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Ten factors for a successful marketing automation

Marketing automation is an exciting field with a lot of potential for real market advantages and creative marketers. But how can marketing automation be successfully implemented? We have compiled ten success factors to help you evaluate suitable automation tools and to implement your first use-cases.

Marketing Automation – A better knowledge of your customer

Marketing automation is the keyword when it comes to software-supported automation of marketing activities. Marketing automation can be applied to implement micro campaigns and use-cases. Based on user behaviour (click behaviour on the website or in e-mails, purchase of certain products, inquiries to customer service etc. ), the respective customer profile is enriched and thus controls the start, progress and end of these automations.

Successful implementation of marketing automation is a challenging and exciting task which also results in many lessons to learn leading to numerous effects. A continuous analysis of real-time data enables us to know customer segments better and make selective improvements. Although marketing automation is very exciting for on the one hand small and on the other hand big companies, respective challenges vary enormously.. Nevertheless, it is possible to define standard marketing automation goals valid for each company:

  • Micro-selection of recipients

  • High level of content personalization

  • Improvement of user experience

  • Shortened response times

  • Categorization and development of unknown users

10 success factors – How can I be better than my competitors?

Marketing automation offers a major opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. When it comes to data quality and channelling data streams, big companies tend to struggle with already implemented systems, whereas the needed knowledge is mostly not found in smaller ones. Good marketing automation doesn't necessarily have to be expensive and therefore it offers a major opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.

The following ten success factors should help you evaluate the most suitable automation tool as well as to implement and improve first use-cases.

1. Identify relevant channels

Alongside the efforts to plan all potential touchpoints of your customers with your own brand in advance, it is advisable to check the available channels to make sure that they can be used effectively. Asking the customers for what purpose they use a specific channel can help assign it to an appropriate life cycle phase.

Keeping an overview of the channels frequently used by your customer segments helps you arrange your own investments in a reasonable manner and enables you to make transparent strategy adjustments at any time. In addition, it can facilitate the process of identifying the purpose (use-case) and possible potentials (micro campaigns). It can also be used to determine whether longer-term, strategic and active maintenance of the channel pays off for the brand.

Important: Every touchpoint should reflect the company’s “touch” independently of the channel and focus always keeping an eye on the needs of the customer (“Customer Centricity”). It is therefore advisable to check these needs to make sure that they comply with all core values of the brand and do not challenge them. If this is not the case, one could run the risk of damaging one’s long-established brand values.

2. Use-cases and micro campaigns are the basis

Automated marketing activities are mapped in the context of a use-case or a micro campaign in an automation system in the form of a journey. While use-cases reflect the processes carried out by customers, micro campaigns focus on objectives as seen from the company’s vantage point.

It is of secondary importance whether a specific journey depicts a use-case or a micro campaign. However, each journey should be of strategic relevance for the company. A channel overview makes it easier to identify relevant contact points (touchpoints) and the associated channels to be integrated with them. 

The following questions will help you identify practical measures you can use when designing a journey:

  • What would I wish for in this situation?

  • Which service options would be the best for me at this point?

  • Which special offer can be presented to such a customer?

Note: Think outside the box. As long as you offer your customers genuine added value elements, these do not need to be part of your core competencies.

3. Connect scalable systems

Each touchpoint initialized by a customer can provide valuable information on the current customer needs and this touchpoint’s position in the customer life cycle. A list of these contact points with their assignment to the processing system involved, the possible demand paths and the phase in the customer life cycle help exploit the potential of a touchpoint and embed it in the relevant journeys.

After pointing out relevant touchpoints for creating a journey, you can derive the required systems from them by making these systems interactive. Such connections can be implemented using so-called APIs and, thanks to the REST technology, require little development effort, if any.

The applied tools should allow you to grow gradually. Finally, you start with the first journey expanding and modifying it based on your experience. 

4. Process touchpoints promptly

Whereas the number of journeys increases, the chance that a customer can “be present” in several journeys does so at the same time. In this way, a customer can get in touch with different activities at the same time. This is where specific functions must be used to control these collisions. The following functionalities support this:

  • Prioritisation: Making activities interdependent according to specific priorities. Different regulations apply to different priorities.

  • Capping: Limiting the number of activities for a defined period of time. Activities that could lead to an overrun / overpenetration are not carried out.

