The Essential Building Blocks for Marketing Automation

December 20, 2018 Adam Dore

Orange gradient building to evoke the building blocks of marketing automation

As a technologist, you might expect me to think that the key to solving all your marketing woes is an integrated marketing stack, but you’d be wrong. I’d certainly be in the wrong business if I didn’t think that it was part of the puzzle - but it’s just that - a part. 

In recent years, I’ve seen that my viewpoint is shared by many marketers as they move away from the ‘plug and play’ mindset that characterized the Marketing Automation industry when I first started out.  Unfortunately,  I’ve found that realisation doesn’t necessarily mean reality; many businesses are still struggling to get the most out of their marketing automation platform and in some cases, their entire martech stack.

Before leaping headfirst into the increasingly complex world of digital marketing, take a step back from technology and focus on laying the right foundations. Some of you may be reading this and think it’s too late, I’ve made the leap - but I strongly encourage you to reconsider- it’s definitely not too late. 

So, if you’re ready to take a step back and survey the road ahead, here’s what you need to know about the essential building blocks of marketing automation… 

Building Block #1: Set your goals

First, think about what you are trying to achieve and why. Again this is something I find all too often ignored... 

Let me elaborate... 

  • Set your vision (e.g. Empower your organization to provide solutions that will exceed customer expectations; deliver profitable growth based on customer insight accessed in a unified system). Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be your overall marketing vision; most of you will have one already.
  • Align your marketing vision around your marketing automation or marketing operation vision. 
  • You absolutely have to understand where you’re going. In order to achieve your vision, you must set guiding principles and KPIs -  and this is where “Your Why” becomes even more important. 
  • Take your KPIs for instance, I think (at least I hope) you’ve moved away from just measuring clicks and opens on emails, but too often the KPIs businesses set don’t align with their vision and aren’t actually meaningful. 

An example that comes to mind is a previous client of mine who’d decided they were going to focus on measuring their brand even though all the guiding principles they’d set leaned towards a data-driven marketing and pipeline.  

This raised two seemingly obvious questions: WHY measure something that is a) incredibly difficult to measure in the first place, and b) doesn’t align with the goals and objectives that have already been set. To clarify, I’m not for one moment saying that brand KPIs aren’t important, but in this example, they weren’t necessarily the key to driving the client’s business forward.

Building Block #2: Functions and Operations 

The next key item to consider   (often the most undervalued building block) is: how to operate and function as an organization. I’ve already mentioned that technology on its own is not the key to success, who uses it, and how they use it is a foundational principle not to be ignored. 

But there are many parts to this: first, you need to understand where you are right now (e.g. what skills does my organization have? Where do they reside? And what is their appetite for new technology adoption?) 

Second, you need to think about where you want to be. It’s essential to challenge yourself and your team - otherwise you’ll risk falling behind, but at the same time, don’t forget to be realistic. For instance, if you’ve got a team of 20 who think personalisation is dropping a mail merge into a batch and blast with no recruitment budget, then you’re not going to be setting the world alight within a year. 

Given that example, you should take a step back and think about if there are a few people on your team who have the appetite to become more digitally focused and what that means for your current team structure. Following that, you can create your own Centre of Excellence (CoE). 

A quick tip on the purpose of a centre of excellence: a CoE is not just about creating playbooks outside of your technology, it’s also intended for building reusable functionality within the tools themselves.

Turquoise blue building blocks that symbolize the foundations for marketing automation

Building Block #3: Know Your Customer (Really). 

Know your customer, and I mean really know them. More and more often I'm hearing (and rightly so) how the customer experience and 360 customer view are at the top of organizations’ key goals piles. 

How can you possibly enhance your customer experience if you don’t truly understand them?

Customer journey mapping is a fundamental aspect to achieving understanding; journeys, when broken down by persona and stage, will give you deeper insights into what your customers are thinking and doing, what their touchpoints are, and what’s getting them to the next point in their journeys. 

As with the previous point around how to operate, there is a linear model here of planning, thinking, and then doing. The ‘doing’ comes in when you create those journeys in the technology itself, but you need to take those journeys through a narrative before the actual creation can begin. 

To do that, you may need to create or repurpose content, and that’s fine. Actually, it’s more than fine because it means that great content (you’ve revisited and optimized) can be served on the right channel at the right time, resulting in enhanced customer experience. 

You may have noticed a common theme in here: I’m not rattling off a list of ‘x steps to achieving marketing success. Instead, I offer you building blocks because there is no ‘cookie cutter’ template for success, and I say that speaking from experience. 

However, there are frameworks in the areas of brand identity, culture, industry, data, and relationships with customers that can help you achieve maturity in the digital marketing space. 

Hope you enjoyed these tips! I couldn’t give everything away in a blog post, for that you’ll need to meet me (and some brighter people than me) face-to-face, and I’d love to do just that. Join me and my fellow Appirians on 17th January at the Ivy. Register now. Spaces are filling up fast!

Looking forward to seeing you there.

About the Author

Adam Dore

Adam runs the European Marketing Automation practice for Appirio. He has a wealth of experience running programs for small start ups to multi-national corporates.

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