Archive for the ‘Marketing automation’ Category

Definition of Marketing Automation

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Earlier in the year I added a comment to a post on Mac McIntosh’s blog regarding his definition of B2B Marketing Automation. In essence, I returned to my oft-visited theme of the role of automation in bringing about agility, allowing Marketing to get on with its job. I was rather touched a few days ago to have my comments referred to in a post by Jep Castelein, on the Marketo blog, Marketing Agility and Marketing Automation. I know it seems like blatant self promotion, but I stand by my original comment and completely agree with both Mac and Jep’s posts, so I thought I’d share here!

Institute of Direct Marketing Business-to-Business Marketing Conference 2010

Friday, May 21st, 2010

This week’s Institute of Direct Marketing B2B Marketing Conference threw up a few thoughts and anecdotes, as usual. In answering the questions “Why bother with marketing”, Professor Paul Fifield from the University of Southampton suggested that seeking-out and identifying customer value through a number of approaches is they key. One of these approaches includes ensuring the organisation achieves alignment with the market by generating insight and reacting rapidly to it.

The theme of rapid reaction, and what I like to call agility, came up again in the session from Vodafone’s Head of Devices, Online and Campaigns, Deane McIntyre. Referring to the recent ash-cloud crisis, he described the campaign he and his team were able to rapidly put together and execute, thanks to their marketing automation platform and flexible processes. This ability to react is very much what I have in mind when I talk about creating a marketing environment that enables and encourages innovation, rather than leaving Marketing wondering how they’re going to get the job done.

I was also amused by Deane’s comment regarding inserting a degree of opacity around the Marketing process as far as Sales are concerned. “Don’t show Sales the engine,” he said, referring to the processes and systems used by Marketing to run campaigns and generate leads. Whilst transparency is generally the best approach, I’m always saying that, for instance, it’s best not to send Sales all the leads so they don’t get the opportunity to crititise the poor ones. A certain obfuscation never goes amiss… I was less impressed though with his admission that he tended to undertake limited measurement of marketing activity, in favour of “just doing it”. And this from a former accountant!

Matthew Palmer from Deloitte was less sanguine about measurement (as you might expect from a big consultancy), with advice for Marketing on engaging with Finance. This included ensuring budgets are actively agreed together to encourage buy-in and developing easy metrics to demonstrate success. He also suggested explaining why budget is being spent a certain way and linking outcomes to corporate targets – which after all, should be the point of Marketing, right?! In addition, some advice regarding making cuts in spending were he offered, including the avoidance of simply reducing all line items by the same percentage. Instead, examine what really can be done-without and what needs to be retained at full strength, he suggested.

A good day as always and well worth the investment in time.

How to take advantage of a recovery

Monday, February 8th, 2010

So, 2010 is well underway, and hopefully the difficulties of 2008/9 are slipping behind us. As business begins to pick up again, and budgets and activity levels are restored, everyone looks forward to getting back to business as usual.

Or perhaps not – perhaps there’s a better way.

Many Marketing departments shed staff last year, and although I’m not advocating a jobless recovery, there may be smarter ways of undertaking the activities some of those people may have been undertaking, rather than just throwing bodies at the routine challenges encountered by marketing. Here’s a few things to think about doing differently this year.

