Take to the Open Road: Reduce Rework and Automate the Buyer Journey Without Flowcharts

Marketing Automation


Campaign management grows more dynamic each year as the volume and detail surrounding customer communications increases in complexity. Because of the number of channels being managed and rising expectations from buyers for immediate and personalized communication, automation is essential—but in order to keep up with the growing pace and volume of digital interactions, it must be simplified.

Learning to program campaign flows may not be in everyone’s wheelhouse, and most businesses do not have the money to bring on a full team of specialists to manage an automation platform. And while flowcharts are great for planning, they break down in their application within multi-channel marketing because buyer journeys are not linear—they are multi-dimensional. Nothing is worse than having to redo level upon level of workflow to reautomate the full communication lifecycle based on basic additions to a drip-nurturing campaign.

So, how can you automate the buyer journey without overburdening your marketing team with a need for technical expertise? I’d like to shine some light on a different way of thinking about campaign management that, with the right tools, can dramatically improve the amount of time your team spends setting up campaigns vs. executing and improving results.

Rethink customer interactions

How can you automate customer interactions to match the complexity of buyer interactions without overburdening your team? The answer: smart automation.

Smart automation is a simplified, coordinated approach to managing customer interactions that reduces the amount of system setup and rework, while maintaining granularity within the automation. It is the result of designing campaigns to listen for changes, rather than programming the same potential decision points over and over again. For some marketers, it is a benefit of the intelligent system design within their marketing automation platform.

Without oversimplifying matters, let’s consider for a moment that within the buyer journey, there are a number of interactions with similar inputs and desired outcomes. If you can identify similarities within the journey matrix and allow your programs to look for these more holistically, you may be able to consolidate the programming of responses rather than having to reprogram the same result over-and-over again within each campaign.

Automate the road trip 

Think of writing an automated program to track decisions as planning a road trip. On the surface, a road trip looks quite complex, but in its most basic form, the journey can be isolated down to 3 main components: on-ramps, interactions, and off-ramps. Regardless of what interactions occur during the trip, you consistently ask the following questions: get on the road, stay on the road, or get off the road?

If you use flow-based logic to automate your trip, you will constantly have to program this question after each interaction along the journey, then link together all of the potential decision points that may or may not happen. This is unnecessary and a waste of time. Instead, why not decouple these decisions from the flow and listen holistically along the entire journey for the desire to get on the road, stay on the road, or get off the road?

Rather than programming this question over and over again after every interaction, listen for behaviors that would indicate the need to make a stop. These rules and decision points can be managed holistically, with additional rules written and managed for exceptions.

The result of this approach is less automation overhead with the ability to look within and across programs, campaigns, and workflow–increasing consistency and reducing rework.

Get behind-the-wheel

Let’s think about a basic email and in-app communication campaign. If you are working within flow-based logic, you would be required to send out communications and write logic to determine if the customer interacted with your content after each send. But rather than program the same question over and over again (i.e. Did the customer respond?), you can listen for that event or a set of events (i.e. Did the customer click on the content? Did the customer fill out a form?). By decoupling the interactions from the flow, you can fully reduce the amount of programming needed to set up the campaign. In this case, you can write out two rules, one listening for clicking on the email and another listening for filling out a form.

By decoupling journey activities from journey decision points, automation becomes much easier, less time consuming, and far more powerful. This approach is also far more scalable and can be used within a much wider variety of flow types such as webinars, nurturing, scoring, and true multi-channel communication.

Having configured your system to listen for specific events across the platform, you can also report on customer interactions more holistically. With responses consolidated, you can rate customer interest across entire programs and flows, letting you get back to doing what marketers do best–managing the conversion, not the automation.

Choose your process wisely

Are you reautomating your campaigns and workflows over-and-over again? Are you programming the same steps each time you run a campaign or even within the campaign flow itself? Smart marketers are realizing this is unnecessary. These marketers have found automation platforms that have aligned to smart campaigns that can handle multi-dimensional interactions by decoupling the content from the flow.

If you find yourself consistently flowing one program to another program and working through endless amounts of flow-based logic, it may be time to think more holistically about the on-roads, interactions, off-roads, etc. and find a platform that allows you to get back to doing what you do best: define the conversation, build the content, and drive results.

There are many other benefits to the decoupled, simplified approach for removing linear thinking from your automation. Enhanced scoring, improved visibility of results, and greater flexibility in scaling your communications campaigns are just a few. Here’s to a future with less programming and more customer-impacting content!

What are some of your rework horror stories? What successes in reducing workflow overload through smart campaigns have you had? I’d love to hear in the comments below.