Getting personal with marketing automation

In the age of evolving digital technology, marketers have multiple channels through which they can connect with new and existing customers. Smart companies are taking the multichannel approach to a new level by harnessing the latest automation technology. But they are in a minority. And as multichannel marketing automation specialist dotmailer points out, the rest are missing out on valuable opportunities to make a huge difference to their business.

Any business that is serious about driving customer loyalty needs to engage, and talk to customers in a relevant and personal way. That may be the oldest marketing principle in the book, but many companies are not recognising the advantages which modern technology could bring to their customer engagement strategies.

Marketing automation involves the use of software platforms to market more effectively through multiple channels with mobile, social media, e-mail, landing pages and websites automating many of the repetitive marketing tasks.

Research from TFM&A Insights found that 61 per cent of respondents were not using marketing automation at all.

dotmailer_image2Since launching in 1999, dotmailer has seen the marketing industry undergo massive transformation and, in this largely untapped field of multichannel automation, it is leading the way.

There is a compelling business case for it, says marketing director Chris Boddice.

“Across our own client base we have many examples of organisations, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer, that have almost doubled their average customer lifetime value by automating their multichannel marketing strategies,” he says. “It’s surprising that research shows that less than 50 per cent of businesses use marketing automation.”

Their reluctance, he says, stems from a number of concerns, including breaking away from traditional methods.

“Marketers are busy. They have so many things to do at any one time, they tend to take the view that if their current programme is working, why change it? However, time and money are limited resources. Automation will save them time, giving them more opportunity to be strategic and creative, increase campaign output, and make more money,” says Mr Boddice.

There is also the fear of business disruption stemming from a need to overhaul their entire list of technology service providers, such as e-mail, social media and applications.

“The beauty of our SaaS platform is that it is built to play well with other systems, so clients can simply plug into what they’ve got without the need to change everything,” he explains.

For a customer relationship to be authentic, it has to be developed over time and here multichannel automation offers the perfect solution

This also dispels many of the concerns that marketers and IT professionals have about the costs of having to change an entire system. Because dotmailer plays well with other platforms, a new client can just replace their e-mail platform with dotmailer and then integrate it into their existing eco system, at less cost and less risk than replacing everything.

Marketing often works in discrete teams, dealing with specialist areas of the function, social media, mobile, promotions and so on, and doesn’t necessarily work that closely together. Automation helps to break down the silo mentality and actively encourages collaboration.

“Think big, start small, scale quickly” is dotmailer’s business philosophy. Making it personal is another. Ironically, one concern that marketing traditionalists have about automation is the perceived loss of that all-important human touch.

The reality is marketing automation can be as humanised as you want it to be, says Mr Boddice. “Your ultimate goal as a marketer is to form a relationship with your customers,” he says. “You need to learn about them through having relevant conversations with them. They need to know that you are talking to them personally. But you don’t want to be in their faces. For a customer relationship to be authentic, it has to be developed over time and here multichannel automation offers the perfect solution.”

Good personalisation starts with an acknowledgement of an action someone has taken on the company website, for example, downloading a white paper or requesting a price list and thanking them for it.

Better personalisation would be a follow-up to this e-mail asking them if they enjoyed it or found it useful, and recommending something similar and directing them to a personalised landing page.

Similarly in the business-to-consumer world, a business should be recognising purchases and other customer engagements, and communicating through the right channel with the right message for each stage of the customer journey.

There are numerous channels, both online and offline, which can be personalised from direct mail e-mail, SMS and campaign landing pages. Companies use their customers’ data, for instance name, gender, location, last engagement with them, to personalise these channels.

A marketing automation platform enables you to collect more than just demographic, preference data or their last engagement and conduct one-to-one conversations at scale.

At this point, marketers who do not consider themselves particularly tech-savvy may worry about ease-of-use issues. But Mr Boddice assures them they have no need to. “With some of our competitors, it’s true, you would need some programming knowledge to be able to use their platforms,” he says. “Ours is a doddle to use; in fact, it is the first automated platform that is so user friendly, and is based around a drag-and-drop automation builder. Once people start using it, it transforms their working lives.”

The easy-to-use system also allows the end-user, the marketing professional, to continue to be creative and strategic, but in a far more impactful way.

“We have an excellent database that sits within dotmailer and provides valuable marketing insights; for example, WebIsnights that stores web browsing data, SocialInsights that stores your customers’ behaviour on social networks, and OrderInsights where customer transactions are stored,” says Mr Boddice.

A fundamental principle of a multichannel automation marketing strategy, which scales and evolves with the customer base, is that the marketing messages are built around the human being at the receiving end of the company’s marketing campaigns.

That means engaging with them based on their individual interests and behaviours, and not just on the e-mails or web links they open or click through, and delivering highly personalised content that helps to convert potential customers into delighted regular customers.

Mr Boddice concludes: “People think multichannel automation is more difficult than it actually is and that is certainly not the case when using dotmailer. The fact is it can add an awful lot of value to your business.”

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