  • Data acquisition – When obtaining targeted contacts for marketing activity take a long term approach. Renting a list for a tactical campaign that’s coming up will not be successful; ongoing activity is the key. Spend time researching the right data source (see Business data and Sales prospecting tools on our Resources page) and if bespoke contact discovery is necessary, leave enough time. This also makes investing the necessary time and effort in properly handling the data more worthwhile: load the list into your database/campaign system, flag the source, track outgoing activity and record response (see point below). This allows the effectiveness of the acquired data to be measured much more readily.
  • Proactive data quality management – Avoid “a quick check of the data” being the last thing that happens before campaign execution. Data quality is an ongoing task and leaving it to the last moment will mean it’s always a panic activity that never gets done properly. Ideally, you should implement a true data quality programme and a suitable solution to monitor and maintain data (see previous posts Data quality – a vision and 6 data quality solution requirements). At the minimum though, use one of the many (not necessarily expensive) tools to identify issues on a routine basis and fix them as you go along. (See Data quality tools and consultancies on the Resources page.)
  • Joined up response management – Campaign execution, whether direct mail or email, is often carried out by external vendors, which is understandable. They can pull landing pages and micro-sites together quickly and easily, where perhaps building such facilities into your main website is onerous and time consuming. However, campaign reporting should take place within your existing processes so that it’s a business-as-usual activity, not an exceptional process that only a couple of people understand. If you are hosting you’re own landing pages, the same principle applies of course. Hopefully capturing such responses directly to your marketing database is relatively straight-forward (many systems have web-to-lead functions), but if it has to be manual, so be it. This investment in time will pay off when it comes to reporting and tracking.
  • Skills – Consider the expertise that is really required as activity levels rise and how best to obtain it. Rather than re-employ generalists, identify two or three step change projects and employ temporary specialists or agencies to get those changes achieved using what was, previously, salary budget. Once these programmes have been completed, review the skills you need before determining the types of roles required and taking on new permanent staff. Use this as an opportunity also to do some testing before deciding where to focus new spend. Again, this isn’t to discourage creating jobs for unemployed marketers, but experimenting and testing actually creates gainful activity that will bring the recovery forward, without requiring companies to commit too soon whilst it remains tentative.
  • Sales and Marketing database integration – Strive to ensure that your marketing system and the system your Sales team are using are linked together as closely as possible. Leads, once qualified, should appear directly in your SFA (sales force automation) system, not as spreadsheets or emails sent to Reps. Even better, share contact data between the two systems so that changes in either are immediately available to everyone. This should hopefully also help with tracking leads once they have been supplied to Sales, and eventually measuring the outcome of marketing activity.

As the recovery takes hold, let’s hope that marketing departments start hiring again, and put all that talent to work on creating effective campaigns.

With thanks to Kate Mayfield of Data & Mash for contributing to this post.

Email horror stories

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Recent personal experience and a story relayed by a client have prompted reflection on how to deal with marketing email activity that goes wrong. (Some readers of this blog may even have been unwitting participants in the former incident themselves!)

Launching a new online data capture solution, my own company planned a series of emails outlining the benefits of the service, each email highlighting a different aspect. Unfortunately, in preparing the second in the email series, the first email was accidentally resent to the same recipients that had already received it originally. Not once, but twice!

Now, had it been resent just once (this was ten days after the first email), we might have quietly delayed the second execution and pretended it was a deliberate “follow-up”. Those recipients that opened it would probably this was the case (which was the plan, it was just supposed to be a different message). But having sent two emails, ten minutes apart, we didn’t think that would wash. The question we asked ourselves was should send an apology (adding a third email to our beleaguered and much valued recipients’ in-boxes)? Doing so might be appreciated by those wondering why they were receiving so many emails from us, but equally might exacerbate the issue with others. Still more people, who might not even have noticed the resends, would have their attention drawn to it.

In the end, we decided to send the apology. It’s obviously exceedingly embarrassing when situations like this arise, reflecting badly on our competence in an area which is meant to be a core skill. However, we thought that honesty was the best approach and indeed in our email we referred to the debate we’d had before taking action. We also invited feedback on whether we’d done the right thing, and of the responses we received, the overwhelming majority agreed with our approach, with only one or two saying we’d made the situation worse!

Separately, a client was recently forced to take action after a member of his sales force sent an email blast, utilising Word and Outlook to undertake a “mail merge”, rather than using the company’s approved email broadcast facilities. This DIY approach, breaking just about every rule in the email marketing book from poor targeting to contravening anti-spam legislation, resulted in a complaint from a recipient to various executives, copying the the US Federal Trade Commission (not a career enhancing outcome for the sales guy!). The original email was also criticised for not making clear the nature of its commercial content (as required by relevant legislation). All in, the transgressions could have attracted $11,000 in fines, and the complainant also demanded that no further email be sent, not just to him, but his entire company, and that there would be no prospect of doing business with them.

