There’s been a lot of buzz around marketing automation over the last few years, and it has quickly become a required staple in a business’ MarTech stack.
Organisations are increasingly turning to new technologies looking for the next quick fix, however, this approach is leading to increasing challenges within organisations – their implementations of Marketing Technology being no exception.
The first thing businesses need to be asking themselves is, “Why?” says Brooke Campbell, head of marketing automation at Squiz.
“There are so many tools in the marketplace today, but what organisations should be thinking about is if their business is in a position where it actually requires marketing automation immediately, or whether it’s something they will grow towards,” she says.
Although marketing automation is definitely where businesses should be headed, sooner rather than later, that doesn’t mean it needs to happen all at once. “Marketing automation is big,” says Brooke. “Take a phased approach to it.”
Where do you begin? How can you make sure that your business is well-placed to use marketing automation so that you don’t go too hard, too early?
1. Have a business conversation
“One of the first things I do when I meet with new customers is have a business conversation with them, even before we begin having a marketing conversation,” says Brooke. “I’ll sit down with a client, and I’ll ask, ‘Where’s your business at?’”
Businesses should look at their current marketing activities and processes, and then evaluate the problems that they need to solve. Only once they’ve identified these issues can they determine the parts of marketing automation that will be key to helping them resolve them.
According to Brooke, it’s all about developing a strategy. “I ask customers what their current marketing plan is and how it’s meeting their business objectives,” she says. “Then I say, ‘Let’s lay a marketing automation strategy underneath that.’”
Your marketing automation tool is just another piece of technology. If you’re not wrapping a strategy around your tool and fitting it into your business plan and key marketing objectives, you’re just going to be paying for an expensive piece of technology that looks prettier than the last.
“You can plug any piece of software into your business, but if you’re not using it strategically, you’ll end up using it the same way you’ve always used your old tools,” says Brooke.
2. Take a good look at your data
The next thing you should look at is your existing data, beginning with the size of your database. “If you’ve only got a database of a thousand people, marketing automation is probably going to be like going at it with a sledgehammer,” Brooke says. Depending on your existing data, you might not need the whole array of marketing automation functionality straight away.
Brooke recommends starting small.
“Start with something like an email marketing bundle,” she says. “Even though it’s not called marketing automation, there’s still automation to it, and you’ll be giving your business the chance to grow and become ready to add those additional layers.”
The minute you put a marketing automation tool in place, it’s going to highlight what you don’t have, the gaps in your processes, and any bad data in your system. “All of a sudden, you’ll want to personalise an email by saying, ‘Dear first name’, and you’ll discover that your data is a mess, or it’s in the wrong format,” says Brooke.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you need to have all your data perfect before you start. Begin using the technology, and identify the gaps in your data and correct them as you go.
3. Begin building your in-house skills
“Once you’ve identified the right marketing automation tool and bundle of products for your business, you need to get it in place and make it business as usual,” says Brooke.
Familiarising yourself with your new tool, she says, is the first step in changing the way you do business. Understanding its capabilities and the opportunities to leverage it in the future will ensure you maximise the ROI of your technology investment.
“One of the hardest things to find is marketing automation skills. They’re few and far between, and when you do find them, they’re expensive,” says Brooke.
Brooke believes that these skills are closer than you think. “Look towards your existing staff in your team,” she says. “They already understand your business, process, and audience. They’re the people you should be teaching the technology to. Then bring in consultants to accelerate this phase.”
Indeed, the marketing sector has shifted from requiring traditional marketing skills to needing an understanding of the marketing technology platforms available. “It’s just a function of what we do today,” says Brooke. “The expectation is that we’re data-driven – we can prove the revenue of our marketing campaigns, and we can do things at a scale that provides personalised and customised experiences.”
4. Give your technology time to mature
“Marketing automation tools like Marketo can be as simple as you need them to be, or they can be the most complex set of workflows you’ve created in your life,” says Brooke.
By starting small, implementing the tool, and slowly building your capabilities and skills, she says, your marketing automation tool will continue to grow and do its job in the background.
As your business becomes ready to add another layer of complexity, your marketing automation tool will then have the capability to grow with your business.
So, although a lot of organisations find the initial investment of marketing automation daunting, the beauty is that if it’s implemented properly, it ends up being an indispensable resource for your team.
“The first six to 12 months is hard work, but once you get that in place, it’s like having someone in the background writing a million personalised emails every month,” says Brooke.
Plus, once you’ve established your marketing automation tool as a vital resource within your team, it will continue to troll your data and listen for trackable behaviours. “Your tool is constantly on, making sure that it can deliver the right messages, through the right channels, at precisely the right times,” says Brooke.
5. Let marketing automation become your best friend
Once your technology has been allowed to mature, you’ll find that your team naturally begins thinking like marketing automation professionals. “One of my favourite things is when I talk to marketing staff a year down the track, and they’ve started thinking like marketing automation people,” says Brooke.
Eventually, she says, your marketing automation tool will become your go-to resource for investigating and solving marketing issues.
“If somebody tells you that you need more revenue in a certain segment, you’ll automatically start thinking about going back into the tool, pulling out that data, and thinking about the tactics and activities you can begin implementing to resolve the issue.”
In other words, even though marketing automation is just a tool, it will begin to underpin everything you do. “Straightaway, you’ll start going back to your tool and the rich data and information it can provide. It won’t just be a delivery tool; it will become an analysis tool as well,” says Brooke.
Marketing automation doesn’t happen overnight
Marketing automation isn’t the silver bullet that many organisations expect it to be, and with it, you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.
So, before you begin thinking of implementing marketing automation, it’s important to start creating an agile business.
The tools available in the marketplace are escalating, but it’s not just about getting a shiny new piece of technology. It’s about making sure your business is ready for it.
“Once you jump in and start measuring and optimising content, it can take up to a year before you start getting your messaging right,” says Brooke. “But that messaging won’t be based on gut instinct; it will be based on real data and what your audience is saying, and those things take time.”
Have a business conversation today and begin developing a marketing automation strategy that will allow your technology to evolve and grow alongside your organisation.