Epicor looks to technology as lines blur between B2B and B2C marketing

AI-powered chatbot returns eight times the investment in 60 days

Business software provider, Epicor, has its eyes trained firmly on the future – and the future is AI-powered technology.

Following a successful 60-day trial of an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot in a single location, which returned eight times the investment in 60 days, Epicor is setting its sights on expanding the chatbot globally. And that’s not all. The business is also looking at using AI technology in its customer support, while improving its data hygiene for better data accuracy.

“We will be looking at our data management platform, so we can track all of the activities going on beyond just the marketing platform, but across all the signals we’re seeing in digital ad placements, content placement, events, so we can drive the orchestration of omni-channel,” Epicor CMO, Colleen Langevin, told CMO.

“Data is key, and we are investing in data hygiene and data cleanliness moving forward. It’s never going to be perfect, and our data accuracy is pretty good. But there is ROI for us to get it from 80 per cent to 90 per cent or even 95 per cent.

“My dream for marketing is a world where I can understand and automatically adapt orchestration across all channels in a dynamic way, based on what is actually performing in market and have that be recommended to my marketers, so they don’t have to do the analytics. I still think you’re going to need a human to make a decision at the end of it, you have to have context, but in a more strategic and advanced way.”

Is it B2B or B2C?

Epicor provides industry-specific software designed to fit the needs of manufacturing, distribution, retail and service industry customers. With 3500 staff, the global company offers its software in 35 languages.

Langevin said a key challenge Epicor is facing is how quickly B2B marketing is transforming to be more like B2C marketing, with personalised targeting and segmentation, which requires better analytics, as well as technology to allow scale and a level of sophistication based on different vertical segments.

Currently, its marketing is comprised of a combination of direct and indirect activities, Langevin explained.

The direct strategy varies. For manufacturing, the strategy is similar to other B2B or B2C technology companies, with a lot digital advertising, direct advertising, and highly targeted content marketing and thought leadership to educate buyers and get in front of sales cycles, and discuss where industry trends are going and how Epicor meets those trends.

“For the aged care living customers, it’s a much more concentrated and targeted industry, so our marketing is more relationship-based. We will still have thought leadership and content marketing and digital ads, but these are a smaller portion of the mix, versus the event and more relationship-based marketing we’re doing. What we do does depend on the maturity of the market,” she said.

“What we do is constantly changing. We look at different social platforms and how they are being used for the business buyer and business audience, different advisory sites, and different analysists and influencers. It’s a constant evolution, and on a quarterly basis we do a reset and adjust and move forward.

“It’s a lot more dynamic than it used to be. It used to be you’d write a marketing plan and be able to execute it. But now, if I write a marketing plan beyond Q1, it’s a reservation for money, because what we expect to happen never goes as planned in this age where we can get that feedback more quickly. We are in continual testing and planning modes, allowing us to be a lot more agile.”

As a metrics-driven organisation, Epicor is constantly looking to new technology, and adjusting what it can do to succeed, but it hasn’t come without challenges.

Langevin said the team is using Marketo and various technologies for account-based marketing. It's also just implemented a new CMS on its website, which will allow for do one-to-one personalisation.

"We are going from mass marketing to one-to-one marketing based on propensity to buy and actual buying behaviours," she said. “A challenge when implementing technology is getting the most out of the system. There is an education curve internally with your marketers, but we are continually educating our field marketers on what levers they can pull and how the technology can help them.

“We are a quantitative-based organisation, as much as possible, we do have live interactive dashboard so our marketers can see how they are performing, so we can have that real time feedback and make those adjustments." 

Metrics make-up

Many metrics are then being used to measure success. "We are lucky, we have a strong partnership between sales and field marketing organisations, which allows us to localise our strategies and adapt them to the regions," Langevin continued.

"We track conversions, the cost of acquiring a lead, average sales price and how that’s trending, velocity of the pipeline - all of those measurements which result in revenue comes out of marketing. Epicor also tracks NPS, search engines, inbound leads, and we are constantly looking at what levers we can pull, which will add up over time."

In terms of strategy, Epicor focuses on macro-market trends it strives to educate customers on, such as the cloud or AI or digital transformation. Of course, what that means in Australia is different to China or other countries.

“Marketing here generates anywhere from 70-90 per cent of the pipeline, but I also attribute that to the close partnership between sales and local field marketers and being very agile in strategy and adapting to local marketing conditions quickly," Langevin added. " We don’t have to wait to the end of the pipeline close to adjust our marketing, our sales cycles can last 12 months plus, so if we wait we’ve lost two years.

“We do the pilots, collect those learnings, and if it works we scale it immediately. This is also good for getting more investment into marketing.”

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