My client’s (rapid) response was to write back, apologising for the incident, making various assurances about some specifics of what had happened but above all assuring him that lessons would be learned. The response? An appreciative reply, stating that, after all, their services would be considered in the future.

The outcome of all of this is that honesty is certainly the best approach to dealing with issues when they arise. Whilst the complaint made by the recipient of my client’s email that the subject line was misleading was arguably unfounded, it highlights the importance of not trying to obfuscate the intent of a piece of communications. And although we garnered some criticism for our apology, most people who replied appreciated the gesture. True, the naysayers in some cases aired suspicion over a publicity seeking conspiracy on our part, but it’s worth bearing in mind the old adage of never attributing to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity!

Adherence to process though is equally crucial to avoiding issues in the first place. In our case, a more rigorous approach to separating the subsequent executions of our campaign would have avoided the problem. Had my client’s sales rep used the email system supplied for him, there would be proper provision for issues such as unsubscribe handling, opt-out suppressions and sender identification.

Learning from our mistakes is of course another important lesson – but learning from other people’s is even better, so I hope this post has been useful!

Eleven Steps to kick off your CRM system project

Monday, July 6th, 2009

We’ve run many marketing automation projects over the years, both large and small. Here’s a simplified version of the methodology we use, and some hints around getting your project up and running!

1. Project Feasibility – an informal review to scope the potential project and set some expectations. This process might be no more than a short internal meeting, but at this stage you’ll not only be able to roughly size the project, but you’ll also have a good handle on the costs you’re currently incurring. Look at the organisation’s current levels of marketing activity, not only in departments carrying out marketing, but also Sales and other functions. Try and come up with some metrics such as spend (internal, number of activities, overall number of touches), and the programme objectives; customer acquisition, retention, up-sell/cross-sell. Don’t forget softer marketing activities such as newsletters sent by product or customer service groups.

You also need to get a rough idea of the data available, again don’t forget to look out-side the main marketing teams as well as internally. This usually means Sales, Finance (if there is no data warehouse), Customer Services and product management teams.

Add into the mix your organisation’s future needs, growth strategies, new products, desired improvement in customer experiences, structural acquisitions, as well as any predictable internal factors around people or structural changes.

Activity + Costs + Data Resource + Business Objectives are the inputs you’ll need do outline the project scope.

2. Initiate Project – you might have an internal project initiation process or it might be a more informal set of actions. But any successful project will need most of these components in place:

  • Business Buy-in – Your project is going to need or catalyse change in your business. Now is the time to get your directors or SVP’s on board. And don’t forget to keep up a dialogue with the guys in IT!
  • Project Champion (Board) – Someone with a stake in the project’s success and with enough political weight to fight your corner for resource and support
  • Project Manager – A good PM combines a detailed technical understanding with the oleaginous charm of a diplomat and the motivational skills of Madame Whiplash! They can be either from marketing or from IT or both! At times it’s going to be a full time job, so make sure they have the bandwidth.
  • Success Definition – Develop meaningful indicators of success; these might include  reduction in costs, improvement in productivity or trends in conversion costs. Keep them simple (at least what you share with the business) and realistic.

3. 1st Stage Requirements Definition and Data Audit Documentation

  • A high quality piece of work at this stage is vital to the success of the project; investment in time here will be repaid by a successful implementation many fold. When you start writing the cheques is too late to be finding  figure out that what is being delivered doesn’t meet your needs.
  • Clearly prioritise all key features; essential/desirable/optional. On any requirements document the nice-to-haves tend to take up the same amount of space as the need-to-haves.
  • Think about phasing; its likely any substantial project will be delivered (and paid for) in a number of stages; prioritise key deliverables, but you also need to work out the optimum structure to meet operational constraints.
  • Identify any internal process changes needed, this is another area that is easy to overlook or underestimate. Does this need to be a vendor deliverable or can the business handle it themselves?
  • The Data Aaudit doesn’t need to be exhaustive at this stage; but you need to have a very good handle on the inputs the system will need, files layouts where applicable, approximate record quantities, and source system dependencies. In any complex organisation it’s easy to underestimate the number of data sources needed for build and production. On one recent project the estimate was 18. The real number once an exhaustive process was complete? 61!

