Jeff Erramouspe’s section, You Need Good Technology, But…, in The Quintessential Marketing Automation Guidebook, made us all stop and think about the need to plan our business process before we implement marketing automation. I went back to ask Jeff [aka my boss] a few more questions to expand upon his 3 elements—objectives, planning and professional support—in order to help you gain some additional insight. In this interview Jeff discusses a few things you won’t want to overlook, how to hire the right expert and ensuring you can scale should be included in designing the process your marketing automation system will support.
CD: What opportunities afforded by marketing automation are most often overlooked by marketers?
JE: I see many marketers looking at marketing automation as only a way to improve what they already do. In reality, implementing a marketing automation platform is really an opportunity to reevaluate the way in which leads are generated, nurtured and integrated into the sales process. This is not to suggest that marketing automation platforms won’t improve the efficiency of the programs they already run, but there is a lot more out there that it can impact.
For instance, using a graphical tool to define a lead nurturing program creates a platform to discuss every piece of content used in that nurturing program and how it will impact conversion rates through the funnel. I often observe marketers simply using existing content and dropping it into simple nurturing programs without truly measuring the impact of those programs. They need to think more strategically about what they want their nurturing program to accomplish and how each step will move them toward that goal.
Once they’ve started thinking this way, the next great opportunity is to design and implement actual tests on how different factors affect conversion rates. For instance, you could define and implement a nurture process. Then, you could clone that first nurture and change the messages or content that’s delivered at each stage. Now, test those nurtures on two different sets of leads. Which one has the highest conversion rates? What happens if we eliminate a touch, or vary the time between touches? Based on that information you can truly optimize your process. This is the kind of testing that consumer marketers do all the time, but we rarely see B2B marketers implement such rigor.
CD: What questions would you suggest a marketer ask of a process or technology expert to evaluate their capabilities before engaging them to help design a business process supported by marketing automation software?
JE: My first questions would be:
- Have you done this before?
- What were the results?
Experience here is key. I’d also want to understand how the expert thinks. Can they think analytically about what the process is trying to achieve and how to define the steps to get there? I’d get very nervous if they immediately started talking about all the cool design things they could do. Good design guidelines for landing pages and e-mails are important, but lots of people know how to do that and those guidelines are well established. Rarer will be the people who know how to think about these problems in a process-oriented way. Finally, I’d ask them if they knew how to design a testing program like what I described in the first question. If they can, then you’ve probably got someone who will really be able to help you.
CD: When developing an iterative business process evolution, what are some keys to ensuring that your marketing automation platform will allow you to expand as you evolve your process?
JE: Clearly, the ability of the platform to scale is a key factor. If you have lots of success the number of contacts, lists, e-mail templates, landing pages, etc… will increase dramatically over time. You will need a system that not only can handle the large numbers but has an interface that makes it easy to manage those large numbers of items as well as keep them organized in a logical manner. You will need a system that can execute nurture processes in real time or near real time. There are some platforms in the market that execute nurture programs in a batch mode, taking new actions every 4, 8 or even 24 hours. This can impact system performance and will not give you the best results when it comes to responding to customers in real time.