How CRM and marketing automation have delivered $5m in revenue to this ASX-listed company

Technology project also provides a platform for closer marketing and technology collaboration at Silver Chef Group

Rolling out marketing automation and a more integrated customer management approach has not only delivered $5 million in acquisition revenue for ASX-listed financial services player, Silver Chef Group, it’s brought technology and marketing functions tightly together.

The 30-year old company provides equipment leasing financing to the hospitality industry under its Silver Chef brand, as well as transport and construction industries under its GoGetta company. Founded in Australia, the business now operates in New Zealand and Canada and is chalking up double-digit growth annually.

With an unheard of Net Promoter Score of over +70 in the financial services sector, Silver Chef prides itself on being connected to dealers and customers, chief technology officer, Vinnie D’Alessandro, told CMO. A desire to further tailor the sales and marketing experience through data insight and digital efficiency has seen the company re-invigorate its CRM platform capability and invest in marketing automation.

Silver Chef had been using Salesforce CRM for about four years before D’Alessandro started in 2015, but was seeing a decline in use.

“The big issue was we were using it just to track sales behaviour but had none of our customer data in there,” he said. “What we identified was a need for sales people to access better information about their dealers and customers, the contracts and assets.”

The first step was integrating CRM with finance and contract management systems in order to expose data to the sales team and in turn, the marketing function. The second step was adopting Salesforce B2B marketing automation platform, Pardot.

“Sales is now using that for day-to-day activities to make sure they’re meeting with the right dealers and customers, while marketing is using it to make sure we are segmenting the market right, and providing the right offers to the right people at the right time,” D’Alessandro said. “We couldn’t have done that just by tracking sales behaviour, we need to use it as an aggregation point for our business. So we have built a 360-degree view of our customers, dealers, assets and our contracts.”

Of course, it’s easier to put in a brand new system than it is to revitalise an old one, and getting buy-in required D’Alessandro and his team to win over sales people and the wider business.

“We interviewed all sales leaders, marketing and executives to understand what data is driving the business and make sure that could be easily represented and exposed,” he explained. “You could start to show you could improve sales through the data; from there, it was a relatively simple process to improve adoption.”

Read more: How Momentum Energy has transformed its entire business to be customer-led

Read more: How this marketing ops leader is lifting the automation ante at Cochlear

Bringing in marketing automation

Prior to adopting Pardot, marketing was running email campaigns out of spreadsheets, segmenting customers manually.

Today, Silver Chief global digital marketing operations leader, Jamie McCalman, said the team is running a platform with more than 200 automation rules, 250 dynamic lists and 75 nurture programs.  Early results show lead nurture has boosted the company’s prospect-to-customer conversion rate from 8 per cent to 42 per cent.

“Where we struggled to maximise repeat business prior to our implementation, marketing automation has resulted in over $5 million worth of acquisitions in under two years, directly from our customer nurture programs,” McCalman said. “That’s a 34 per cent increase in conversion rates and $5 million in two years.”

Marketing quickly established automatic drip programs so that as soon as a customer is on-boarded, they’re receiving updates and information based on behaviour and interaction. Another early initiative was around email-based offers.

“We send out deal emails based on the way people interact with the email, accept or decline an offer, and we change our marketing strategy around that,” D’Alessandro said.  

“What we do is find some customers paying well that had some money left on their master agreement, and send an offer to say here’s the money you have available, here’s an offer and a discount, go to your preferred dealer and rent more equipment. Usually that would involve someone building and reviewing a spreadsheet within marketing, sending to credit, then IT would look over it from a data quality POV, then load that manually into an email system, build templates and send it out. That process could take weeks.”

Nowadays, the team can complete an email campaign in less than 24 hours, including all marketing copy and approval from credit.

“That turnaround was pretty incredible and wouldn’t have been achieved without that automation,” D’Alessandro said. “That was really powerful in showing how quickly we can turn things around.”  

Historically, campaigns were also a matter of someone in marketing planning out on a calendar when to send content to customers. That time is now spent building customer journeys.

