Many marketers confuse marketing automation with task automation, where marketers invest in software that enables them to mechanize processes that were once more tedious and time consuming to complete manually. The consequence is that marketers are investing heavily in sophisticated technology to automate tasks like delivering even more email marketing messages to yet even more people, without totally understanding the complete customer experience.
As good as marketing automation technology is, and as popular as it has become among marketers, without an understanding of where a prospect or customer is in his relationship with your brand, you’re only automating marketing tasks—not a marketing strategy.
To strategically use marketing automation, marketers need to focus on the individual or organization and his journey with a brand. Where customers are in their journey or lifecycle dictates how the contact or company is communicated to, by whom, and how often.
Unfortunately, because old marketing thinking asserts that prospects and customers move tidily through a purchase funnel, many marketing automation platforms ignore the fact that leads and contacts aren’t working their way through campaigns in isolation.
The way consumers interact with brands and make purchases has irrevocably changed. New social networks, mobile apps, customer forums, and websites seem to emerge on a weekly basis and this has presented a vexing problem for marketers, who must now find ways to engage customers who are interacting with their brand across dozens of channels. Every customer’s journey with a brand is different, and assuming that a single campaign can dictate how a customer interacts with your brand is shortsighted and dangerous.
In each lifecycle stage a marketing automation platform should allow for different programs, campaigns, and tactics with different goals, strategies, resources, and processes. The platform’s analytics should present which tactics are more effective within each stage, making the marketer smarter. In addition, the marketing automation solution should acknowledge “best fit” contacts—those contacts who are engaged and those who fit the customer profile—so sales teams can be smarter and more efficient.
This begs the question: How an organization determines its ideal customer profile, which customers and prospects fit that profile, and where (website, social media, emails, etc.) they spend their time with its brand(s)? In addition, organizations need to know who is engaging with a brand, how they’re engaging, and at what point they’re ready to make a purchase.
There are four key lifecycle stage metrics that every business with a marketing automation solution should be focused on in 2014:
- Average duration: The average length of time that contacts are staying within each lifecycle stage.
- Contacts: The number of contacts that are in a lifecycle stage at any one point in time.
- Conversion rates: The rate in which contacts are converting out of a lifecycle stage into another.
- Engagement: The average engagement for all contacts within a lifecycle stage.
With these four metrics marketers have insight into the true performance of their efforts. Together, these metrics can provide better visibility into future revenue or potential loss. At the same time, if the marketing tactics aren’t assisting with moving more contacts through the lifecycle, at a faster pace, it’s time to reevaluate the tactics.
Marketing automation platforms must move away from the antiquated funnel and focus on customer lifecycles or stages. Instead of just automating tasks, marketing automation software should allow for deeper segmentation so the right message reaches the right customer through the right channel. Meet the buyers where they are in their journey and provide them with the right resources, information, and experiences to ensure the brand remains top of mind and held in high regard.
Troy Burk is CEO of Right On Interactive