More chief marketing officers have marketing automation on their strategic agendas and roadmaps. For many CMOs and senior marketers – including both those just getting started with this powerful technology and those seeking to increase returns from existing investments – the plan often starts with asking about which of the many tools or technologies is the right fit.
As important as technology is to marketing automation success, it should not be the starting point. Similarly, marketing teams feeling frustrated by their lack of success should not point their fingers at their technology. For marketing automation to succeed and deliver on its value proposition, marketing leaders must take a look in the mirror and ask themselves if they have the right strategy and approach, and whether they are ready to lead the organization forward on what will be a significant change.
The huge potential power of marketing automation technology should be harnessed with a clear plan that addresses multiple dimensions of marketing as a discipline. These factors need to be addressed before moving into technology evaluation and selection or upgrades. That’s true because digital marketing has now gotten so complex and marketing automation platforms offer so many features (from simple email newsletters to sophisticated remarketing to robust media planning and buying). And they connect to so many other important systems, including CRM and customer databases. Having the right big-picture plan, with clearly defined goals for different customer types and different steps in the marketing process, is essential to success.
The following checklist is not necessarily comprehensive, but it covers key steps that are, based on our experiences with a range of marketing teams and brands, critical to generating more value from marketing automation investments, as well as their overall MarTech stacks.
Step 1: Set the Right Course and Direction
Disparate teams must be aligned on the vision and new ways of doing things, including specific use cases. Specifically, the IT department must become more conversant with marketing initiatives and marketing teams must better understand technology needs. Similarly, different marketing teams (TV vs. digital, CRM vs. email) must see how their individual objectives ladder up to bigger-picture business objectives. That way customers won’t be overwhelmed by too many or conflicting messages. This alignment empowers marketers to effectively manage data as it flows through external systems and internal IT data warehouses.
If the organization is ready to make these changes, then the first step is to break down the silos that exist between departments and channels. You and the other members of the leadership team must set the direction and define the overarching business goals to establish what success looks like after adopting or expanding marketing automation. Clear understanding of business KPIs is necessary to determine how budgets should be distributed across channels to best support the KPIs. For instance, communications to net-new customers for loyalty programs differ from communicating to existing customers about a new product release. Establishing the business KPIs will direct marketing leaders on how to set budgets and prioritize communication across channels.
Once the vision is established, much work remains. Leaders have a responsibility to now communicate these goals to organizations’ business leaders, department heads across IT, marketing, product development, and finally, key personnel that manages media, data, and marketing technology. The communication of these business goals is imperative to align everyone on KPIs and performance targets.
Step 2: Identify and Engage the Right Personnel to Build With
Now that leadership has agreed to and communicated a set of common goals, it’s time to start putting the marketing automation and MarTech tools to work, right? Not so fast.
Finding the right personnel is a game-changer. Keep in mind, these are the people who will design, set up and operate the marketing automation machine and ensure it performs in line with business objectives. Whether internal resources with strong MarTech expertise or external specialists, these individuals are critical to achieving end-to-end marketing automation. They operationalize the business goals in the marketing and tech space by gathering requirements from the stakeholders, designing the operating model, and leading the RFP process with tech vendors.
They will ask the right questions to ensure the business use cases are being satisfied, as well as guide internal and external teams on how the technology integrates with the other components of the MarTech stack, including data management platforms (DMPs), CRM and other internal databases.
Establishing the proper integrations is what enables data to flow seamlessly between systems and ultimately places richer data at the fingertips of marketers. Most importantly, as the data flows between systems, these individuals will know how to legally and effectively handle and activate data as data regulation becomes more widespread (GDPR in Europe & CCPA in California taking effect in 2020).
Step 3: Build the Right Operating Model and Measurement Strategy to Support Your Business Objectives
The right operating model is also essential to making leadership’s business goals a reality through marketing automation. A strong operating model outlines how internal departments interact, as well as how they interact with external agencies and vendors. They should map customer journeys based on the analysis of audience insights and audits of all touchpoints.
Ultimately, successful marketing automation programs measure and adapt to how audiences behave within and across journeys. Such knowledge hinges on developing audience segmentation strategies that all channels will adopt, activate, and be measured against. A unified measurement and KPI strategy is also key, because success measures for a marketing initiative should not be based on the performance of individual channels, but rather how they support the overarching business goals and build incremental lift across all channels.
Implementing a unified measurement strategy across teams will be the most time-consuming and challenging part of the process, as any cultural change of this magnitude affecting so many teams is bound to meet some resistance. Having a measurement strategy in mind as you build the operating model and customer journeys is critical when evaluating tech vendors to support your business.
So once you have the operating model in place and have developed your initial customer journeys, it’s time to start the RFP process and look for tech partners that fit your operating model and business requirements.
Step 4: Find the Right Technology and Make Sure Users Are Ready to Adopt
Finally, it’s time to think and talk about technology; that means building out the RFP based on your requirements and objectives, engaging with and comparing potential vendors, and investing in the tech that best supports your operating model, use cases, and strategies.
No marketing automation tool is likely to satisfy every business requirement you have, so prioritizing your use cases will help you to find the right partner. It’s also worth noting that every company has different requirements; one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to marketing automation.
So What’s Next?
When you have all the pieces in place, the right business strategy, key personnel, the right operating model, and the right underlying technology, it is time to start testing. Carving out a test budget for live campaigns will provide invaluable insights on what to test next and how to inform and enhance decisioning models. It will also provide you with data on how to augment and refine customer journeys to further support business goals as they evolve.
The bottom line is that implementing technology is in some ways the easy part. The hard part is getting the organization to adopt it, use it as it’s meant to work and then integrate different teams so they work together as seamlessly and effectively as marketing automation technology handles effective and seamless communication with customers.