4. RFI/RFP to vendors (and internal Technology Group) – You may or may not have an internal IT resource who feel they can deliver a Marketing automation/CM project. One way to cut through the politics of this is to ask them to respond like the other vendors – make sure they price internal IT resources realistically.

5. Response evaluation and contract negotiation

  • Allow plenty of time for this stage; there’s nothing like seeing the figures on the table to focus the mind, and the vendor will be looking to safeguard their position. A successful negotiation will allow both parties to apportion the risk
  • Usually there will be a significant up-front cost for development. A guaranteed contract term will allow the vendor to amortise the development costs over the the period of the contract.

6. Project Plan and Timeline setting – Make this realistic but not too long. You need to be able to keep the momentum going, but its not great to forever be announcing delays. Try and structure the project to allow early wins; for example you may not need every single data feed to start gaining value from a single customer view.

7. Detailed Requirements and Data discovery

  • This should be straightforward process if you’ve got a good requirements price, but the vendor should respond to your functional prioritisation, allowing you to make informed choices before agreeing the statement of work.
  • Allow plenty of engagement time for Data discovery. You’ve probably lived with this data for a long period of time, but any external consultant or specialist is starting from scratch. You’ll also have to make knowledgeable internal data specialists available to the vendor; if you’ve got complete documentation on all internal systems and feeds, congratulations – that’s a first!

8. Development – Ensure configuration and customisation adhere to the agreed requirements and specification, without suffering from scope-creep (constant additions to the original functionality). Any such development should be minimised and every process or function scrutinised to gauge its real priority and whether “out of the box” functionality will suffice. Conduct regular review sessions with key stakeholders to demonstrate functionality and ensure it is on track.

9. Implementation and migration – Develop data migration and cut-over alongside functional development. Ensuring the right data is available in the new system from day one is critical and users will be unforgiving if it is not. Many CRM implementations fail due to data issues, including data quality. Will you migrate all data from legacy systems, or apply rules and filters? What is the data model of the new system compared to previous ones, will there need to be a mapping process.

10. Training ‘Go-Live’ – Don’t overlook training and plan well in advance of go-live. Avoid the temptation to just let users loose on a new system and learn it for themselves, but develop a proper training programme, with hands-on usage (even if it’s a late beta version) and plenty of exercises and review sessions. Aim to have training deliverables available (documentation, process guides or screen tutorials). Run post go-live sessions to re-cap key functions and answer any questions on general functionality arising as users start utilising the system.

11. Evaluation and On-going development – Conduct reviews to ensure the system is delivering the required functionality. Survey users for their opinion on usability, how much they’re using the system and any key missing functions. Does it make their job easier? Put aside resources to make enhancements post go-live – don’t expect the job t complete at this stage.

Engagement Marketing And Lead Management

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Spent a very interesting morning at the Silverpop B2B Masterclass in London yesterday. Hitting just the right balance of education and solution selling, there were some interesting presentations and good ideas. I thought it would be worth picking out a few in particular from the opening presentation by  Silverpop VP Will Schnabel. You can view the complete slideset on Slideshare, but here are some highlights.

