So… full disclosure, I’m a man of a certain age now and I’ll reluctantly admit to being a little less open to new ideas than I was when I first entered the world of marketing 25 years ago. That being said though unlike many “men of a certain age” I am willing to listen when people can give me a good case for a concept and that’s why, after some initial reluctance, I am now a HUGE fan of marketing automation, or at least what marketing automation has to offer when done well.
If there is one word to remember when looking at creating a marketing automation campaign its preparation. Like most things in life preparation is the key to success, and if you are able to resist the temptation take the quick and easy, Anakin Skywalker path then that up-front investment of time will pay dividends once your campaign goes live.
So, what exactly is marketing automation? To some it’s a labyrinthian solution, full of words like trigger, filter, action groups, workflows and personas. It’s a world where global companies use integrated systems like Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot and HubSpot and employ agencies to create vastly intricate and complex multi-channel campaigns that would confuse and bamboozle the mere mortals of SMB land.
It can be that of course but at its core marketing automation is a philosophy, a discipline that one understood can be employed to turn even the most basic of solutions into a powerful tool capable of uplifting your marketing and lead generation to previously unimagined heights.
The tool is secondary to the theory that drives it. Many, in fact most organisations that deploy one of the afore-mentioned solutions will ever scratch the surface of what its capable of simply due to the fact that they don’t fully understand the theory. Put a 10-year-old behind the wheel of car and they’ll get it moving, but they’ll only get it out of first gear once they understand how it works, and the same is true with marketing automation.
Creating an effective marketing automation campaign is about far more that creating set of emails or socials posts, its about communication… real communication with your audience. Its about helping you to understand them and allowing them to understand you in a way that deepens the engagement, shortens the sales cycle and increases the chances of repeat business.
What is the secret to creating an effective marketing automation campaign? Empathy…. The ability to place yourself in the shoes of the person you want to engage with.
- What do they want?
- What are their pain points?
- How are they likely to respond?
- How often do you need to contact them?
- What do you need to offer?
These are just a few of the potentially scores of things you need to consider when mapping out your customer journey and whilst its almost impossible to think of everything, taking time to consider these questions will enable you to create a campaign that will lead them on a path to deeper engagement.
This may sound more like a socio-psychological experiment rather than a solid marketing strategy but understanding the motivation of your audience is the only way to create an effective customer journey and ultimately a successful campaign.
Creating the Customer Journey
This is stage 2 of the marketing automation process, the part where you take your understanding of your audience and map out a journey that leads from the Zero point right through to transacting customer. How long this takes and how many steps you will need to create will depend entirely on who they are and what you are looking to sell.
Top Tip: Don’t shorten the journey or go for the big sell too early – Remember if you set up your journey well then they will come to you without you having to step in.
Whiteboard the journey and make sure you seek input from everyone able to offer insight. Survey your best customers and find out how they got to where they are. Identify the best channels and routes to market to ensure you deliver your message in the right way.
This will take time and will probably require you to rethink your journey several times before you arrive at the final version… Remember, preparation.
Creating the Campaign Assets
Once the map for your customer journey has been created then you need to start thinking about the assets. These are the signposts on your journey, the nudge in the right direction when your audience reaches a cross-roads or intersection. Some will go left, and some will go right depending on what asset is offered up at this point. Case studies, whitepapers, product spec sheets, emails, landing pages, videos… any and all of these assets needs to be strategically placed within your journey to reinforce your message and direct your audience to the single ultimate destination.
Make sure you create each of your assets to reflect the media they are being used for, whilst maintaining a single campaign identity and ensure that they all place a logical call to action or next step clearly visible.
Creating the Workflow
This is the part where you need to take your journey and campaign assets and create a workflow that will require the very least amount of human involvement to run.
Top Tip: Marketing automation systems, even REALLY expensive ones, are stupid. They will only do exactly what they are told to do, so watch out for closed loops, dead ends and cul-de-sacs.
A good workflow is one that has the minimum number of moving parts. The more complex it becomes the greater the chance it will contain errors or dead ends, so strip back what you can without impacting the journey.
Make sure time delays are in place, that emails are triggered correctly, that dynamic content is configured for the correct delimiting factors, but most of all test….. then test again and once you think everything is correct test one more time!
This will be the part where mistakes are most likely to happen so once again I’ll say the word preparation.
Marketing automation may sound scary but really its just the application of common sense combined with an understanding of the technology. It isn’t the reserve of corporates, far from it in fact as it is significantly more cost effective for SMBs when you use the right discipline and a system that offers just enough whistles and bells for your needs.
There are dozens of cloud-based solutions that won’t cost the earth to deploy and that offer more than enough functionality for all but the most demanding of requirements.
Clever Marketing are fully invested in marketing automation as we believe it offers a pathway to success for our clients. We can create campaigns based on the process I have outlined above and will work with you to deliver true business development through effective marketing and a better return on investment from your marketing budget.