Marketing automation lessons: What CMOs would do differently next time

We ask marketing leaders what challenges they faced implementing marketing automation platforms and what they'd change if they do roll them out again

Marketing automation has become one of the foundation technologies for marketing teams looking to improve the way they identify prospects, nurture leads and manage customer communications. But these platforms don’t work in isolation, nor can they simply be implemented without the right support structures, change management processes and strategies in place.

With the benefit of hindsight, we ask a range of Australian organisations where they faced challenges implementing marketing automation, and what they’d do differently if they could stage their rollout all over again.


Marketing automation platform deployed: Oracle Eloqua
Live date: August 2012

Upskilled is an Australian-based training organisation delivering IT and business courses in face-to-face environments as well as online. Prior to investing in a marketing automation platform, Upskilled had little ability to tailor e-mail based communications for prospective, new and returning students, Upskilled national marketing manager, Michael Crump, said.

Six months after deploying marketing automation, Upskilled’s customer database had grown 46 per cent to more than 54,000 contacts, 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, 110 per cent growth in overall clickthroughs and a doubling of revenue generated by emails.

Crump told CMO the implementation process was done with a small in-house team of two marketers and one IT resource, and was not without its challenges. If he had his time again, there are three main things he’d do differently to ensure a seamless outcome.

  1. Data Cleansing/Management: The first would be spending more time upfront determining an effective data structure and then cleansing this data to ensure accuracy, a critical factor in the success of automated campaigns. “Any automated campaign is only as effective as the data you have available, whether that be for merge fields, serving dynamic content, segmentation or triggers,” he said.

  2. Prioritisation: “It was hard not to get carried away with the possibilities of automation along with the features available on the platform,” Crump continued. “Trying to do too many things at once diluted the effectiveness of what was implemented. Simply picking a few of the highest priority campaigns to implement and doing them well, would have been a better approach. It’s the old 80/20 rule – 80 per cent of your leads come from 20 per cent of your campaigns.”

  3. Reporting – Crump also advised launching marketing automation with a clear understanding of your approach to reporting, analytics and tracking. “Automation is great, but if you don’t have adequate visibility on performance, you effectively flying blind and can’t optimise for future growth,” he said. “We dived head first into launching campaigns and the analysis came a little later on, but I’m sure if we had a more structured approach reporting initially we could have seen even faster growth.”

Network Ten

Marketing automation platform deployed: Oracle Eloqua
Live date: September 2013

Network Ten launches its on-demand digital content offering, Tenplay, last September. The launch was backed by an integrated and sophisticated digital strategy which saw the media house’s front-end and back-end website technology overhauled, along with marketing, content and video platforms.

A key component was deploying Oracle Eloqua’s marketing automation platform, director of commercial business development and CRM, Martyn Raab, said. Previously, the group used a third-party managed email platform with no connectivity to its former content management system.

Thanks to the advice of its marketing automation implementation partner, Marketing Decisions, Raab said the team at Network Ten managed to avoid a number of pitfalls other organisations have fallen into when deploying these technology platform. The first and most useful piece of advice was to start with small steps and learn as you go, he said.

“Network Ten listened to this advice and kept our egos at the door, starting with simple marketing automation programs that have evolved over the last two years of having automation,” Raab said. “Now we can do a lot more and looking to extending even further.”

The second piece of advice was have a dedicated team and resources. “At Network Ten we bit the bullet and hired experienced and dedicate resources to ‘own’ the platform,” Raab said. “With all things in life, if you give it focus you will get success.

“Thirdly, test, test and test. From our first day of launching marketing automation, we always had a test group to compare against and this has kept everyone honest.”


Marketing automation platform deployed: Marketo
Live date: Initial pilot in 2011 followed by full-scale rollout

Navitas is an ASX-listed company providing recruitment services and university programs for international students who want to study at universities in Australia, the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand. The group decided to invest in a marketing automation platform after realising a CRM project to integrate disparate sales and reporting systems wasn’t going to solve many of the marketing challenges around identifying, nurturing and converting potential students into paying university scholars.

Marketing director, Rob Brown, said there are definitely two things he’d do differently if he had his time again, noting that both are perennial problems with most CRM/marketing automation implementations.

  1. Dirty data: “We had years’ worth of legacy data, which was pumped into our new CRM system,” he explained. “The data had not been cleansed, was coming from several disparate systems, and created an unspeakable mess. Not only did it massively inflate the size of our database in our CRM system, thereby inflating the cost of our instance, it created issues with forms, lists and reporting.”

    Examples included more than 10 versions of the country-code ‘Australia’, which had been entered into the relevant feeder systems over the previous decade. The decision to allow all that data to flow into the new CRM system, and subsequently the marketing automation platform, was well-intentioned but probably the wrong decision, Brown said.

