Where Marketing Starts in Automation Approaches

  |  March 7, 2011   |  Comments

Marketers who want to optimize their automation investments must consider the entire scope of the marketing department functionality in setting up and managing the solution.

In traditional thinking, marketing starts at the program level. Most of us think in terms of specific campaigns or advertisements or events. However, marketing actually starts at the budget and accounts level; assigned by department, line of business, or geography. Marketing is an investment, and the deliverable is response or conversions. While we often think of automation technology as contributing to campaign management, marketers who want to improve productivity and efficiency must define success in terms of ROI across the entire marketing spectrum: a repeatable process from budget to analysis and back again.

In the past, it was hard to associate all these elements together. Technology enables us to connect the dots. Broadly speaking, the spectrum is straightforward. The marketing team plans a number of activities in order to reach a particular business goal like increasing e-commerce revenue or improving the quality of leads. Using marketing resource management software, each of those activities gets associated with some bucket of dollars (which could be internal funding or partner funding), and then campaigns and tactics get planned and purchase orders get generated. The technology allows workflows to be scheduled against specific milestones, so that each activity can be managed and tracked back to the budget assigned.

From a software perspective, marketing activities have two types of elements - expense categories and "projects." Within each project are many tasks - everything from approvals to outbound communications like e-mails or SMS or postcards. A sophisticated program will also attribute responses to particular channels at different rates and under unique business conditions. The simplest attribution model is first/last touch, but increasingly the limitations of that model inspires marketers to become more granular.

Each of those tasks has data outputs. So you have to control the specific tasks, but also the knowledge base that can help optimize future campaigns. This is where technology helps the most. Automation software lets marketing teams track, test, improve, and even reuse templates, segmentations, and lead nurturing, with best practices captured and optimized over time.

Marketers who want to optimize their automation investments must consider the entire scope of the marketing department functionality in setting up and managing the solution. This could include spend management, campaign management, workflow, digital marketing, and lead management.

If you want to achieve this 360-degree view, consider:

  1. Setting boundaries around scope that are clearly delineated for each business unit or channel. This helps eliminate recreating the wheel every time, and improves adherence to budget.
  2. A dashboard that can be customized to your KPIs and business objectives. Set up your automation software to assign each activity with business objectives in order to manage and report on activities and costs. If the objectives change, so too must the activities change.
  3. Role-based access - including a portal for remote/field access to finished documents for internal customers of marketing.
  4. Workflow that generates task lists - and processes that are logically and visually presented to give users of all sophistication levels a quick view of the main categories of steps. Sort of like the old "folder" system, but automated.
  5. Localization by region or project. This could be local currency, but also improves cadence or messaging to adapt to the regional or cultural habits of customers. Customers in China may respond better to fewer notices over a long time period than those in Australia, for example.

Why take such a long view for automation? Because CMOs and all executives want to see success aligned with corporate or line of business objectives. Utilize software because it thinks faster and more objectively than humans. Give the technology the opportunity to help the entire marketing department improve across the entire marketing spectrum.

Let us know if you are able to plan and execute marketing across this wider spectrum, or if you are still operating at the campaign level.

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Stephanie Miller

Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.

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