  • Marketing extends further into the pipeline – in the past, potential customers would pick up the phone and ask for a sales rep to come round to explain your products. Now, the savvy purchaser reviews your products online, reads whitepapers and case studies, seeks references and gains an understanding of your product sector. These are all areas where Marketing is now required to deliver, so that by the time Sales are called in, the prospect is in a much more advanced stage of the purchase cycle. As such, Marketing must rise to this challenge and fulfill an education and sales preparation role, ahead of an actual buying conversation. Crucially, this also means “plugging the leaky funnel”, where prospects fall out before they get to the point of Sales engagement due to poor materials and general lead management.
  • Data capture – take web visitors through a sequence of data gathering steps rather than a one-off capture of everything you can think to ask. Responders will be turned off by very long forms with lots of questions, so ask for additional information at every interaction to build up a picture. It was suggested in the session that there probably isn’t a magic number of fields or forms to optimise this process – it may be unique to your business – so some experimentation may be required. And on the subject of data capture, don’t allow yourself to be locked into backend data processing requirements (such as field layouts), if it doesn’t suit the information you actually need. Also, consider utilising data capture techniques, the likes of which I’ve written about previously.
  • Lead scoring – this is a key element of lead qualification, using various criteria to determine the value of a lead and the appropriate next steps. These criteria can be grouped into three areas: demographic (contact role, type of organisation etc), “BANT” or the actual position of a prospect to buy, and activity (website downloads, event attendees, information requests). These techniques should be built into an overall lead scoring mechanism appropriate for your business to judge what is passed to Sales, and what remains within Marketing for ongoing nurturing.
  • Lead maturity model – a useful way to assess your own lead management sophistication, this four stage model suggests the areas that should be addressed for best practice lead management. Incorporating both demand generation activity itself, together with lead handling, it’s a valuable benchmark for your own activities. (Take a look at the slides for more details.)

In all, a worthwhile morning aimed at helping marketing secure one outcome in particular – “revenue velocity”, or increasing the rate at which an initial lead is converted to a sale, which must rank as a top priority for all marketers.

Salesforce.com, analytics, email marketing and financials – it’s all in the cloud

Monday, April 13th, 2009

The Salesforce.com customer conference in the UK this year took the form of CloudForce, a complimentary day of sessions and vendor showcases, held at London’s ExCel exhibition centre last week. It’s no revelation that Salesforce.com have long since moved on from simply being a salesforce automation developer. Today, they position themselves as “Force.com”, promoting the benefits of cloud computing – multi-tenanted, internet based computer platforms – that obviate the need to install software. Indeed, the “no software” message, and attendant logo of the word “software” with a line through it, was repeated at every opportunity. An amusing moment came when Paul Cheesbrough, CIO of The Telegraph Media Group, made reference to “your software” when joining Salesforce.com CEO, Marc Benioff, on stage during the main session. “Your platform I mean,” Cheesbrough quickly corrected himself, “there is no software.”
“Thank you,” replied Benioff.
“I saw it in your eyes!” quipped Cheesbrough.

The AppExchange platform that forms part of Saleforce.com offers a plethora of opportunities to expand the functionality of the base product. However, the ready integration capabilities of Salesforce.com and the Force.com application platform enable new possibilities, some of which I thought noteworthy. Force.com is particularly interesting, as it opens up the platform beyond Sales and Customer Service management to one that allows developers to create their own applications running on the Salesforce.com cloud infrastructure. To developers, Force.com represents the opportunity to deliver solutions based around the software-as-a-service ethos, without having to build the delivery infrastructure themselves. Adopters of these solutions, for whom not having to install software and maintain their own IT infrastructure is appealing, gain access to applications meeting their requirements that might not otherwise have made it to this delivery mechanism.

One such example is a complete accounting application from financial software developers Coda, called Coda2go. Based around their on premise solution, Coda2go runs entirely on the Force.com platform and integrates closely with Salesforce.com itself. I wrote recently about the considerations of integrating sales order processing within the sales and marketing “data ecosystem”, where I made reference to the point at which an Opportunity is closed and an order booked. With Coda2go, this process, together with resulting invoicing, is practically a one-click undertaking. Once the Opportunity is ready to be booked as a sales order, which would typically involve manually switching to a different system, all of the order details are picked up from Salesforce.com, transferred to Coda2go, invoices created and the rest of the accounting process put in train. I can’t speak to how good a financials solution Coda2go is, but this looks pretty neat!

