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Marketing Automation: 3 Key Tips To Make It Work For You – And Your Customers

Marketing automation promises to make email marketing more responsive to customer needs and actions. Rather than sending the same message to a flat list of customers, you send different messages to individuals based on their response, their behavior on your website and their purchases.

Done well, it works.  I recently bought a new MacBook but didn’t have time to switch over to it for a couple of weeks.  A week or so after I did switch, though, Apple sent me an upsell email with the subject line “The best MacBook Air accessories.”  A lot of thought had gone into the timing and content of that message, and as a customer I appreciated that Apple understood that I would need time to discover for myself I needed a more stylish laptop bag before trying to sell one to me.

Apple knows what I need, when

Not many companies have Apple’s resources and reach, but this got me thinking about our own experience working with marketing automation systems like Eloqua and Marketo in the past year.

Here are the top three tips we’ve discovered for making marketing automation work:

  1. Marketing automation is not automatic. It requires more marketing work — strategic, creative, tactical and analytical — not less, and that work is a great deal more sophisticated and technical than the list marketing that we’ve all been doing for years.
  2. Focus on customer touchpoints rather than internal processes. The whole point of marketing automation is to provide a responsive, good experience to the customer, one that meets his needs and eventually leads to revenue.  It’s not to rationalize your business or reallocate who owns what data. Your business goals and processes are extremely important, but marketing automation isn’t going to fix them if they’re broken.
  3. Be extremely flexible about what data you collect, when. Do you really need a customer’s zip code when she registers to download a white paper?  Take an aggregative, rather than comprehensive, approach to data collection.  Not only will this make the customer experience better, but also put your focus on what really matters (how your customer is interacting with you) rather than on what probably doesn’t (5 digits which may or may not indicate her location).

What’s your experience with marketing automation?  Let me know what you think.