Archive for the ‘Marketing automation’ Category

6 crucial marketing automation system requirements

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Go-live of our new marketing automation system, Aprimo Enterprise, is rapidly approaching. I’ve just returned from a week’s user acceptance testing in Bedford, Massachusetts and general training is planned in the next few weeks. The launch will be the culmination of a significant project, involving the collection of requirements from the many business units across the company, integration of over 600 existing website data capture forms and implementation of relatively complex lead routing rules. Whilst these requirements have long been documented in great detail, here are some of the key elements that should considered vital for most marketing automation solutions.

  1. SFA integration – customer and prospect data, together with leads, are the lifeblood of sales and marketing activities and need to be shared with the utmost efficiency. As such, a robust connection between the marketing system and our chosen SFA solution, Salesforce.com, is crucial. Perhaps surprisingly, this is something that the existing, in-house developed system already has, so replicating this functionality is a given if progress is to be made. (I say surprising because so many organisations struggle with this, maintaining separate sales and marketing data “islands”, creating huge issues for ensuring the latest data is being shared and properly utilised.)
  2. Data import – loading external data, including event delegates, purchased lists and enquiries from third party websites, into a marketing database is an ongoing activity, making the ability to do so quickly and easily a significant operational benefit. This should ideally be as flexible as possible, in terms of file layouts and matching criteria, together with data quality maintenance such as address standardisation and general validation.
  3. Segmentation – it goes without saying that creating campaign execution queries needs to be as straightforward as possible. This functionality though should extend to the flexible creation of cells or sub-segments, including intelligent “cascading” of contacts based on a selection criteria priority. This is at the heart of customised and relevant, as opposed to one size fits all, marketing activity.
  4. Email execution – email is inevitably the most utilised communications channel in business to business marketing, necessitating capable and flexible execution. This should include support for templates and standard elements (logos, graphics etc) together with personalisation and customisation, for taking advantage of the segmentation capabilities driving relevant communications.
  5. Form handling – all website data capture should ultimately flow back into the marketing database, so minimal, if any, manual intervention should be required. In addition though, outbound marcoms (specifically email, but ideally print direct mail too), is frequently likely to link back to a landing page or microsite with a data capture mechanism. Again, this should be seamlessly integrated and in the case of a form arrived at via an email click-though, must be pre-populated (it’s infuriating to have to key in all your details again when you’ve just received an email from a company purporting to know who you are!).
  6. Database access – often overlooked, the ability to query and modify individual contact and organisation records within a marketing database is hugely beneficial. It’s tempting to think that all data will be extracted en mass as a list or email broadcast selection and that it never needs to be dealt with individually. This is rarely the case though, and as inevitable issues and queries arise, minor updates required and verifications needed, the ability to quickly look-up individual records makes life much easier.

This is by no means a comprehensive set of requirements of course, and vast amounts of detail lie behind even these points. These should be the “table stakes” though for any services enterprise marketing automation solution. Anything else is cutting corners!

Why it’s important to integrate your database and email marketing

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

We use external email service provider eMarket2 for all of our email marketing execution in EMEA, whose web-based, template-driven self-service SalesTalk system is very easy to use for the creation of standardised HTML emails. Using a provider like this has lots of benefits, not least deliverability, as they take care of black lists, spam honeypot addresses and other considerations. Contrasted with the uncertain deliverability of our email marketing in the US, it’s seems to be working well for us in EMEA.

eM2 would of course very much like us to utilise the database functionality of their system as our primary marketing data repository, but this just doesn’t fit in with our wider requirements and workflow. As such, we need to ensure a good level of integration with our Onyx system to maximise efficiency and the best-in-class data management. Again, eM2 have an application programming interface (API) which they’re keen for us to utilise for this purpose, but the idea of trying to initiate a project of such sophistication in the midst of the prevailing SFA review isn’t compelling! So, I’m putting a slightly more ad hoc process in place involving batch data transfers and overnight updates, all of which should be automated. Why go to this effort in the first place though?

  • Email lists should be refreshed from your marketing database for each piece of activity, ensuring it reflects the most recent data and appropriate selection possible. This is particularly important for observing opt-outs and avoiding emailing old or invalid addresses, which affects your spam ratings.
  • It’s important that all outbound activity is tracked in your marketing database in order to build up the touch history of your marketing communication. Pulling emails lists directly from the database is likely to be the most efficient means of achieving this.
  • Delivery results, including bounces, opens and click-throughs should be returned to the database as part of your tracking. Bounces are crucial for flagging out of date addresses and individuals that have moved on, together with the spam considerations just mentioned. Opens and clicks let you track the behaviour of your recipients, which can be utilised in future activity. For instance, you could differentiate messaging for individuals who previously opened a message or visited a landing page.
  • Depending on your unsubscribe mechanism, it’s also crucial to ensure that opt-out requests are fed back to your database in a timely manner.

With these processes in place, operating largely transparently to our marketing programme managers, I’m confidant that email marketing effectiveness will improve over time.

The secret to CRM & Marketing data management?

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

If you’re a reader of marketing data consultancy Marketing Improvement‘s informative email newsletter, you may remember an article entitled “Decouple The Data – the secret to CRM & Marketing?”. In the piece, marketers are encouraged to take a copy of data from core applications and use it for campaign execution in a more flexible tool. It’s a common and compelling approach but it has drawbacks that I felt were somewhat glossed over.

It’s certainly the case that marketing departments are “always experimenting with new ideas, new sources of data and new segmentation” and as such need the kind of flexibility and lead times which corporate IT systems cannot offer. In fairness, the demands made by marketing campaign managers sometimes make me cringe, but this is a dynamic discipline which must be able to respond to events. Consequently, adding a new field or even a value to a look-up list can become necessary at short notice but which could represent months on an IT development road map. Marketers can’t wait!

Marketing Improvement’s solution is to “decouple the data”, taking a copy from central systems and setting up regular data feeds to a marketing database. They do make it clear that such a system should not exist in isolation, but this is to simplify the issue. How frequent will the update feeds be? Who will provide them? Can you easily make changes? Will you be sent just new and amended data or everything? Who will load this data? How will any changes made in the marketing database (such as privacy updates or address corrections) be sent back to the central system?

Implementing a stand alone marketing database is often the right approach, allowing Marketing to get on with its job unhindered. But think carefully before abandoning an existing corporate system that with a little effort can be coaxed into meeting your needs.

When Sales ask why a key contact didn’t receive the mailer that just went out and you have to start explaining arcane data processes, you may reflect that you don’t have the best solution!