities and wins.
Analytics Finance Teams Sales and Marketing Teams Data Team Financial Systems Web Digital Tracking Data Visualisation / Business Intelligence (BI) Warehouse Capture the success of any marketing or sales activity within the company including the business financial results

Digital Aquila – Salesforce Marketing Cloud experts can help you to optimize your Salesforce Marketing Cloud operational costs and identify the ROI you get from the platform.

Digital Aquila are a team of Salesforce specialists with presence in Denver, New York, Atlanta, Boston, New York, Colorado Springs, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

Digital Aquila is a certified Salesforce and HubSpot partner. Digital Aquila loves working with nonprofits, startups, travel, tourism and pharmaceutical businesses. Helping them to get the most of CRM and Marketing Automation.

Written by
Paul Guevara
Digital Marketing Strategy guru