25 Oct 2012

Building a Business Case for Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation should be all the talk for marketing professions of today. Those doing it properly are dominating, learning-improving. and then dominating some more, specifically in terms of their ROI and bottom line. Those who aren't, or who don't know much about it should really take some time to learn about it. It's not just another fancy marketing term getting banded about ten to the dozen by all the cool kids who work in marketing,  it's becoming a best practice that yields real results, with its success firmly rooted in improving relevancy, targeting of messages, and therefore a better customer experience.

OK...So what does 'Marketing Automation mean?

In short (sourced from Wikipedia- ) "the name given to software platforms designed for marketing departments and organisations to automate repetitive tasks...Marketing departments, consultants and part-time marketing employees benefit by specifying criteria and outcomes for tasks and processes which are then interpreted, stored and executive by software, which increases efficiency and reduces human error"

Real life example
Well that is all well and good but a pretty formal explanation. I recently went to a great conference 'Social Marketing Rockstar Tour' organised by a company called Marketo who are one of the leading software companies in this field. I listened, watched, and then listened some more to a real client explaining how his company utilised 'Marketing Automation'. It quickly became very apparent just to how important and game changing 'Marketing Automation' can potentially be. Caveat 'potentially' - you can have the best tools but fail miserably through a terrible content / management strategy.

Ok back to the speaker Rob Brown, Global eMarketing Manager of a company called Navitas who are responsible for driving foreign student subscription uptake to Australian Colleges and Universities. Navitas operates Internationally. The sales process is fairly lengthy, and also differs drastically by location.

In his example a prospective student has a huge decision to make - not only do they need to decide what course is best for them, but they are also deciding which College to go to, and in which country - a pretty big decision really. In this example, the Marketo Marketing Automation platform is used for three key things.
  1. Create and tailor marketing communications from a central platform - E.g emails, forms, landing pages and more
  2. Track / monitor and collate customer activity and response to comms on all touchpoints (email, website visits, social media, sms, forms) 
  3. Lead capture and scoring. Score prospects based upon behaviours and demographics. For example you can attribute a specific score to behavioural activity such as a website visit, an email open, a like on Facebook, etc. Likewise, demographic information such as the lead's role in an organisation is also captured and scored - I.E Marketing Manager or CEO may have a different score weighting depending on the objectives.
Once a specific pre-determined score has been achieved, I.E the lead is marketing qualified, or in other words, the prospect has ticked all of the right boxes in terms of interest and engagement, they are then passed over to the sales team and followed up with a qualified call. This entire process minimises cold calling wastage, lets the prospect make a decision in their own time, all the while building a profile on the customer to allow for tailored automated communications. All of this results in a better customer experience, and clean, profiled prospective database.

Their prospective database is also dynamic in that prospects/customers can move between segmented databases - i.e 'cold leads', 'warm leads', 'hot leads'. Also over time, due to the profiling data of that customer being built up from their activity and their response to previous marketing activity, an automated marketing platform is able to deliver tailored comms, specific to the prospect. This is quite incredible, however again does rely on manual planning, and a well written/considered content.

Automated communications and tracking is certainly a large chunk of what systems like Marketo provide. If you have the processes in place, systems set up correctly, and a well considered strategy and content plan, then a marketer has the tools to hand to define the ROI of each and every marketing campaign produced. This is what Phil Fernadez, Marketo's CEO, calls 'Revenue Performance Management'. If the marketing automation platforms allow you to capture leads, nurture them throughout the marketing and sales funnel, then record whether they have converted or not (and established the reasons why not), then that helps solves a lot of the problems marketing departments have traditionally faced. All of a sudden the CMO can prove the 'real' impact marketing has on the bottom line of the business, and propose (more) accurate projections of increased spend vs return. I think that's pretty cool!

Music to my ears..
Being a marketer who has always seen 'data' as the backbone to any activity, all of the above is like 'music in my ears'. I mean, a lot of us track web visits, email campaigns, display advertising, and social media, but how many of us have all of the data and learnings working together in one platform. I would argue few at best. Even fewer linking this into their CRM databases. Interesting indeed.....

Top level key benefits of Marketing Automation are:

There are many more granular points and reasons why Marketing Automation is the way forward for intelligent marketing, however this post and the bullet points below cover the key points only. The video below gives a much more in-depth overview of it.
  1. Central Database: Allows marketing & sales to centralise the creation, delivery, monitoring, data capture, and analysis of marketing efforts in one place, on one platform. By this I mean email, SMS, social engagement, website visits / behaviour, online forms, interaction with display banners and paid search, as well as offline activity such as data capture from events and tradeshows. This means that a chunky size of your activity across all touchpoints are being tracked and fed back into a central database, and not just building silo data somewhere. Plug in your CRM and the data is extremely powerful. This then leads us to point 2...
  2. Accountability and ROI: Allows marketing and sales teams to get visibility of their marketing efforts pretty much in real-time, showing what works, what doesn't, and the relationship various touch-points / mediums, and marketing activities have on one-another. 
  3. Tailored, automated communications - A customisable platform that can be set up to deliver tailored communications based upon pre-determined triggers. Don't under estimate the power of this versus the length of the sentence! It's a big deal!
  4. Creative Efficiencies: Creative agencies are an essential part of my marketing set-up, however there are many times as a marketer where you want/need to create a marketing comm quickly and cost effectively, and do not require the use (or cost) of your creative agency to do so. Marketing automation platforms such as Marketo, allow the marketer to have full control of the marketing campaigns; from easily creating the emails, the landing pages and forms, and then edit, test, launch, and report of the campaigns. Sure you can get your agency to create the basic template look and feel, however having the ability to create the campaign assets within a platform would save thousands of dollars to almost any organisation. 
A whole load of 'what ifs'..
Now to be cynical, you may think (and it is completely reasonable to think) that Rob Brown was just up there with the objective of endorsing the Marketo product, and to some extent I guess this is true - and why the hell not if it is working for him.

But like every article, book, movie, and talk, content is king, and Rob Brown delivered content, intelligent thinking, and real world and transparent results that truly got me, a marketing professional, thinking a whole load of 'what if's.

Like the sound of this? Watch this video below for an in depth overview of Marketing Automation.

Also be keen to hear anyones thoughts on this topic, are you using a system like this at the moment?


  1. I love this comment from Lori Wizdo, principal analyst, Forrester Research. I think she points out the problem perfectly on her blog.

    “Marketing automation can transform a company’s marketing operations. These solutions deliver scalability, root out excess cost, improve marketing execution, and provide the basis for continuous incremental process improvement. Still many marketing execs hold back on investing in marketing automation. They fear the concurrent assimilation of new tactics, processes, and automation will unduly stress their marketing organization. But, the transformation is necessary, and the stress unavoidable. Marketing execs need to proactively address the ‘people part’ of their lead-to-revenue transformation.”

  2. Thanks Greg, that is a great quote and so so true.

  3. Thanks for sharing such useful information Greg. I believe you were quite right when you said "how important and game changing 'Marketing Automation' can potentially be". I think one of useful elements of using marketing automation tools is data analysis. You get sufficient amount of data in the most appropriate order that makes things easier for you.


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