Marketing automation came roaring on to the scene this past decade with the rise of modern platforms like Hubspot, Adobe Marketing Cloud, Marketo, Pardot, and Eloqua. Even traditional email platforms like MailChimp and iContact got in on the action by offering new automation features to their platform. Some industries have fully embraced these tools as key elements of a comprehensive marketing program to both customers and prospects alike. Banks and credit unions have continued to struggle with the proper way to choose a software, integrate data, and leverage the full power of marketing automation for the various communication paths required to provide the highest level of service and achieve the highest level of profitability from relationships.
What Is Marketing Automation?
Honestly, it’s fancier than it sounds. And it’s existed in some form since the days of direct mail. But today’s top-of-market tools do a few things very well:
- Email Marketing : The bulk of activity in these platforms revolves around email. But this isn’t your parent’s email platform. No longer should you send large, static list emails to a group of people who have no interest in what you’re offering. You can use a variety of rules to deliver more personal, relevant, timely, and effective emails.
- Segmentation : For a long time, marketing segmentation was based on demographic and relatively vapid psychographic information. This type of segmentation harkens to the days of traditional market research. And many of today’s marketing automation platforms can turn this tired approach on its head, using detailed and dynamic segmentation styles that adjust based on a variety of behaviors (and do it automatically). You’ll find yourself thinking more about trends and less about static list pulls.
- Landing Pages : You may have used landing pages for various campaigns or specific communications over the years, but marketing automation tools accelerate the use of relevant (and often dynamic) landing pages. When someone arrives from a certain ad source or piece of content, their experience can be different. If you’re running a large ad campaign and want to test performance of certain messages or page elements, you can easily setup an A/B or multivariate test in these tools. Landing pages become much more than a one-off campaign tactic if leveraged properly inside marketing automation tools.
- Click Tracking : Marketers love a tracker, right? Well, not all tracking is meaningful, but a marketing automation tool could shift your thinking on what it means to “track the click.” If you are familiar with metrics like CTR (click-through rate) in advertising or CTOR (click-to-open rate) in emails, your new marketing automation platform can take you and your insights a few steps further with deeper insights on the channel mixes that are influencing your audiences, helping you plan and budget better.
- Dynamic Content : Relevance generation sets apart marketers today. The “right message at the right time” is a long-held advertising trope, but today modern marketing has reframed that to “the right message when the customer tells us it’s right.” Actions speak louder than words, right? Dynamic content is essentially the adjustment of images, words, links, and other content based on the characteristics and behaviors of a person. If they just originated an auto loan with you, would you rather serve them another auto loan email, article, or banner on your website? No, give them something meaningful or collect more information from them to deliver the next most meaningful service or content.
- Lead Scoring : Lead scoring, an activity rooted in CRM systems for many years, allows your marketing team to add different behavioral triggers to your marketing activities and easily pass appropriately warmed leads to associates who can serve a client need.
- Social Media Automation : Not all automation in social is good automation. Variability in social platform post standards create stretched or less than optimal posts. However, you can apply certain automations to posting and, most importantly, tracking the users who engage your bank or credit union via social channels. A better understanding of your audience on social can help you improve your content planning and production, ultimately improving the reach of your organic posts.
- Testing : Marketers rarely have enough time to launch campaigns, let alone test subject lines, landing page layouts, or content and messaging. Automation platforms can help reduce some of the testing setup burden, giving you two, three, sometimes even 10% lifts in effectiveness.
- Analytics : Automation platforms, if setup correctly, can serve as an important glue, connecting many of your previously disconnected marketing channels.
Keys To Installing and Effective Use
There are many keys to installing and effectively using marketing automation tools, but here are five of the most important.
- Develop your strategy before buying the software. Demo a variety of tools to understand capabilities, but discuss your internal goals for marketing automation and define those clearly beforehand.
- Clean your data. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but ensure you have clean, purposeful lists with the most important customer data that aligns with your previously defined strategies. This makes life much easier as your programs grow in size and complexity.
- Map your content and creativity. One of my favorite activities is working with clients on automation maps. These include details on the triggers, content, messaging, landing pages, and other creative considerations. Don’t start building in the tool to “see how it works.” Be intentional about mapping outside of the tool and collaborating with your team and/or agency partner. The building inside the tool will be much smoother thereafter.
- Define any key funnels and terminology. You probably have a few key digital applications or lead generation paths. It will be important to define these and setup tracking accordingly.
- Warm up. Not only will you need to warm your IP address before sending the first email, you’ll need to understand how to practically scale marketing automation over a two- to four-year period. You can still get some “quick wins,” but recognize you’re building programs and not campaigns, so the idea is the winning programs will scale over time.
Feels like a lot, right? It’s achievable, trust me. But you best path will be one well-informed by a deep understanding of what these tools can achieve and what your company wishes to achieve as well.