Picture this: you walk into your favorite restaurant and the host greets you with, “Hello <First_Name>, <Last_Name>. Welcome Back.” 

Would you expect the meal that followed to be closer to a microwave dinner or a Michelin Star tasting menu? Popped in the microwave for two minutes or well-crafted portions of delicious? 

The outcome of any marketing automation is only as good as the ingredients you put into it. Marketing automation takes more than inserting someone’s name into an email to "personalize" it. 

In other words, just because you automated a process doesn’t mean that it was a good process to begin with. 

The Impossible Marketing Dream?

Marketing automation at its best nurtures prospects down the path to purchase, using customer data that provides customers with content they value at the right moment in the right channels.

It sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, marketing automation too often takes the form of emails using a batch and blast approach (the microwave version: First Name, Last Name>Send) 

According to Sirius Decisions, 85 percent of B2B marketers using a marketing automation platform feel they’re not using it to its fullest potential. 

Buyer Beware

Beyond email marketing engines, true marketing automation can include campaign management, predictive scoring, analytics, social marketing, segmentation, dynamic landing page creation, personalization, behavior tracking and more. 

Successful marketing automation relies on clearly defined objectives, ownership, the right technology mix and a single-customer view. 

Keep in mind the data you need to automate marketing processes are often held in CRM, ERP, file systems and spreadsheets, integrating these systems and data points is an important consideration when adopting any marketing automation. 

With the proper preparation, and an understanding of opportunities and limitations, selective marketing automation can synchronize and simplify implementing a marketing strategy across social media, email and websites. An integrated marketing automation tool will automate some tasks, but its power lies in its ability to gather and use customer data to serve up personalized content. 

6 Ingredients for a Great Digital Experience

1. Customer insight

One of the clearest benefits of marketing automation is its ability to harness the many different sources of customers information. By centralizing CRM data (demographics, language preferences, location, etc.) with active customer activity (newsletter subscriptions, purchases, account activity, payments, click activity, device preferences per channel, etc.), organizations set themselves up to truly customize the customer experience.

2. Content insight

Rather than auto-generating content, tools that provide keyword and tracking insight, social media analytics, IP lookup and more can help organizations make better choices and prioritize topics and content that engages qualified interest. This feeds directly into the content creation process.

3. Channel insight

Whether inbound website traffic, social media, Google search recommendations or third-party websites, the ability to track the customer journey across channels identifies important trends about who consumes what kinds of content where.

This positions marketers to make strategic choices about how they deliver and amplify content across channels. Also included in this process is the ability to tailor channel content based on location and language preferences, creating greater local relevance for global customers.

4. Lead gen and tracking

Once an anonymous visitor provides you with their data and becomes a known customer, you can track relevant data points and predict their behavior. You can use your CRM and its customer data to identify key conversion points (think click-stream, page visits, email opens and CTA-responses per channel).

In addition, to better qualify leads, marketing automation can further score prospects using research data such as company size, contact role and other qualifying data, disqualifying some leads, and placing others as priority. This type of automation goes a long way in reducing the amount of time a sales representative may otherwise spend researching a prospect.

5. Iterative improvements

The long-term benefit of marketing automation tools is the ability to test and improve marketing strategy and tactics based on data. A/B testing, unsubscribes, click-throughs and form submission tells you something about your audience — providing valuable information for continual improvement.

6. Dynamically delivered content

The ideal marketing automation integrations combine customer data with content assembly and delivery to multiple channels. Combining the power of CRM data with dynamic content delivery can automate targeted digital experiences. This includes not only the content that is served, but also things like default languages, product merchandising and content messages specific to their role, past behavior and predicted behavior.

The most important integration is with the company CRM system since it will identify which actions resulted in success for which customer segments. By nurturing and qualifying leads, creating information about customer behavior, scoring leads and creating a more relevant online experience, the more targeted and strategic future marketing and sales activities can be.

It All Comes Down to Customer-Centric Content

Marketing automation can deliver personalized content or targeted offers, categorize and segment customers, optimize content by enabling testing and integrate channels. But it’s success or failure lies in matching customer data with quality content. 

More specifically, delivering the right content, to the right customer at the right time in the right channel is where marketing automation meets the digital experience. 

Like a meal made of sawdust versus a meal created from farm-fresh ingredients, an organization’s marketing automation success relies on using great ingredients.

Title image "fake smile" (CC BY 2.0) by  efleming