Marketing automation (MA) is a broad term, used frequently to describe software platforms built for marketing departments to automate repetitive tasks such as sending email communications. MA has evolved since its basic beginnings into robust solutions, geared towards every type and size of business. Forward-thinking businesses are out-pacing their competitors by leveraging the next evolution of MA.
Today, MA generates a greater number (and better quality) of leads, helps sales teams reduce dependency on cold calling, shortens the sales cycle and improves marketing productivity. However, MA is far from perfect.
Unfortunately, MA primarily concerns itself with “lead” to “qualified lead” stages: meaning, half of the customers’ lifecycle is left untouched by the system. Additionally, most MA platforms ignore the fact that leads and contacts aren’t working their way through your campaigns in isolation. Every customer’s journey with your brand is different, perhaps similar, but never the same as another’s path. Assuming a campaign can dictate how customers interact with your brand is shortsighted and dangerous.
Many MA platforms still base their design and application on a purchase or purchasing funnel developed by E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Lewis’s four stages of the purchase process have been used by marketing and sales folk alike for over a century: Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. But the consumer and business buying processes have changed drastically since the purchase funnel’s inception. Consider Consumer Reports (published first in 1936), the Internet, online reviews and social media and their impact on how we made purchasing decisions in the ’80s, ’90s and today. It’s safe to say the funnel is outdated. Buyers don’t follow your process, they follow their own. Hint: Consider where you fit in the “customer’s funnel” or if it’s not a funnel, what is it?
MA platforms must move away from the antiquated funnel and focus on customer life cycles or stages. Instead of a “one size fits all” approach, MA software should allow for deeper segmentation so the right message reaches the right customer. Gone are the days of batch and blast emails. MA systems must now help organizations, not just marketers, to be smarter. Further, they must meet the buyer where they are in their journey and provide them with the right resources, information and experiences to ensure the brand remains top of mind and held in high regard.
An evolved MA solution helps organizations determine their ideal customer profile, who fits that profile and where they spend their time with their brand (website, social media, emails, etc.). In addition, data needs to be captured with regards to who is engaging with a brand, how they are engaging and at what point are they ready to make a purchase. With that, MA platforms can also detail who is not engaged, predict a loss in revenue and alert organizations to a lack of relevancy in their message and/or audience.
There are four key lifecycle stage metrics every business with a MA solution should be focused on in 2014:
In each lifecycle stage, an evolved MA platform will allow for different programs, campaigns and tactics with different goals, strategies, resources and processes. The platform’s analytics should present which tactics are more effective within each stage, making the marketer smarter. In addition, the MA solution should acknowledge “best fit” contacts, those contacts who are engaged and those who fit the customer profile, so sales teams can be smarter and more efficient. The result is strategically aligned sales and marketing teams who together shorten the sales cycle and drive revenue.
Businesses today need to meet their customers where the customers are – not where they would like them to be. MA platforms can assist in this endeavor. It’s time to improve the customer experience and maximize the lifetime value of customers.