I had the privilege of moderating the Marketing Automation panel at Social Tools Summit 2015 in Boston. The panel consisted of vendors and experienced professionals in the marketing automation space. Here is a complete list of the speakers. Our topic dealt with the challenges of integrating social into marketing automation platforms.
Initially we identified some of the significant challenges. There was a consensus among panel members that the term “marketing automation” has negative connotations. Aseem Badshah, one of the panel members, described marketing automation as a big gun that’s easily pointed in the wrong direction. His comment addressed the general perception of at least some negative sentiment associated with the specific term “marketing automation”. Last month I wrote in some detail about the challenges and misunderstanding often associated with the process of successfully implementing a marketing automation system.
For many the term implies a “set it and forget it” mindset. This mindset assumes there is a silver bullet in the process of automation marketing that will magically generate leads. Those who manage successful programs realize there is no “one size fits all” approach. Marketing automation has to be designed and managed to achieve specific goals and objectives for each brand.
Stuart Shulman, another panel member, illustrated the process vividly. He said that one can build a home using basic tools. But building a home using this process can take a significant amount of time. The alternative is using power tools. In the hands of a skilled craftsman these tools can expedite the process. This example clearly illustrates the interaction of humans and technology.
Tailoring appropriate automation to individual brands requires an understanding of the principles, processes and practices that form the foundation for relevant communications that are delivered to the right consumer, at the right time through the right channel. Those seeking to copy the best practices focus only on the practice and often fail because they lack an understanding of the principles and processes needed to tailor and then monitor that which is dynamic and personal.
There is increasing pressure to quickly justify the results of marketing automation solutions. Often tangential applications are forced into the mix to justify the expense. This added complexity can create unnecessary strain on the process resulting in delays or even failures.
The panel identified 5 successful marketing automation implementation best practices.
Create pilot programs that allow you to start small and develop the processes that can scale if the outcomes are successful. Early wins help generate the support needed to sustain the program.
Personal and relevant communications require clean data. In our quest to find the right content for the right customer at the right moment, marketers are seeking data that will drive appropriate insights. Stuart emphasized the need to clean the data so that it will be useful; many terms require proper context in order to derive useful insight. There are tools that can help parse the mountain of data available and filter out a great deal of the noise.
Identify the key internal stakeholders.
Understand marketing automation benefits and needs from the stakeholder’s perspective. As marketers, we are accustomed to developing marketing programs that are customer centric. However, it’s important to remember that this same process should apply to internal stakeholders. Stuart Shulman, a panel member, told us that diversity when categorizing helps to break down silos.
The extra time and patience required to listen, probe and appreciate the challenges, fears and goals of peers can pay enormous dividends by creating a culture that promotes alignment between the different groups.
Develop a process then commit to it.
There is always potential for great complexity because so many internal groups may be affected by marketing automation. Once you have gathered input from the stakeholders and prioritized their needs, develop a process that will ensure the outputs generated by the system are actionable.
Neal Schaffer, one of the conference organizers, reminded us that people don’t scale so we have to make very sure we replicate the right process! Remember the power tool illustration earlier; automation isn’t intended to replace human involvement.
Measure and Monitor.
All agreed this is one of the most critical success factors. Programs often fail because of the lack of predefined objectives or the metrics developed are not realistic. Once you know the specific marketing automation objectives for your brand, it’s time to identify the specific KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) so you will have the ability to measure the efficacy of the program. These measures will vary based on the predetermined objectives.
What is the role of marketing automation?
Although the term marketing automation can be associated with negative sentiment, focus on the real benefits based on the unique challenges of each stakeholder.
If you haven’t already, start to build relationships with the stakeholders who are most likely to benefit from the output of a marketing automation system. Take time to ask questions, to listen to the answers and then develop solutions that satisfy the concerns of the stakeholders.
This approach takes time; however, all agreed that successful automation solutions require collaboration and acceptance from key stakeholders. Stuart’s input about diversity when categorizing reminds us that a collaborative process breaks down silos and this is an essential component of a differentiating customer experience.
Don’t wait for a perfect process – you’ll never have one. Start simple, using a well designed process and then add complexity if and when it becomes appropriate.
What are some other best practices? Please add to this list in the comments below.