Tech in marketing:What automation can do for smaller businesses

How a marketing automation platform has helped Upskilled Australia grow its customer database by nearly 50 per cent, and nearly doubled email revenue

One of the stumbling blocks for any small business is how best to utilise your limited resources to contact, communicate and manage new and existing customers.

This was the challenge facing Upskilled’s marketing team and one it is rapidly solving with an integrated technology solution.

The registered training organisation, which launched four years ago, delivers business and IT qualifications through an online portal, instructor-led classes and client training onsite. It does this across 70 regional and metro locations in Australia with 400 courses annually, and has certified 10,000 students to date.

Prior to investing in a marketing automation platform, Upskilled was running one-size-fits-all and repetitive direct and email-based campaigns, and had little ability to tailor communication for prospective, new and returning students, Upskilled national marketing manager, Michael Crump, said.

The two-man marketing team was also spending 20 to 30 hours a month producing advisories on upcoming course campaigns, a time-consuming task that took them away from valuable communication opportunities.

“We had unqualified leads feeding through from marketing which were wasting sales’ time, but then also had sales staff unduly disqualifying leads,” Crump told attendees at Eloqua’s Road to Revenue customer event in Sydney on 23 April. “There was also a lack of dynamic content, and we had limited ability to create new forms or material efficiently or cost-effectively.”

Other challenges included lead leakage, decreasing conversion rates, ineffective lead nurturing initiatives, insufficient customer support, data duplicates and errors, and infrastructure that couldn’t be scaled.

To tackle these problems and improve the marketing function’s ability to segment and increase communication, Upskilled deployed Eloqua’s marketing automation platform in October 2012. The solution was integrated with its Salesforce CRM system, website and JobReady student management portal. The latter also includes information on government funding available for specific courses.

Crump outlined a detailed list of objectives including improving application conversion rates, increasing Upskilled’s customer reach, sales enablement, automating notifications and course reminders, improving email open rates and performance, lifting its data management, increasing loyalty and retention and enriching the customer experience.

While Upskilled is still learning how to utilise all the tools available through Eloqua 10, Crump said the marketing automation platform is delivering solutions to all of the above objectives and more. Key features include customised forms and landing pages, the ability to include relevant course and location information plus RSS content feeds in emails, progressive profiling, automated email notifications and student course campaigns triggered through its CRM platform, and social media interactivity.

Results

Six months on, Upskilled’s customer database has grown 46 per cent to more than 54,000 contacts, an organic growth Crump directly attributed to its segmented, customisable and automated email campaign capabilities.

Other standout results include a 142 per cent increase in website visits, along with 110 per cent growth in overall click throughs. Adopting progressive profiling across its registration forms had also seen form completion rise by 46 per cent from Q3, 2012 to the first quarter of this year.

Arguably most importantly, revenue generated by emails has doubled between August 2012 and March. And for Crump, reducing the administration time spent on producing update course communication from up to 30 hours to half an hour proved another critical win.

“Regardless of budget, head count, size of organisation or the burden of time, reaching marketing automation is definitely achievable,” he told attendees.

Next on Upskilled’s agenda is closed loop reporting capability and a lead scoring program, both of which are in progress and will come online shortly. Crump is also looking to improve its sales enablement tools, lead nurturing and student re-engagement programs, widen its content strategy, and will introduce A/B split testing to optimise campaign performance.

SMS integration should also help the education provider enhance the customer’s experience by engaging through an additional communication channel.

Among Crump’s key pieces of advice for others taking or optimising their marketing automation platforms is the importance of clean, reliable data.

“Marketers need a single source of truth from which information flows, which for us is Salesforce – if that is right, everything else is,” Crump added. Integration of technology platforms is another critical component, as is sticking to the business case and doing one thing at a time.

While it’s a long road to “utopia”, marketing automation has already enabled Upskilled to drive business growth and customer service. Given these early wins, Upskilled’s marketing team now has the time to spend on innovation and optimising campaign performance and support, Crump concluded.

Upskilled’s key learnings on marketing automation:
  • Integration of your technology platforms and systems is critical
  • Get as much information as possible into your CRM system
  • Determine your business processes before you integrate or implement campaigns
  • Ensure you have clean data in your CRM – this is an ongoing process
  • Have a short and long-term roadmap for innovation and improvement
  • Spend as much time as possible in the marketing automation platform, learning its functionality
  • Work with an approved technology partner.

More of CMO’s Tech in Marketing customer series: Harnessing customers and content
Personalising email-based communication

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