31 (126) 2017
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There's no escaping automation – this goes for marketing too!

by Elżbieta Pełka, co-founder of GROW Poland, president of Pełka 360 agency and Marcin Stawowczyk, CEO GROW Poland
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Every marketer has heard about marketing automation. In an era of algorithms and artificial intelligence, this buzzword has regularly appeared in discussions at all conferences on digital marketing.

Does this mean that every B2B marketer is bound to use marketing automation? And if so, what should we look at when choosing our supplier and implementing marketing automation?

In 2011, there were 16 suppliers of marketing automation (MA) solutions globally, today the number of suppliers of comprehensive MA platforms is estimated at 212, which means that the market has grown 13-fold. The number of solutions, platforms and MA specialists is still growing, and technology development also brings about a change in the role and potential of MA. Most tools can handle email campaigns, some are better than others, but only a few systems are capable of in-depth data analytics, creating multi-stage, dynamic and personalised campaigns based on behavioural profiles.

Marketing automation has irreversibly changed paradigms that modern marketing is based on. It has  forced a shift in the approach to the customer and to the very essence of communication as such. In simple words: true MA enables the delivery of a personalised message to a defined person at the right time.

There are multiple benefits of automation. Increased effectiveness, personalisation or measurability of data are but a few. Still, MA is often identified with a simple emailing tool. Which is not true. On the other hand, MA is sometimes viewed as a technological toy, a magic wand to solve all the organisation's problems. This claim will not be realistic either, but is a good starting point for a discussion about Marketing Automation, as solving specific problems must lie at the core of implementing MA. Defining goals that we want to achieve by implementing MA is paramount.

Many companies start their adventure with MA by sending a mass amount of emails, which are of practically no use at all, nor do they give any return on investment, as most messages go straight to the recipients' spam folders. Only comprehensive MA platforms enable precise targeting thanks to which organisations are able to precisely reach only recipients with a realistic interest in the company, its products or services.

Among mature MA platforms are suppliers as Oracle, Salesforce or Marketo, which allow you to get qualified leads from traffic generated on different channels such as websites, social media, emails or banners. What does it look like in practice? A person interested in our product or service enters into interaction with us, for example by filling in an online form. At this point, thanks to the correct use of tracking codes, we're able to precisely identify the customer. They stop being an anonymous IP address and become a valuable contact, described through a behavioural profile. By knowing who's who, we can influence the customer in order to achieve our goals. In other words, we can start a nurturing campaign – the process of building the customer’s awareness of the brand and establishing rapport.

Thanks to the opportunities that comprehensive MA platforms give, we can define the steps of such campaigns, building whole processes of customer impact against the background of individual interactions they enter into. Depending on what the lead is interested in, having identified them, we can contact them, invite them to a webinar, send them discount coupons etc. If the customer is contacted within an hour of them visiting an organisation's website, the conversion rate increases by 600%.

Most tests demonstrate that the business goal of 70% of marketers is to increase the number of leads and obtain and keep customers. Is that MA’s full potential? No. Automation enables multi-level marketing on all the stages of the customer journey. This enables handling the customers’ whole lifecycle. A holistic approach across channels enable the achievement of broader organisational goals, reaching beyond obtaining prospects. MA involves multiple departments in the company, reaching beyond sales and marketing. The fewer silos the organisation has, the better and more pronounced its brand identity is. Data analytics finally makes it possible to really understand who we're interacting with, and just knowing the answer to this question, we're able to deliver a personalised message.  This is why the approach to MA should take into account the growth strategy of the whole organisation.

Without data, whether it's small data or big data, there is no marketing automation. Only working with data can we get to understand the customer’s approach to our organisation, which is an issue companies worldwide struggle with. Forrester Research studies demonstrate that only 8% of data captured by marketing is used by sales departments! The same study indicates that companies where sales and marketing cooperate note an average of 32% increase in income year by year.

Technologies, especially the automation of marketing processes and data analytics have improved marketers’ lives. However, in a market saturated with MA solutions, marketers end up facing a new dilemma. They must find which technologies will best match their needs. One study involving 270 B2B companies showed that 50% of marketers are most frustrated by having to deal with too much technology. Of those, 49% indicated that their biggest problem was integration. On the other hand, that same study proves that what marketers want most is to grow new campaigns and create marketing programmes rather than study the tech specs of complicated software. There is a huge gap between MA-based solutions and a comprehensive marketing automation platform.

Comprehensive MA platforms enable a scientific, fully measurable approach to marketing, controlling revenues and costs based on a revenue-management strategy. They let you create behavioural profiles or scoring leads based on digital body language. Only mature MA platforms can do that. They enable the effect of message adequacy, and this is what conversion rate is about. If we do not know what the customer wants to hear from us, and we don‘t know how to contact them, we are wasting time and resources on ineffective campaigns, which have no major impact on the organisation’s target audience.  

No inbound strategy, no clear goals, no qualified team or no budget are the most common errors. Choosing the wrong tool, not suitable for the goals may result in a domino effect. This is why it's paramount that we choose the right tool which will meet our goals. Once the right platform has been found, we must make an implementation plan which includes data synchronisation – integration with CRM, channels, content and customer profiling and segmentation.  

Just as Marketing Automation has changed the paradigms of marketing, the internet has irreversibly changed companies’ business processes. Because information about companies, products or services is all available online, the purchasing process has been extended, while the sales cycle has shrunk by 40%. Before deciding to buy products or services of specific companies, consumers read about them online. They form their opinions on the basis of reviews on websites or impressions described by their friends on social media. 70% of customers are so well-informed about the products or services of the company that they often know exactly what they are looking for once they approach it. This is why it is so important to have a high-quality marketing automation platform. Each customer interaction with the website may be a sales opportunity. MA enables a comprehensive approach to the customer purchasing pathway, by precisely identifying all the touchpoints and allowing to automatically react at the right time, with the right message. And it lets you manage the process of obtaining information and building customer awareness. Controlling this process means being just a small step from success, especially when we're able to quickly contact the customer whose behavioural profile matches our sales.

Thanks to MA, marketers can immediately understand which message is right for each target group, as well as where, when and how to communicate to obtain the best results. Marketers may test, optimise and then retest messages, which allows them to obtain unique knowledge necessary to optimise content, which in turn results in saving time and money. To sum up, no modern marketer can escape automation, especially that the potential of marketing automation is practically unlimited. MA gives you a realistic competitive advantage while establishing a strong customer-brand rapport.

Sources: Forrester Research, eStrategy Trends, Gartner Report, Martech Industry Council, Harvard Business Review.

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