In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
While marketing automation maturity has certainly arisen in recent years, these platforms are still too often used by brands as glorified email blast engines. That’s if they’ve been adopted at all.
In a recent interview with Customer Think, CEO of marketing services provider Pedowitz Group, Jeff Pedowitz, suggested as few as 20,000 companies worldwide had invested in one of the leading platforms, such as Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, HubSpot and Salesforce Pardot. Of those who’ve actually purchased such technology, most are using just 15 to 20 per cent of the capabilities offered to them on average, he claimed.
A 2015 A/NZ report produced by digital consulting group, Squiz, meanwhile, showed 70 per cent of local marketers were planning to invest more in marketing automation solutions this year, even as 52 per cent admitted they struggled to understand the value of such systems.
Here, we speak with three brands that have deployed marketing automation in order grow the scope of their wider customer and digital engagement efforts.
Combining company insights with advertising: 3 Day Blinds
3 Day Blinds is a 40-year old, US-based custom window manufacturing company that sells via in-home consultations. As a business, it manages the end-to-end process, from design and producing products to managing the consulting sales teams.
Chief revenue officer, Dan Williams told CMO marketing’s primary goal has been generating leads and appointments. More recently, the dial has shifted and it’s upping its game around taking a more personalised, engagement-led touch to customers.
Eighteen months ago, the company brought on marketing automation vendor, Marketo, initially as an email management system. Up until then, the group had very little in terms of marketing technology. Its first cornerstone decision had been to invest in tag management platform, Tealium.
“We made it modular so we can test different vendors, plug in and try different stuff,” Williams explained. “Like a lot of vendors and software solutions for marketing, companies offer a 1000 different things, so we ask what they are best at and do that with them. If other things seem interesting, we’ll then look at that later. Tealium, for example, is a tag container specialist.”
3 Days Blinds also brought on Turn as its Demand-side platform (DSP) provider for media buying.
While the initial plan was for email management, Williams said marketing automation platform usage quickly extended into advertising and media spend.
“One day, Marketo and Turn approached us to test this database marketing strategy,” he said. “They asked us: Do we want to serve banner ads to people from our database, whether or not they were been to our website? That sounded interesting.”
The campaign initially looked at highly qualified leads from 3 Day Blind’s database of people who’d booked an appointment and met a consultant but didn’t purchase. Using the Turn platform, 3 Day Blinds targeted these individuals via digital advertising channels. The results were dramatic, Williams said, and prompted the company to start targeting anyone in its databases, whether or not they’d interact through the site.
“These go into Marketo, Turn reads it and shows banners wherever they are,” Williams said. “This has allowed us to create new business from people who purchased in the past, or cancelled an appointment.”
Activities also included doing lead-based ad campaigns on Facebook. The offering, which was in beta at the time, has since been named Marketo Ad Bridge.
3 Day Blinds’ smarter prospecting resulted in 15 million digital impressions, 25,000 clicks and 2550 bookings. The company also saw a 60 per cent increase in clickthrough rate, and 70 per cent decrease in cost-per-booking. The team proved data from its marketing automation engine was responsible for 50 per cent of all clicks and 15 per cent of all bookings.
“It cost more on CPM basis, but results and conversion and sales were much higher than expected. And compared to retargeting, it was much better,” Williams said.
Next up is creating more personalised ways to address prospects as well as advertise to them by feeding in insights from its consultants. Of course, email communications are a core part of the overall strategy too, and Williams is working to build more triggers in order to generate more personalised interactions. The latest focus has been on targeting content and imagery, such as weather information or insights on current events, based on specific geography and zipcode data.
“What this has done is made us become more thoughtful about information that is meaningful,” Williams added. “Now we know we have the capability to personalise ads and nurture that relationship through the process, we’re looking at what other info moves the needle.”
Linking marketing with product: WGSN
WGSN, an information service within the UK-based Ascential Group, is the world’s leading trend authority on the fashion and creative sectors, and provides a range of forecasting and analytics services to those markets.
Over the last two years, the business has been creating a fully integrated marketing technology stack using best-of-breed technologies, including Marketo’s marketing automation platform, predictive analytics, data visualisation from Tableau, APIs and native product features.
Ascential Group head of data and marketing technology, Neil Robertson-Ravo, said marketing automation is the backbone for inbound registration and lead generation activities, along with outbound marketing across its information services divisions, WGSN and Plexus, as well as its event services business, i2i and Lion Festivals.
For WGSN’s marketing automation specialist, Marty Lyon, it’s also the engine helping his teams to foster and grow meaningful relationships with customers that drive sales and importantly, renewals.
As an example, when a user buys the WGSN product and starts using it, marketing automation is triggered a bespoke onboarding campaign based on their region, language and job role, Lyon said. The company also operates a series of usage-based campaigns.
“We’re constantly profiling people’s usage patterns, how they’re using the website, what they’re looking at and what they told us in their profile information and we have bespoke algorithms that offer up recommended content based on those,” Lyon said. “For example, if you’re looking at one thing, you might like this piece of content. We’re serving up content regularly through Marketo. The aim of that is to keep people engaged and to re-engage people who have started to slip. Relevant content equals relevant engagement and ensures people keep using your product.”
Marketing automation is also a prioritisation engine for which leads sales teams pursue, Lyon said.
