If it were just the technology...

If it were only the marketing automation platform that mattered, everyone would be building and delivering intelligent, automated, customer experience programs. Well, not exactly everyone. Some organizations still believe Excel is the best campaign management tool and page views and traffic counts are the most important metrics. Their websites are static and their email bulk — one size fits all.

In the later half of the second decade of digital marketing, it is important to understand the role of process and methodology alongside technology. It is critical to make sure you’re not simply applying new tools to an old problem. Only then will you be ready to digitally transform your marketing.

Ask yourself how many segments do you market to? If the answer is more than 10, or fewer than three, you’re probably missing the mark. If your channel strategy is to send direct mail — both print and email versions — with personalization defined as “Dear <insert name here>,” your conversion rates are most likely below single digits. And if your mobile strategy consists of shrinking your website down to fit on a smartphone, you’ll do fine with the 47-49 year old demographic. Any older and their eyes will be giving out, any younger and they’ll simply click away.

Now let’s look at your marketing operation. How many touches does it take to produce a customer list? How often is that list refreshed or cleansed? Who does it and how much does it cost? Are all your lists homegrown or are they purchased or rented? How many steps does it take to append your lists? Who does that job and how much does that cost? In other words, is your operation heavily manual, irregularly updated and generated without regards to customer value or insight? If so, you need to overhaul your strategy before you implement costly technology.

It All Starts with Data

All the marketing pundits say you need to be data-driven. But most have trouble defining what that means and how you go about making your business data-driven. There are fundamentally two kinds of data in the world of customer experience: content data and customer data.

Customer data includes all the traditional demographic information used for years as well as the historical and transactional data typically captured by sales or finance. It can also include behavioral, contextual and attitudinal data captured by e-commerce and CRM systems. Increasingly unstructured social data is added to the mix through the marrying of social handles and email addresses. All of this is compiled and stored in complex datamarts, curated and aggregated by data services and made available to campaign management and marketing automation tools via APIs or other forms of integration.

While most marketers and IT pros are quite familiar with the components and qualities of customer data, the concept of content as data is relatively new. While the conversion of text to binary is straightforward, the capture of meaning is not.

It requires a semiotics approach to content. Semiotics, or the study of meanings, when applied to social intelligence provides the lens by which we can aggregate ideas or themes and capture them as data. These take the form of defining content archetypes, which can be translated into attributes. In other words, content and the meaning behind the content becomes a new form of data, content data.

It is through combining the two types of data, content and customer, that marketers gain the building blocks of contextually relevant customer experiences. And more importantly, it supplies the means to automate the process.

Omnichannel Distribution via Dynamic Publishing

Delivering the right content to the right person at the right time has been the Holy Grail for marketers for some time. In today’s world, one must add to that list of “rights": right channel(s), on the right device(s) over the right platform, to produce the right outcome.  Customers no longer fit into the nice neat boxes we’ve tried to place them in. They jump from channel to channel.  They want different things at different times and they’re just as likely to abandon you in a micro second if something else captures their attention.

We’ve identified the two types of data and understand that the ways in which they can be combined is almost infinite without having to create an infinite set of assets. The trick now is how to use that data to deliver the right combination that comes to life as a contextually relevant customer experience. This is where marketing automation comes in. And in this context, marketing automation includes the technologies associated with digital asset management, personalization, content management, CRM and campaign management, not to mention tools connected with email, search, display advertising and social.

The right mixing of content and customer data is the function of personalization, using either a rules-based decision engine or the emerging category of real time personalization. Once mixed properly, publishing or distribution happens via the content management system (CMS) connected with a campaign management system. Because we are talking in terms of data, this selecting and distributing can be fully automated, eliminating the need for significant resources, time and costs.

The reduction in time to market alone will justify the expenditure and the increased conversion rates and campaign performance will dramatically improve the ROI and produce more engaged and loyal customers.