Like many areas of business, the definition of marketing automation has significantly changed. During its inception, marketing automation was simple. Marketers were satisfied with automated email campaigns, faster processes, and enhanced analytics. For many of us, it was the first time we could see the impact of our efforts. For a while, this “new world” and its promise of decreased manual labor, increased automation, ongoing customer communication, and enhanced reporting was more than enough. Wow, has time changed.
In our increasingly digital world, marketing automation needs and expectations have grown exponentially. The promise of automated email communication has been replaced by the need for real-time, one-on-one messaging exactly when customers need it. Enhanced reporting has been eclipsed by dynamic behavior aggregation, funnel measurement by channel, content type, and audience, and a plethora of other capabilities. Increased automation is nice, but today, we need processes and procedures that span departments, create full alignment, and ensure a consistent customer experience from hand-raise to loyalty.
Advancements across data, technology, analytics, lead management and alignment, and customer experience are truly fueling this drive for growth. Here, we will dive into each one to explore how they are pushing marketing automation to new levels and what it means for you and your strategy.
When marketing automation was in its infancy, it was a novelty to integrate your platform with your CRM system. Now, CRM integration is commonplace and, in most cases, the bare minimum. Data is everywhere. It’s more complex, it’s more saturated, and it’s harder to maintain. Big data is no longer just a buzzword. It’s our reality. We marketers have data everywhere – CRM systems, data warehouses and lakes, CDPs, DMPs, ordering systems, analytics platforms, and marketing technologies, to name a few. Many marketers also utilize 3rd party data to enhance and augment their proprietary data which adds a whole other layer of complexity.
Data management has become a central conversation in any marketing automation story. Marketing automation is no longer just about integrating your CRM and using profile data to send automated messages. It’s about aggregating, cleansing, and utilizing all of your data to engage the customer and enhance their customer experience. It’s about harnessing customer behavioral information and buying intent information (secured in real-time from your website, app, etc.) and using it to provide real-time, targeted messaging to your audience.
Your marketing automation platform is often front and center when it comes to data management. If you’re not already, you should be analyzing the data available to you, looking for ways to connect multiple streams of data, and ensuring you have one view of your customer. Armed with this ability, your marketing automation platform becomes your hub for communication, partnered with other technologies, that ensures a consistent omni-channel experience for your audience. As technology has advanced and provided marketers with rich behavioral data, it’s on us as marketers to utilize it for enhanced customer experiences.
The metamorphosis of technology over the years has been astounding. We’ve all seen reports and infographics showcasing thousands of marketing technologies in use across dozens of genres and capabilities. Marketing automation platforms themselves have also advanced. Enhancements in functionality, speed, scalability, and reporting, among others, have provided a solid foundation from which marketing automation can grow and expand. However, it’s the peripheral marketing technology that has had the greatest impact on marketing automation expectations and related goals, and now is a great time to revisit your overall marketing technology stack.
With the advancement of technologies such as predictive scoring, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and others, we marketers have greater expectations regarding targeting, messaging, scoring, and, ultimately, impact on business. Now that we have the ability to not only see engagement levels and interests of our customers, but also the technology to help us identify their next move, marketers need marketing automation to provide real-time communication. Content marketing is not enough.
Likewise, as we gain greater insight into our customers and prospects through unified data, our expectations for marketing automation to utilize our “one view” of the client is much greater. Coupled with the rich data we acquire from various sources, marketing automation should have the ability to turn this data into messaging that resonates with customers, and it doesn’t stop there. Automation implies just that – automation. We expect to not only nurture and engage with customers at their level, but also to ensure an automated lead management workflow.
Lead Management and Alignment
It’s no longer enough to simply pass leads to sales. Given the complexities and intricacies of the marketing automation process today, enhanced data, and augmented technology, marketers are expected to drive the lead flow process, qualify leads thoroughly, and work hand-in-hand with sales. In many cases, sales and marketing overlap and traditional roles become more and more gray. Although marketing automation gives us the tools to make lead management happen, it’s the processes we devise in the background that fuel the real power. Marketers have quickly become key players, if not drivers, of the sales/marketing alignment process.
As time has progressed, it’s become crucial for marketers to lead the organizational alignment effort. We are typically at the forefront of conversations that define the lead flow process, lead stage definitions and ownership, and internal expectations across the buying cycle. We as marketers are often key players in defining service level agreements with sales in order to ensure proper process, rules, and expectations. These processes become the basis for our lead management which, in turn, is implemented in a large part through marketing automation tools. As marketing automation and technology continue to advance, it’s important for marketers to remember the importance of organizational alignment and support, especially with sales. Lead management is at the heart of what we do. Without strong lead flow processes and feedback loops, our nurturing campaigns can be all for naught.
It’s also important that we continue to evaluate and measure the effectiveness of our lead scoring and lead flow processes. As capabilities advance and new technology and data become available, we should continue to look for ways that we can elevate the leads being passed to sales.
Analytics has taken on a whole new meaning over the years. At its inception, marketing automation gave us a way to see the impact of our efforts. Simplistically, we were able to measure engagement of campaigns and, if you were advanced back then, the impact your campaigns had on ROI. For many of us, we are still fine-tuning this ability — using marketing automation along with other tools to truly measure marketing against revenue targets. However, analytics means even more today given advancements in technology.
Today’s analytics platforms go well beyond business intelligence. Yes, visualization tools that turn data into dashboards and insights are still extremely relevant and critical, but they are just one piece of the puzzle. Marketing analytics tools need to be about real-time collection and action — marketers need actionable insights in real-time based on data collected in real-time. Lags are a thing of the past. We need tools that will tell us how are customers are engaging right now so we can communicate with them right now in the way they need right now. To make that happen, we need the right technology that is pulling the right data and integrating it with the tools we use to communicate (marketing automation platforms, websites, apps, etc.). Analytics should not just be telling us how we are doing. It should be informing our decisions and empowering our ability to create consistent, omni-channel customer experiences.
Customer experience is the most crucial component to any marketing strategy, plan, tool, or technology. At the very core of marketing’s existence is the customer experience. As customer expectations around their experience change, so does our ability to deliver it. As marketers, we must meet and exceed our customer’s expectations, which is more critical today than it’s ever been.
In today’s world, customers expect personal and meaningful relationships with your brand. They expect messaging that is targeted to them. They expect you to know their needs and wants, and they expect your communication to speak to them. Consumers are smart. They know we have more information about them than their own families, and in exchange for their consent to consume that information, they expect a seamless, enjoyable, and personalized experience each time they are in contact with your brand.
Consumers today are also swift-moving. They live in the age of instant gratification. Everything is at their fingertips – music, tv, movies, etc. They consume content at their pace, not yours. They wait for nobody and nothing. If you’re not ready to deliver them the experience they demand, they will find someone that can. You need to be ready to satisfy that expectation.
As marketers, it’s our mission to ensure we align our data, utilize the right technologies, harness the proper analytics, and align our organization accordingly so that we can deliver exceptional and connected experiences to our customer in real-time. It’s our job to make it happen because, in turn, we will build loyal customers which builds revenue and impacts the bottom line.
At Relationship One, we work with marketers intricately to ensure they have the right technologies, integrations, processes, and tools to create immeasurable customer experiences. If you have any questions, or would like to chat, contact us anytime.