“Automation isn’t always about automating every communication, it’s about working out the smart places to use automation,” he said. “You don’t just batch everyone onto emails and take the people out of it. Where we can use automation to do automatic communications end-to-end, then great, but when it’s about driving a conversation, we can still automate touchpoints and information up to that point.
“We use it [marketing automation] with our client services team, and for customer lifecycle retention. We use it to trigger appropriate tasks based on those behaviours. It’s not always about sending an email, it could be better to give them a phone call at that stage of their lifecycle, or perhaps an account manager wants to do a check-in based on patterns.”
To do this, Robertson-Ravo said a lot of the business logic used by the group in Salesforce has been applied to its retention plans managed through its marketing automation engine.
“The platform is doing stuff behind the scenes that may result in an email or communication three weeks later,” he said. “It’s a brain that functions constantly and it’s one of the reasons we chose it.”
One of the most innovative ways WGSN is tapping marketing automation is by tying it to its digital product offering.
“Some of the work we’re doing around personalisation, which was originally part of an outbound marketing campaign, is now being pushed into the product,” Lyon explained. “Every day, there are 100 recommendations for a single user. Rather than have to rely on an email communication, you log in and open up the product and it shows what we recommend for you.”
Thanks to its campaigning efforts, WGSN has seen a five times uplift in usage from individual subscribers than compared with traditional marketing techniques. Those figures go to the heart of retention, Lyon said.
“The marketing job is increasingly becoming how you ensure you’re in the right conversation at the right time, in the right place with the right people,” he added.
Creating a centralised intelligence engine: Jupiter Asset Management
Jupiter Asset Management head of digital strategy, Stewart Conway, was brought into the UK-based investment company by its CEO and marketing director to digitise the business. In doing so, one of his first priorities was to reposition sales and marketing teams as relationship managers.
To help with the shift in culture and thinking, Conway said he planned to create ‘exoskeletons’ or digital management templates that would assist sales and marketing teams do more.
“We did a few workshops with both sales and marketing to draw out what the change was for sales people to relationship management, and a key thing is listening, learning and responding to stuff,” he said.
While marketing automation is commonly associated with email campaigns, Jupiter is using its platform as the ‘brain’ of its digital relationship manager proposition, Conway said. The Marketo system is linked with CRM and embedded into the brand’s website, providing a centralised customer view.
Thanks to these capabilities, and as part of its efforts to be more relationship focused digitally, Jupiter is now starting to engage in real-time personalisation.
“Where we’re just about to get to is literally that dream of when a sales guy speaks to someone and has a good conversation, the website knows, understands and responds, and the email teams can follow up. It’s creating that real customer view that links everything together,” Conway said.
“By creating that brain, which we call our intelligence centre, I started talking about how that could give back to the CRM system, to the sales guys.”
Conway is feeding back data-driven insights through customised dashboards for each division, loaded up with intelligence from Marketo. Jupiter has also brought in stats from its video hosting provider straight into marketing automation for further insight.
It’s not just technology that is driving this digital agenda, however. The culture of the teams has had to be geared towards agile ways of working, including daily morning scrums where work is prioritised. “It’s completely shifted the way we operate,” Conway said.
The next project Conway is working on is for wealth managers. Previously, sales staff would know 2-3 decision makers and focus on them.
“Now, we’re giving them transparency across the whole organisation,” he explained. “For example, we can identify someone who is sharing content around. That is harder at the moment to prove an ROI on, but we’ve started to get the sales data into the same place and link that up by influencing those people through touchpoints, as well as how investment analysts are being engaged.
“We’re trying to show how we have warmed these people up so we can decrease the time of that business coming in.”
Marketing today must engage prospects and customers through always-on campaigns, Conway continued. “You have a number of different engagement funnels that lead to sales at the end,” he said. “We’re using marketing to look, for example, at advertising across the top of the funnel to bring in more people, then what is happening further down.
“Overall, we’re trying to get marketing teams to be more responsive to that data, work with sales guys to get a sense of leads getting in, then determine if we need to get more people in the top of the funnel, or how we nurture them.”
In addition, Conway is developing bespoke client intelligence centres for different sales teams globally. One he’s just launched is a tailored CRM view with all marketing intelligence, where people can sign up for preference centres, and see what is going on with specific clients. From there, he’ll look at other parts of the organisation such as institutional business and wealth management.
“The second bit is to start to drill into sales data and work through that multi-touch attribution challenge,” Conway said. “We want to come up with a conversational architecture.
“We’re trying to think about it like this: If a piece of marketing brings someone in, and interests them, how can we get the perfect conversation to get them engaged in that product? We’re also working hard on the content strategy, which is changing the marketing again, because if it is a conversation, what would you use and who would you target it to?”
Customers are currently segmented by country and channel, as well as job function, but Conway is hoping to introduce more fluid, interest-based segmentation to the Jupiter mix.
“I want to reduce it to a number of different products I’ll work with. Through segmentation, we can start to prove how we target those people and use content,” he said. “We’ll start with five or six products, and build the case for the investment into the content team. There are big bucks going into advertising but I can see it’s going to shift more into the content side.”
All of this work has enabled marketers to talk about pipeline in marketing, and adopt a sales language, Conway said.
“It really is linking sales and marketing. In fact, in the next 5-7 years, I think they will be one team,” he added.