  • Collision management: The application makes it possible to define detailed conditions to actively manage possible collisions.

No matter what functionalities are offered by the applied automation system and how intensive the efforts are made to ensure complete control, it is hardly possible to map all unwanted situations. At the end of the day, the customer‘s need chains and interactions turn out to be too individual and versatile.

If one also considers how quickly a subsequent phase of customer journey is passed, it becomes clear that customer data, compiled for example in relation to their interest in a specific product, is indeed very short-lived. The processing systems involved in data analysis must therefore process and pass on information very promptly or even in real time. For example, presenting a personalized special offer to a customer after they have already purchased the product will ultimately do more harm than good. 

5. Manage your customer data centrally

Customer data should be carefully protected, managed and maintained. In order to really ensure this, it is particularly advisable to implement a single system that could serve as the “master” system. For smaller companies this task might be easier, because they usually operate with significantly fewer applications and channels.

If all customer data is available at a central location in form of “master information”, it can be searched, updated or deleted as required. Usually, a CRM system is used for this purpose. This master system should be able to store all customer data available in a company in a structured way in order to enable surrounding systems to access it via interfaces.

6. Plan your activities

As mentioned in the fourth success factor, planning of individual activities within a journey as well as in the overall context is important. In this way, it is possible to avoid potential conflicts and annoying situations which otherwise may happen if e.g. a personalized activity is delivered on a weekend or at 2:30 in the morning.

In addition to helpful system functionalities and a centralized data architecture described in point 5, we recommend that you compile an action plan listing your journeys or the activities they comprise.

Such an action plan should be accessible to all campaign planners in the company and should therefore be stored centrally. Ideally, this plan should include:

  • a description of the activity

  • the channel used for it

  • purpose / aim of the activity

  • dispatch time / trigger logic

  • contact person

7. Focus on your customer

A marketer should be able to frame the company’s internal goal in a campaign that also offers added value for the customer.

According to point 1, every activity should be designed bearing in mind the question of added value for the customer. It is obvious that the goal of any campaign is always something that ultimately serves the company.

Examples include: “boost turnover”, “reduce remaining stocks”, “increase reach”, “improve reputation”, “raise awareness”, etc. There is nothing wrong with that. What is important is that the internal goals should be wrapped up in campaigns that serve these “overriding goals” and at the same time generate added value for the customer. 

8. Maintain legitimacy through legal security

If a company processes personal data (in fact every company does this), it needs to be legitimately authorised to do this. In most cases, this is done by obtaining consents directly from data subjects.

In May 2018 at the latest, it should have become clear, as a result of the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) coming into effect, that regardless of the type of legitimation (consent, legal necessity, protection of human life, etc.), there is a number of requirements which alone makes this topic a challenge. 

9. Monetize your journeys

Marking the course of each customer’s journey with a financial value corresponding to the specific path makes it possible to measure success and effectiveness. Even for non-revenue-generating journeys, certain conversion points should be defined and given financial value.

Evaluations are available at the level of the journey and the activities it comprises as well as in customer segments and respective customer profiles. In this way, activities can be optimized, financial values refined and profitability determined on both sides.

10. Continuously optimize your success

Every target group of every customer segment is different. Statistics compiled in a foreign market and in different conditions can provide useful information about your own customers and markets to a limited extent only. It would be best if you determined on your own what ultimately works and what doesn’t.

In addition to the options already presented, A/B tests also help evaluate the effectiveness of different activities in a quick and cost-effective manner. Different variants can be tested for their conversion efficiency. Then, from a certain point in time only the most successful variant is played out to the selected target group.

We also recommend that those tests and analyses are carried out even for seemingly minor activities. This is because it has repeatedly been shown that even in unexpected situations, impressive results can be achieved when simple multi-variants are used.

Using a system that is capable of making adjustments during its ongoing operations – i.e. when customers are still in a journey – is extremely helpful and greatly simplifies the company’s daily business.

Conclusion

Successful marketing automation does not depend on the use of costly systems and tools. It is much more appropriate to treat this topic as a strategic priority and to openly advocate incremental optimization of journeys that are not perfect yet. By paying sufficient attention to these ten success factors, possible reservations can be omitted and necessary steps can be taken systematically. 

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