Not only are we seeing different business models emerge based on an awesome customer experience – Uber, airbnb, trunkclub – the pressure is on all of us to lift our game with every customer touch point. One of the most obvious areas to improve is the digital experience, since so much of the buyer journey is now played out in this space.
What are the tools and skill sets required to enable this better experience.? In this article we look at marketing automation and its role in raising the bar for the digital experience of your customers. There are sound financial reasons to do so.
Marketing Automation – Who Needs it?
Wikipedia Def :- Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks.
Another Definition:- Marketing Automation a subset of customer relationship management (CRM) that focuses on the definition, scheduling, segmentation and tracking of marketing campaigns. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would otherwise have been performed manually much more efficient and makes new processes possible.
It All Starts with the Customer
If we can understand the journey’s the various types of customers we have take along the path to making a purchase, we can then try and influence them to select us. So we need to therefore understand the different personas of these prospects and customers, work out how the journey may differ for some of them compared to others. The main premise here is the journey has changed quite a bit with the pervasiveness of the internet and even more so with mobile devices.
So, we have to know lots about these customers, the best place for this is a CRM, the most valuable software application for any business. This is a place where you keep a record of customers, prospects, suspects, suppliers etc and all of your interactions with them. The more information you can collect about the customer – age, birthday, sex, address, marital status, income, family or not, tastes, likes, dislikes, purchase history, communication with them, website visits, shopping cart abandonment, newsletter opens, responses to offer, event attendances etc. – the better equipped you will be to market to them.
Here’s another new term. For all of these persona’s you have identified, we need to map the journey they take to purchase. This takes a bit of time and some expertise. With ‘marketing automation’ software, you can start with some simplistic communications – test alternatives and develop more complex customer journeys over time. Most marketing automation systems are purely email based, email marketing is still very effective, especially when personalised and delivered at the right time during the journey. Other systems allow you to do some additional actions like:- push notifications to apps, send text messages and / or post to social media.
The communications are all trigger based, usually on a ‘if this then that’ scenario. The initial action will start a series communications or a single communication, in the case of a series, this will follow the decision tree path, so after each communication, there might be a few criteria for the next communication based on the users activity. They might get one message if they watch a certain video or download a particular eBook.
Another relatively new term. We can allocate within the marketing automation system a point scoring system, each of the trigger points can carry a different quality of points depending on their importance in qualifying a lead. As prospects travel along the journey they will get to a certain point – whereby you deem them to be qualified, and therefore might hand them off to sales in a B2B organisation, or an action for B2C such as sending a special offer.
Many companies burn good opportunities by trying to sell to them too early, some prospects need to get completely through the research phase before they are willing to engage with you. Since the buyer journey has changed, they are in control and the business will be engaged when the prospect wants. They will only need to check a couple of things since they already know the market, know the pricing, etc. If they can, they might prefer to buy online and not talk to anyone.
Another new term. This is the process of providing information to the user to help them educate themselves on your product or service. It might be in the form of case studies – white papers – testimonials – industry reports – calculators, etc. This will help them understand if the product or service is suitable for them. You may think they are not capable of doing this, tell them that and you are most likely out of the race. You will need content in different formats, written, infographics, video, etc. to help them gain the knowledge they need to make a decision.
But we want them to call us
Many businesses still feel the need to talk to the customer and discuss their situation, and others won’t put prices on their websites (claiming its too difficult to provide estimates as there are too many variables). This is not easy to overcome. Many younger people don’t want to talk to anyone and don’t want to be sold to. How will your business get on when these people are making the buying decisions? They will buy off the people that do have online calculators to give them a price range so they know they won’t be wasting their time in contacting you.
The most successful companies on the SAP 500 have a customer centric attitude. How does ‘we want them to phone us’, fit with this ethos?
Myth – Marketing Automation is Cold, Inhuman and Impersonal
This is not the case, its not another way of spamming people. If crafted correctly, the messaging will enhance the experience. Some of these systems dynamically create content based on what the user browsed, this is very personal and effective. Spam is receiving information from someone you don’t know about something you are not interested in, if you receive something on exactly the topic you are researching, that adds to the information you have already – at the time when you are in the midst of this process, from someone you do know, its hardy spam. One of the features of these systems you will love is the ability to split test the messaging; at any of these trigger points you can send say 50% message 1, 30% message 2 and 20% message 3. Once we have enough volume, the % can be adjusted to favour the best converting version.
It’s not all about new business
Marketing automation like any marketing produces better results when aimed at existing customers. You can send specific messages to your best customers who are perhaps treated differently to other customers. You might have specific campaigns to convert new customers into regular customers; the limit is only your imagination. The additional data you have to analyse is very useful. You can track campaigns, email, adwords, social media etc, right through to purchase. In real time you can see what is working and what is not.
It’s only suitable for Large Businesses
There are a variety of options in the ‘marketing automation’ space to suit all sorts of business situations. You can start off with a basic – low cost system and then upgrade as your business grows. If you compete with larger businesses, you’ll have no choice, as they will be providing a superior customer experience to you if you do not move down this path. Perhaps think of this another way. This is your new salesforce, this will replace some or all of the sales resource you employ at the moment. If you don’t do anything, you might find that nobody wants to buy off you any more.
To create these customer profiles and journey’s does require some work; as does the ‘content marketing’ material to fuel your blog, newsletters, white papers, case studies etc. It is also not a set and forget exercise, you’ll need to split test from the beginning and keep refining things along the way. You will notice a significant improvement in the number and quality of leads, sales, repeat business etc… if you get it right.
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