Marketing Automation

How to Know If It’s Time to Switch Your Engagement Platform

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Writing this article has me thinking of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You’ve got Goldilocks looking for the right home to crash. Ultimately, she has to make a critical life decision between the temperature quality of hot, cold, and ‘just right’ porridge. Identifying the right engagement platform can feel very similar. If you’ve been using one for a while, it might be time to re-evaluate the temperature of your results.

This blog reviews three key considerations for determining that it is time to invest in a more appropriate system.

Simplicity Without Sophistication (System Is Too Simple)

When initially building a company or trying marketing automation tools for the first time, a company might select a solution that is just “good enough” and not too complex for their team. This can be motivated by a number of factors. Typically, it is the result of having a marketing team that is just beginning to implement digital engagement strategies.

With so many new concepts presented within digital marketing, many marketing managers determine that it is safer to go with a system that appears ‘easy’ during their evaluation.

The challenge for many teams that are new to digital engagement is that most platforms look easy at the beginning. But they quickly become limiting to the long-term capabilities that marketers really need. Once the first four to six months of a digital marketing strategy are launched, marketers find themselves boxed in by a lack of sophistication. And now, they’re forced to look for more without a system that can deliver on more mature objectives.

Getting Started with Digital Marketing Strategy

Let’s take a look at a few introductory campaigns that marketers start with when they initiate their digital marketing strategy. Some examples of early marketing campaigns include:

  • Simple lead follow-up workflows and sales notifications
  • Basic drip email campaigns based on a single indicator of interest
  • One-time email sends
  • Newsletters that require manual creation of content and uploading of contacts
  • Single occurrence events or tradeshows that happen infrequently
  • Generic emails that contain little-to-no contact-level personalization
  • Generic landing pages that contact little-to-no contact-level personalization

The commonality between these items is that they target a single objective at a single point in time, often leveraging generic messaging. To many that are new to engagement marketing, getting these initial campaigns started may appear confusing or time-consuming. However, it is typical for marketing teams to mature past these initial campaigns within the first two to three months of using a marketing platform.

In contrast, more sophisticated digital marketing campaigns listen to interests, learns preferences, and adapts engagement over time. More advanced marketing programs are non-linear and able to adjust the focus of communication to match the behaviors of target audiences in real-time, keeping the pulse on the most relevant touches for each individual.

Deeper Strategy = Deeper Needs

As digital marketing campaigns become established, the typical company wants to begin personalized messaging, timing, and follow-up to match the preferences and interests of their target audiences. To accomplish this level of personalization while maintaining efficient marketing operations, it is important to have a solution that is designed to deliver results at scale.

The challenge that simple systems have is that by the time marketers get used to their basic functions, they leave little additional functionality to create more sophisticated campaigns with the same level of ease. Ultimately, they either lack functionality, lack a connected contact history, make it challenging or impossible to configure multi-dimensional campaigns or make it overly complex to deliver multi-touch, multi-channel, multifaceted campaigns. In contrast, the right marketing engagement platform delivers simplicity and sophistication that you can rely on as you grow your digital marketing strategy year-over-year.

Answer:  Look for simplicity and sophistication. Work with your marketing engagement evaluation experts to example more sophisticated workflows (use cases) that look toward the future of your initiatives.

Limited by Your Systems (Data Extensibility)

Another key indicator that motivates marketers to switch marketing platforms is that it is very difficult to incorporate the desired events, history, or data from other systems into the definition of their target audience. This can be the result of many limitations, though there is a number worth noting:

  • Disconnected systems
  • Lack of access to constraints
  • Lack of variety in constraints
  • No ability to filter by the absence of history

When marketing automation platforms were initially introduced, they were largely designed to ingest the implicit data supplied by other systems. Then, they would query that data to assign audiences. More modern platforms improved a bit on this logic, extending connected event data to time-based constraints and basic conditional formatting within audience definitions.

The Ability to Drive Results

Current-day leading engagement platforms have taken data-extensibility to an entirely new level and automatically multiply the value of connected history simply by connecting them to their centralized audience hub.

For example, rather than simply ingesting a contact activity, the leading automation platforms translate the touchpoint into the following formats (at a minimum):

  • Real-time interactions
  • Updates to real-time interactions
  • Historic interactions
  • Historic updates to interactions
  • Anti-interactions (or absence of activity)
  • Lack of updates to interactions

For custom objects and custom activities, this multiplication of marketable information may be even more extensive.