“For example, if a customer hasn’t signed the contract yet, we can send some information to tempt them,” D’Alessandro continued. “We did a customer and partner experience exercise, when we met with dealers and customers and talked about what drives them. We built all these personas and are starting to use those to drive marketing and drip campaigns. We can identify if someone is trying to build a bit of an empire in the hospitality industry, or doing it for their family, for instance.”

Four personas are being targeted: Empire builders, legacy builders, lifestyle seekers and passionate creates.

Selling into the business

With the business initially struggling to understand the power of marketing automation, D’Alessandro said showing workflows and how you can adapt the marketing strategy to customer behaviour was vital in the roll-out phase. Money and operational costs were also key, especially for a high-growth organisation growing 19 per cent year-on-year.

“We can’t just keep our operational costs at a linear rate; for us to reach the most partners we can, we couldn’t just throw more marketing people at it,” he said. “This has allowed us to do 3-4 times the campaigns we do with one-third the staff.”

Silver Chef is tapping analytics from its websites and integrating that with Pardot to build a clearer idea of customer experiences and respond accordingly.  

“We know if someone has been on our website looking at content, we can surface more of that type of content,” D’Alessandro said. “If they’re looking to start a café, we can provide more articles via email to help them get their knowledge up.”

Of course, there was plenty of trial and error. “The good thing with these platforms is you can see what works and doesn’t work,” D’Alessandro said.

“There was a lot of back and forth, close collaboration between tech and marketing. We added about 60 data fields in the first year just trying to understand how to use it. We also have to be very careful from a credit perspective to not market to people who can’t afford our product or who are oversubscribed.”

Pardot form handlers ensure that when someone submits a form, data goes straight into Salesforce and Pardot in terms of leads and opportunities. Every email also has tracking.

“That helps our content team in marketing to determine the best content and format,” D’Alessandro said. “We found, for example, that as we use more marketing automation, we want it to be short, sharp and quick to read. It’s changed the way we build content as a result.”

Silver Chef is looking to take the learnings from Pardot and integrate these back into the website.

“Over time, Salesforce is improving capabilities to integrate with CMS such as Wordpress and drupal, which we use, and we’ll use that to adapt the way we market to our customers,” D’Alessandro said.

The next project is a pilot of Salesforce Communities for Silver Chef dealers to give them access to loyalty programs, customer information, and contract that no longer need human intervention.

Tech and marketing collaboration

Through all of this work, technology and marketing’s relationship has been highly collaborative. It wasn’t always that way.

“There was a bit of overlap in terms of capabilities, so the lines were very blurred,” D’Alessandro said. “But we used that to our advantage. Rather than try to put a hard line of demarcation in, saying you don’t do that and we won’t do this, we’d have weekly standups with marketing, and my team would be in those meetings hearing what they’re doing not just in digital, but as general marketing, and bring that back to the team.

“When marketing says what attributes they’re looking to market to, we’d be in the room, saying we can give you this data set, and we’d have credit in there as well. That governance has given us a good rhythm where it’s a seamless integration between the teams.”

The appointment of a new global head of marketing this year, Kylie Kneale, has also brought technology and marketing closer together.

“I think Kylie had a hitlist of staff she wanted to poach from my team, but we agreed to keep them working together and all it’s working well,” D’Alessandro comments.

One area skills are being debated is around data analytics. Up until recently, IT was the analysts and there wasn’t a lot of capability out in the business.

“We worked out that it wasn’t feasible to have that capability in IT, it needs to be closer to the business,” D’Alessandro said. “Rather than just expand my data architecture in the team, we’d leverage that to educate other analysts and build that capability out in our teams.”

This saw Silver Chef build a financial analyst team, and it’s now doing the same for marketing.

“Once we have built the capability, it’s about collaboration,” he added. “We don’t want IT holding onto capability and being the gatekeepers.”

Read more of our in-depth case studies on marketing automation:

- Nadia Cameron travelled to Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.

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