Closer to marketing home, Cognos (now part of IBM) and QlikTech were offering Salesforce.com enabled versions of their analytics solutions. As well as enabling more sophisticated analysis, visual representation and dashboards than native Salesforce.com, these solutions will work across multiple data sources, holding out the prospect of unified marketing and sales reporting and analysis. Joining marketing data such as campaign execution, response and leads with converted opportunities and closed deals, the nirvana of true, operational marketing effectiveness reporting comes a step closer. Of course a variety of process implications still need to be considered, but at least data visibility is improved.

Finally, and firmly within the marketing realm, a couple of email campaign solutions and a data collection system caught my eye. Genius.com and ExactTarget both offer solutions for creating and despatching marketing emails with all the features you would expect, including HTML templates, personalisation, tracking and reporting. Naturally, this is integrated with Salesforce.com in terms of data management and reporting, making straightforward but relatively sophisticated email marketing very easy. Clicktools allows the creation of surveys, landing page and forms, enabling rapid generation of marketing response mechanisms, as well as questionnaires and so on. Between all of these solutions, it seems possible that best-of-breed marketing campaigns consisting of outbound email and rich landing pages with response tracking can be created relatively easily and inexpensively, without needing full scale and costly marketing automation solutions.

So, there you have my quick round-up of highlights from CloudForce ’09, all without reference to meteorology or having my head in the clouds. Doh! Too late.

Top 10 tips for sourcing marketing technology

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Just about this time last year, I outlined a fairly personal set of 6 crucial marketing automation system requirements that it was particularly important to us were incorporated into the system we were about to deploy. Business 2 Business Marketing magazine’s online companion site has just published an alternative take on marketing technology requirements which I thought complimented mine. Rather broader in scope, point four “Pilot your technology” particularly resonated with me, given its message of testing and phased roll-out, rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach (see “Testing, testing, testing” for my thoughts in this area.)

After the problems we’ve been experiencing this year, having rushed into production with key elements untested, this sentiment is particularly pertinent. Don’t let yourself think “I’m sure it’ll be alright” – if it can go wrong, it probably will!

Marketing automation training the fun way

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

In the world of corporate training, it’s easy to overlook a tenet which any primary school teacher relies on to do their job: make learning fun and you will be more successful. Well, it may not always be possible to translate this to a training room for the health and safety update, but how about a refresher on the new marketing automation system? That was our brief for the recent EMEA Marketing Team meeting, so we set about devising a slightly off-beat way of achieving it.

The venue was definitely going to help, as we were all convening at the Westin La Quinta Golf Resort & Spa in Marbella, Spain for two days of meetings and team building. As usual, I expect no sympathy for the windowless conference room we had to endure, but it provided additional motivation to get outside and complete our exercise. Grouping into two teams, this consisted of brainstorming a set of 2008 achievements so far, taking a team photo and putting it all together in a mini-email campaign to ourselves using Aprimo, the new marketing system.

The end results were not bad and hopefully everyone came away with a renewed interest in using the system for their forthcoming campaign activity. And it all felt like having fun at the same time!

Testing, testing, testing

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Implementation of the new Aprimo marketing automation solution (see 6 crucial marketing automation system requirements) has not been proceeding smoothly unfortunately, with a number of functionality and reliability issues recurring as we try to bed the system in. Hopefully these will be resolved soon, but what the experience has highlighted is the importance of testing before going into production with any system. This goes double (if not ten times) when deploying brand new software, as has been the case for part of our implementation.

When the professional services and consultants’ clocks are ticking, at the rate of tens of thousands of dollars a week, its tempting to cut them loose and go-live without completing testing as rigorously or comprehensively as warranted. This is a false economy though, and as with many things, it’s easy to launch in haste and regret it at leisure. The three most important considerations of any system launch? Testing, testing, testing!