    “We wanted to be able to target alumni in marketing campaigns, hence the justification for having all the data in the same database. But in reality, there was only a tiny percentage of this database we’d have ever needed to target, and could have done so via a list-import into our marketing automation platform,” he said.

  2. Duplicates: Due to the complex nature of some contracts with partner universities, Navitas took the decision to self-impose certain restrictions around who could see what in our CRM system, Brown said. This unfortunately caused duplicates in individuals which needed to be corrected.

    “As all opportunities [such as applications to study with a Navitas college] flowed straight through to our marketing automation platform, it meant that a lead in nurturing for one college became a duplicate, and the marketing automation platform could not apply consistent nurturing rules and triggers to the same person,” Brown explained.

    As an example, ‘John Doe’ may have applied to College X and also be nurtured by College Y. But due to privacy restrictions in the CRM system, the marketing automation platform considers John Doe as two, three or four people, he said. “When all pre-application nurturing should stop and post-application nurturing should commence, John Doe continues to be nurtured pre-application and post-application,” he said.

    “As they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing,” Brown added.


Marketing platform deployed: IBM Silverpop
Live date: April 2014

If she could go back and rethink the association’s marketing automation rollout plan, ADMA CEO, Jodie Sangster, said she would “change so many things”. The group appointed IBM’s Silverpop as its three-year marketing automation partner in August 2013.

“We made the same mistake many companies do when we implemented marketing automation hoping it would solve all our communication problems,” she said. “Marketing automation is a very powerful tool if used properly and implemented with a clear strategy in mind. But there are some essential ingredients that are required to make marketing automation implementation a success.

“At ADMA, we implemented marketing automation without clear objectives, a strategy, implementation plan or goals. We also hadn’t clearly thought through what was going to be required from a skills perspective to deliver on our business objectives and outcomes.”

Sangster said if she could do back, she’d make sure the association had a pre-defined and clear digital strategy in place, along with an understanding of how marketing automation would drive that strategy.

“Second, I would upskill the team at the start of the exercise so that they could unlock the power that marketing automation can bring to the organisation,” she said. “Since implementation, we’ve done some intensive internal training and made new hires with the right skillsets to get the most out of the technology.

“Third, I’d have had a strong project manager on the team who understood marketing automation and technology right from the start.

“Had we taken these three steps, the implementation and use of marketing automation would have been more seamless and we would have had the means to unlock the power of marketing automation for the organisation sooner. That said, we’ve almost got there now.”


Marketing automation platform deployed: Oracle Eloqua
Live date: July 2013

Ezidebit began its marketing automation rollout in May 2013, and the experience has proven as painful as it was fruitful, head of marketing, Ryan Brough, said.

The 16-year old B2B company provides direct debit solutions to more than 20,000 customers across Australia, representing nearly 1 million consumers. With a team of three marketing staff and 27 sales employees, Ezidebit needed to find a way to more strategically source new customer leads, demonstrate the effectiveness of campaign activity, and deliver increasing levels of targeted content to existing clients in a cost-effective way.

“In a high-growth organisation like ours, time is critical – and we had very little of it,” Brough said. “If I were to roll out the strategy again, I would pause to align people, process and technology before committing to the launch plan.

“We surrounded ourselves with the wrong partners initially. And we weren’t fully cognisant of the volume of work required from an already-stretched marketing team to move from a sales promotion to a marketing automation paradigm. Introducing a marketing automation platform requires an increase in marketing resources. Period.”

ROI on a marketing automation rollout can be achieved much faster with people, process, technology alignment, Brough said, and requires a steadfast dedication to the cause by an organisation’s leadership.

But having been through the painful experience of launching marketing automation, Ezidebit is now seeing great results from the platform, as Brought said it is driving several initiatives right across customer lifetime to increase value.

Thomson Reuters

Marketing automation platform deployed: Oracle Eloqua
Live date: April 2015

The Australian legal department of global information products provider, Thomson Reuters, has recently gone live on a marketing automation deployment after a 12-month implementation program.

Director of marketing and customer experience, Morag Latta, told CMO the group is on a five-year journey to transform customer engagement through a data-driven, technology approach. The plans not only include marketing automation, but also a large-scale implementation of SAP and Salesforce, its CRM platform.

As a result of the SAP implementation, some data connectivity established at the start of the Eloqua rollout had to be reviewed mid-point, delaying the go-live date and adding complexity to the work, she said.

“What I would do differently if I look back now, even though I’m so passionate about what this implementation can do for our business, is I would have waited 6-12 months until those other issues behind the scenes issues had settled,” Latta said. “That proved our biggest challenge.

“But we have marketing automation in now, and we’re tweaking as we go.”

More case studies on marketing automation

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