Improve the customer journey with marketing automation

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29, January 2015

Obtaining 118% higher opening rates with mailings, more than doubling the turnover from these  mailings, as well as making more efficient use of the available content. It is not surprising that the concept of Marketing Automation was already included in the trend lists of 2013 and 2014. And in 2015 it will be on the agenda of many companies. Still, not every marketer knows what the true impact is of marketing automation. Therefore, a brief explanation follows.

Marketing automation is synonymous with managing the increasingly complex marketing and sales processes. It helps marketing and sales together to create the path of least resistance for prospects by sending the right information at the right time, based on the right triggers.

The one-to-one future

Back in 1994 Peppers & Rogers already predicted ‘The One to One Future’. 21 years later we are finally able to technologically shape the one-to-one dream. In 2015, most companies are still far from successful in actually applying this. In all honesty, is your organisation already really distinguishing between communicating with customers and prospects?

The goal of marketing automation is to identify all the steps a (potential) customer takes during his customer journey and to automate this process where necessary. In doing so, you lower the barrier to continue to the next step in the customer journey. Marketing automation allows your organisation to communicate with customers on a 1-to-1 basis, so that each customer receives the personal attention he or she needs.

At Webpower we have developed a lead management model that, tongue-in-cheek, compares the lead process with the dating process. You don’t suggest sleeping together on the first date, barring exceptions. The same applies to the request for an order during first contact. The Webpower REAL model distinguishes four phases of communication with leads and customers.

Phase 1 Reach: Building a database

Who is your target group? What do you communicate to the target group and how do you make sure that your message stands out from the mass of messages received by your target group on a daily basis?

The main objective at this stage is to bring potential customers into contact with your brand and to get permission from them to be able to send them your business communications. In this phase, for example, marketing automation can be used to automatically record data from prospects. This way you also ensure that you don’t miss out on any valuable information prospects give you.

Unfortunately, in reality we frequently see that companies invest in their presence at trade fairs. They actively collect information from prospects. But after the fair, little or nothing is done with this information. Sounds familiar? You can use marketing automation in this situation to carry out a structured follow-up. First you enter the data of the prospect into the system, which will automatically create a profile with characteristics. In this case, the characteristic is that this person has been introduced to your company at the fair. You can record in the marketing automation software that all people that have contacted your company at the fair receive an automatic e-mail thanking them for their visit. This e-mail contains a double opt-in question as to whether they wish to receive communications from your company. You increase the probability that they give permission if you present them with an exclusive trade fair offer. In a follow-up e-mail you can, for example, inform them about a presentation that you are giving next week.

Obviously, there are also potential customers that do not visit the trade fair, but who do follow your company through social media. As part of the campaign, you can also integrate the same communications on social media, and include prospects in the trade fair campaign this way. Obviously, they do receive a slightly modified message, because they were not at the fair.

From the moment the data of a prospect have been entered into the marketing automation system, the prospect receives relevant information about your company and, based on data, the automated system selects different campaigns the prospect can participate in. By implementing this method of marketing, you can better segment prospects and effectively assess the interests and sales potential.

Phase 2 Engage: enriching the digital customer profile and offering relevant content

Thanks to the marketing actions, you now have a database with potential customers. They have already received some general messages from you. Now it is important to determine which product best meets the needs of the prospect, so you can further stimulate interest. To achieve this, it is important to segment the target group.

This segmentation can be done automatically. You save the information about the prospect in the customer profile. The conversation at the trade fair or the theme of the trade fair stand, for example, provided an insight into their needs. You also follow which articles from your e-mail newsletter someone reads and which ones he doesn’t. And you record which pages of the website he has visited. At the same time, you tag all content. If the system detects that one of the prospects is suddenly looking for a lot of information on a specific subject, he or she will automatically receive a mailing with personalised content and a powerful call to action, aimed at conversion.

Phase 3 Activate: convert the prospect into a customer

This way, we automatically end up in the third phase, that of activation. Sometimes it takes slightly longer than other times. Prospects who show little or no activity or do not leave additional data can still be of interest to your company; it’s just that at the moment these prospects are not ready to convert to paying customers. They still need more information, which you can provide through newsletters, whitepapers, blogs, a recommendation from another customer and so on. With each action, try to collect as much information about the prospect as possible. This is also called progressive profiling. This can be done automatically as well, for example by asking the prospect for certain information in exchange for downloading a whitepaper.

Obviously, it does happen that a prospect in principle does not actively respond to e-mail communications. In that case, try traditional mail, a text message or a push notification. These channels can be used fully automated with marketing automation as well.

There are also prospects that show all purchase signals, but who still fail to take the final step to convert to customers. Apparently, they are interested in your product but something stops them from making the purchase. In that case, you can involve the sales department. Forward this prospect automatically to sales, while providing the account manager with all relevant information (the information this prospect has read, the actions he has taken, etc.). It is now up to your account manager to convert this prospect into a customer.

In addition, there are customers who have suddenly stopped reading and clicking on your e-mails. These prospects are probably no longer interested in your products at the moment, but this does not mean that they cannot convert into a customer in the future. For this target group, it is important to keep providing them with general information on the developments within the company and its products. Once they show interest again, you can automatically include this target group in the desired campaign.

Phase 4: Leverage: stimulating up-selling and cross-selling

Once prospects have been converted into customers, it is important that they remain customers. You do that by monitoring which marketing activities have been successful and which haven’t. And by determining which follow-up need these customers may have. In that case, the communications must be adjusted accordingly.

Suppose, you have an online photo shop and the customer has bought an expensive SLR camera. From that moment, you can
send this customer specific tips and tricks that are relevant to the camera he purchased. After having used it for two months, it is relevant to make an offer for an extra battery or a tripod. And after six months, the customer is perhaps interested in purchasing an additional lens for the camera. Merely because you know which camera this customer owns, you can make a specific offer. An offer that is super relevant to the customer. The beauty is that the customer feels valued and therefore is also more open to the idea of writing a review, for example. Anyone who receives attention often returns the attention.

Improve the customer journey

Through this blog post I hope I have been able to paint a good picture of marketing automation and the role of this tool in improving the customer journey. The power of marketing automation is to guide the customer journey by providing relevant information based on where the specific prospect or customer is in his journey. This cannot be achieved manually. Marketing automation not only makes this much more efficient, but it also makes it much less prone to error.

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