What do you get when you lock a group of marketing automation vendors on a panel and start by asking “what makes some of your customers succeed using your technology while others struggle?” Well, you get yet another lively 45 minute AppForum discussion. Jennifer Matt, strategic consultant at Web2Print Experts drove the discussion around what it takes to succeed in using marketing automation technologies with representatives from MindFireInc, Pageflex by Bitstream, XMPie and Page Technology.
Here’s what she asked:
What attributes or actions differentiate printers who succeed with marketing automation technology?
The unanimous response was to forget about the technology until you have a plan. You don’t need to have a fifty-page strategy document, but you do need a marketing automation business plan that your entire organization understands and supports. Before diving into the technologies surrounding marketing automation, successful companies have very clear, crisp answers to questions like:
- What is the desired outcome? And that outcome better be in terms of revenue and profitability – not about features like QRCodes and Personalized URLs.
- What should happen when this whole “marketing automation plan” comes together? There are such a myriad of approaches that heading down the wrong path is almost a certainty for companies who can’t clearly articulate what they want to be doing and how they hope their implementation will work.
- Set expectations appropriately. Even highly successful installations often take two or more months to get going with a customer engagement. Successful companies use this time to become experts by using the system to market themselves with the types of campaigns they expect to sell.
The bottom line is to view the technology as nothing more than a tool to achieve your plan. Selecting and installing technology first and then figuring out how to make money is a very hard path to take.
What kinds of skills and people are needed for marketing automation?
The skill set required to get the most out of marketing automation systems is different than that required for what printers traditionally do. Not having access to resources with these skills will limit a company’s success in achieving their plans. The panel identified five key skill sets needed to be successful in marketing services:
- Client marketing strategy creation
- Data analysis and database expertise (Excel, Access, MySQL, etc.)
- Writing (content creation, messaging, calls to action, etc.)
- Client interfacing and communication (educating clients, understanding their needs, translating these into technical and job specifications, etc.)
It is important to note, however, this doesn’t mean hiring a huge staff before you start. A single person might possess several of these skills. Also, there are freelancers and companies who can provide development, writing and other resources on a pay-as-you-go basis. Before you start hiring, understand the skills your organization currently has and where there are gaps. Next, identify those people who are willing to learn – and to get rid of the rest. This is a business requiring constant change and learning where experts can never stand still. The good news, as Jennifer pointed out, is that being considered an expert really just means staying a couple of steps ahead of your clients.
Once you have the plan and the people, how do you get started with marketing automation?
Most of the panel’s comments on this topic harked back to one of Rab Govil’s messages in his AppForum keynote speech about starting with a “minimum viable product.” The panelists all stressed starting simple and growing as you learn. The common phrase was to “get in there and play.” This can be done by using simple cloud services, partnering with other marketing services providers to do the parts you are lacking while you get up to speed, and experimenting by doing campaigns for yourself. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to experiment in this space and the best way to learn it is to do it. Just always keep your experimentation aligned with your business goals and as simple as possible so that it doesn’t cost too much and so that what you learn moves you in the right direction.