The challenge of recognizing your customers’ needs and responding to them across interaction channels in a timely and consistent way has never been greater. E-time means reduced cycle times, and e-tailers are looking at every part of the customer relationship for slack to tighten and weak links to replace.
Marketers accustomed to generous planning cycles for market-facing initiatives are looking for ways to evolve campaign management practices toward the true one-to-one ideal. This means marketing automation. Why is campaign management not enough? Historically, campaign management tools have been the backbone of marketing automation, but they are generally limited in their ability to support the complete marketing life cycle and the integration of multiple channels. Such rigid automation approaches and technology tools will be hard-stretched to meet the demands of e-speed.
Marketing automation enables a more dynamic interaction where customer preferences and actions can be more immediately translated into an appealing and profitable offer. If that sounds like a fundamental basis for customer relationship management, it is. Too often, the primary focus of CRM implementations tends to be at the customer touch points – the phone, the Web, the sales force, the fax, etc. The planning and analysis tools to maximize these touch points are perhaps the most overlooked.
Campaign management typically breaks down at the intersection of analysis and customer strategy. As a collection of marketing applications used to plan multichannel marketing campaigns and track their effectiveness within different segments, campaign management systems have evolved over 20 years to become perhaps the dominant marketing automation tool. Initially installed as a cost-saving measure in print and telephone campaigns, their key problem has become their “legacy system” status – their lack of integration with newer Web channels and CRM functions.
What makes up the complete marketing automation system? Emerging technologies and applications are setting the stage for the next generation of marketing techniques. These tools enable multichannel, real-time communications, provide a cross-channel view of customers and enable the continual evaluation of customer interactions over time.
A complete marketing automation system enables enterprises to establish and leverage a customer-centric view of the customer, personalizing every interaction according to the needs and preferences of individuals. According to a study by The Yankee Group, Boston, the marketing framework to accomplish this consists of four components:
• Campaign management for structuring and optimizing offline and online marketing activities and offers.
• CRM rules/workflow engine for maintaining the continuity of marketing activities and communications, and synchronizing with customer interactions in other systems.
• Strategic CRM analysis and reporting platforms providing standard aggregated analyses around specific functions or modules, as well as cross-functional views and detailed, actionable profiling for CRM initiatives.
• Real-time personalization/recommendation engine for delivering timely, targeted communications based on a historical and contextual understanding of the customer.
The demands on a marketing automation system. The marketing automation tools that are just beginning to appear must be scalable to accommodate the mass personalization, quick response, bounce-backs and workload shifts that characterize the delivery of a mass e-mailing. The Internet has exponentially raised transaction scalability requirements much in the way data mining has raised data scalability requirements.
The new marketing automation tools need to be easily integrated with the usual customer touch points in an organization, as well as with the customer data warehouse, to ensure consistent customer interactions. Enterprises are demanding integrated solutions. Because a marketing automation system is typically at the center of customer coordination efforts, it must also be tied into enterprise resource planning systems and CRM systems in order to better assess effectiveness and refine your approach to marketing initiatives.
Finally, a marketing automation system must be easy to use. It should speak the marketer’s language and provide the tools to quickly and easily evaluate a campaign and tweak it, if necessary. It should provide feedback in real time and allow marketers to exercise their creativity to apply “outside the box” solutions to problem areas. Multichannel marketing programs that aren’t properly coordinated can threaten to overwhelm customers who may get conflicting offers from different channels within the same organization. The results of such confusion are not likely to satisfy the high expectations of returns companies are setting for their CRM investments.
The rewards of marketing automation. Ease of use, speed and the promise of advancement toward that elusive one-to-one ideal are the promises of marketing automation. This time next year we’ll be talking about whether the technology delivered on the promise.
Marketers that haven’t broadened their thinking from the confines of traditional campaign management risk losing the synergy with offline analyses that can lead to real-time, one-to-one marketing.
True one-to-one marketing means more than simply responding quickly to a customer’s interaction – it means responding in a thoughtful manner, informed by the full history of the customer relationship. More marketers are coming to the realization that CRM and the one-to-one ideal are a journey, not a destination.
Rodney Sowalskie is database and analytic services offering manager for the CRM service line at EDS, Louisville, CO.