Part 1: Choosing the software
So you’ve read up about marketing automation, you’ve convinced your senior team that it’s worth trying it out and now you need to prove its value.
There’s only one problem: doing marketing automation properly requires significant investment with a medium to long term pay-off.
So how can you prove the benefits quickly before you take the big plunge and invest in some serious software?
Here are a few ideas I’ve used over the years to prove the value of automation quickly and tempt the rest of the business with significant, tangible returns.
Use what you already have
With some budget in your back pocket, it can be tempting to start looking around for new software straight away.
If you have nothing at all at the moment – and by that I mean no email platform – then you will need to splash a little cash on some kit.
However, if you are using an email marketing platform already, I would encourage you strongly to investigate it a little more to begin with before you look elsewhere – it will save you so much time and hassle.
Over the last five years, almost every email platform on the planet has added some form of automation functionality to their platform – yes, some dinosaurs are still out there and this may be why you decided to start this project in the first place, but use what you already have if you can.
Start with email
One of the major benefits you gain from using a proper marketing automation platform is the ability to coordinate communications across multiple marketing channels.
This will enable you to do loads of amazing things, but it isn’t necessary to prove the value of automation at this stage.
A piece of advice I always give to clients is to start automating email first.
You can generate so much value with this alone that it’s not worth investing in more just yet.
Now, you may be reading this thinking, ‘Well I use automation already to deliver emails like basket abandonment, so I’m not sure using email alone can help me demonstrate additional value’.
My response is this: simple triggered emails like basket abandonment generate some value, but what they offer pales into insignificance when compared to a properly constructed, customer-centric email marketing automation.
There is still plenty of scope to demonstrate additional value using just email.
Email projects I’ve worked on that took only weeks to put together have demonstrated their potential to deliver millions of pounds of value in only a few months. This was more than enough to get sign-off on further investment.
Starting from scratch
If the marketing software you currently have doesn’t offer you what you need, don’t worry.
While you may have the budget for more, my suggestion would be to start simply.
Register for an account with a company like Drip or MailChimp (yes MailChimp has some good automation functionality!).
The benefit of using one of these services to begin testing is that you can get up and running very quickly.
Yes, not all your emails will pass the spam filters and no they won’t meet all your needs, but to test and prove value early on, they can’t be beaten.
Alternatively, if you are talking to a software vendor already, see whether they can provide you with an account you can use for testing.
Integrate one or two other channels if you can
So you’ve decided which software you’re going to use, either what you already have or you’ve invested in something basic to get you up and running.
As I said, one of the major benefits of automation is the ability to coordinate messaging across multiple marketing channels and so if you can use more than just email, there will be a benefit to doing so.
These days, many marketing automation platforms come with the ability to connect new channels in a few minutes.
Search the name of your software, plus the marketing channel you want to use (e.g. SMS, display, social etc) and the word ‘integration’ and you’ll soon find out how to connect this up.
If there isn’t a direct connection, consider using software like Zapier to connect channels to your marketing automation platform indirectly.
Getting customer data into your system
Now you have a working system, it’s time to add the data.
It may be tempting to lift and shift all of your customer data into this new system, but I strongly suggest you don’t.
Dumping in all your data can be both expensive and will slow some systems down.
Instead, think about the test campaigns you want to run and the audiences they will target.
Segment this audience in your current system, export their data and upload this into your new system – it shouldn’t take more than a few hours.
This way, you keep things lean and ensure your time is spent building amazing automations rather than dealing with data issues.
Don’t forget your objective: you want to prove the value that marketing automation can deliver to your business in the fastest time.
You’re doing this based on the assumption that proving value will release more investment for you to implement a proper solution longer-term.
Keep things simple:
Use the software you have already if it offers automation functionality or sign-up for something low cost.
Start by automating email activity, unless adding other channels is easy and will add value.
Only import the data you need to run your test campaigns, don’t be tempted to dump everything in as it will only cause problems.