Additionally, light-weight automation platforms may have access to the basics of an activity or record from another system. Yet, they will lack access to the customized records, fields, or settings within external databases. Sophisticated engagement platforms are able to connect the full extent of records (native and custom) within your other platforms, along with native and custom fields that have been added to those records. With this connection comes the reliability that the marketing team will be able to articulate all of the campaigns and personalization requested by the business and required by the target audience.

Look at the Long Term

Similar to the first reason described for making a switch, over time, access to the right marketing events and history becomes more important to articulating a personalized and engaging audience experience. Many marketers start out feeling as though the basic data points will be enough. But, in four to six months they have hit a wall in terms of data capabilities and are back evaluating marketing automation systems.

Answer: Ask your marketing engagement vendor to provide an explanation of their data model and test audience and communication scenarios within those systems that match both the short-term and long-term objectives of your marketing approach. Make sure that the platform selected is not too lightweight. Ensure it will support your goals over the next one to two years.

Exhausted by Execution (System Is Too Complex)

The last consideration when planning for long-term marketing automation success is the ability for your system to scale operations so that marketers do not have to build any portion of a campaign twice.

Let’s face it. Much of the structure of a marketing campaign boils down to a core, repeatable approach. The purchase of a marketing automation platform is typically to reduce the strain of digital engagement on the overall organization. The right platform should remove the activities and steps. It should not create a whole new series of work on top of the already busy schedules of your marketing team.

This topic relates back to the first reason for considering a switch. Many of the initial campaigns that companies want to articulate have a singular or linear focus. Campaigns quickly become multi-dimensional to deliver the right level of engagement in support of identified audiences and personal interests.

Bringing this back to the core development of a digital marketing campaign, let’s review the standard steps needed to build out an event campaign with appropriate communication.

A) Invitation

B) Registration

C) Tracking attendance

D) Following-up based on attendance.

Many companies have even more steps than these within their event programs. Let’s start with the basics.

Marketers should look for the following core components for each stage within the overall campaign:

  • Define the communication audience
  • Create appropriate:
    • Emails
    • Text messages
    • Landing pages
    • Forms
  • Track responses
  • Connect:
    • Attribution & build reports
    • Audiences to appropriate communication by stage & response

Find a Solution for More Than Just the Basics

These are just the essential steps needed to support the creation of a net-new marketing event campaign. I am exhausted just thinking about them. Basic automation platforms require the marketer to manually create each of these items (in-whole or in-part) each time a new event is  supported. While some systems may look simple on the surface, a hidden issue is that they do not scale well. This requires the marketer to build things from scratch each and every time a new campaign is delivered.

In contrast, sophisticated marketing engagement platforms reduce the total number of times that a campaign is created from scratch, enabling whole campaigns & multi-step flows to be cloned with the single click of a button. Additionally, leading platforms make it simple to update assets across the cloned campaign all at once through reference values that can be changed in a single location. For example, marketers may want to swap in a new banner or event date-time for all emails, landing pages, and content within the campaign.

Move to Sophistication

Sophisticated marketing engagement platforms greatly reduce the time it takes to launch new campaigns. They allow marketers to reference a shared program/campaign library. These systems enable your team to share best practices, improve reliability, and work from demonstrated results without having to recreate the structure and content from scratch.

Answer:  How often do you find yourself configuring the same campaign settings over-and-over? If you are having to repeat tasks more than once or twice, there is likely a better way. Reach out to top-rated marketing automation providers and ask them to share benchmark data around the efficiency of using their platform. Also, ask your vendors to compare the steps for creating multi-step campaigns to that of other solutions within their space.

Time to Make a Switch?

Is it time for a switch? Maybe you’ve been delaying a switch to a better marketing engagement platform. This could be for a number of reasons.

Sophisticated marketing engagement platforms have a plan and a path for helping you migrate to greener fields. The same capabilities that you may be looking for to help drive broader marketing accomplishments allow more sophisticated platform experts to quickly move you onto the newest system.

Balancing out the needs of today and the needs of tomorrow can be a complex task.  When reviewing your current capabilities, does your team consistently bring up the shortcomings of your automation systems? If so, it could be time to re-evaluate your solution and work with a more sophisticated platform.

As always, I enjoy hearing from other marketers and I’d love to hear stories about when you finally made the decision to adjust your solution set. What benefits did it bring to your team? Additionally, what made you land on that decision? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.