We’re back in action! Software and platforms are coming to market giving marketers new tools to move the consumer along the buying path while reducing manual processes and tasks. We know this, we’ve heard about the platforms and maybe we’ve even started using them. But now we’re going to learn to do it better. Or, at least that’s the intent of this session.

Speaking we have Chris Moloney (ARIA), Dave Karel (LinkedIn), Eric Hoppe (Pandora) and Kevin Ryan (Motivity Marketing).  Austin Dichary is moderating.

We start by giving initial thoughts about automation.

Dave: For him, marketing automation has really improved in the past 5-10 years. When he looks at his time, he was the first marketing guy coming in to build out the automation engine. Marketing automation was how his company scaled and how they scaled revenue. To him, the automation game changers were segmentation (segmenting captured leads into high-value audiences) and loyalty/nurture programs. The teaser is that a lot of that power has been focused on a very small portion of our target audience. That’s like 2-3% on your website, and the 20% of people who open your email.

Chris: What he’s seen over the last year is that essentially digital marketing has come together with marketing automation. All areas of your customer journey are coming together. Everything that you do involved in a customer choosing your product touches marketing automation. From a strategic perspective, he thinks everyone should be using marketing automation. Its taking over a lot of the ad tech world.

Eric: He thinks about automation in terms of connecting all his systems. He wants to reach existing customers and create look alike models to extend that reach. That’s why data is top of mind for him. Just having that data at such a granular level, you can really capitalize on that.

Kevin: The enabling technology, it’s just evolved so fast that we don’t have a definition. We don’t know what to call it. It’s software, it’s technology and it lets us touch our customers better.

What should businesses be looking to implement before they purchase a marketing automation platform?

Chris: Start with strategy. You end up doing an RFP trying a vendor and the RFP process takes so long that you forget what it is you were trying to do. The majority of CMOs believe that marketing automation can drive the best ROI of anything else that they do. When you know where a customer or prospect is in asking about what you offer, and you can talk to them when they’re looking, its a golden opportunity. The problem is, many people get it wrong. They start with talking about the technology and not with what they want to do.

Kevin: There’s an obsession with scale. There are a lot of people looking to scale things but they’re not talking about strategy. Is this appropriate to your business? Strategy hasn’t changed. What has changed are the tools that we use. We’re looking for push button solutions that do everything for us and that doesn’t exist.

Dave: When you’re starting out, vision is a big limiting factor. People set out to deploy these great campaigns but they’re not thinking big enough with what they’re trying to accomplish. The end goal isn’t leads.

Eric: Have a solid process. Have KPIs. Have ownership from a people standpoint around each area. It takes people documenting things and making best practices to make things better.

What are some things we should be looking at to compare vendors?

Eric: It depends on your goals. We all want the cross-channel dream, but you have to focus. If you’re an app developer that’s primarily mobile, there are certain vendors that work. Vendors have specialties. Do you want to use point solutions or a generic end-to-end product.

Kevin: Go with whoever has the most Twitter followers! He’s kidding. Look at brands you admire and the tools they use. If you feel really connected to a brand, take a look at the tools they’re using. It’s not that hard to figure it out.

There are some growing pains there. Where are some of the growing pains with marketing automation?

Chris: There’s a lot of companies and a lot of movements between companies. They did an RFP for a new social tool. From the beginning to the process to the end, the entire account team for the vendor had changed. That’s difficult. Make sure the vendor is currently doing the capability they’re telling you about. Everyone has a release that’s coming out that’s about to do everything you want to do. That’s great. But what do they do today?

Eric: It’s a show me world. It’s one thing to talk to the talk, but you have to see it.

Dave: Let’s just make the assumption that it’s going to have what you need to do a lot better. Growing pains – you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Are you doing segmentation? Are you doing persona identification to really segment the best audiences. You need that before you start doing automation. People rest on their laurels with the basic stuff. Sending emails out automatically makes you feel great and you just stop there.

Where can we improve?

Kevin: There aren’t enough strategic discussions about these sorts of things. The things that go wrong – Lenovo recently released a bunch of machines that had malware/spyware/adware. They were collecting all sorts of data and really screwing it up. He’s sure there was someone in the room who thought this was a great idea, but the public went nuts. And then Lenovo let the tech people talk to the press – never let the tech people talk to the press. They didn’t think it through.

Eric: Make sure you have the fundamentals down before you can push. But, it’s also really important to push, so make sure you do that.

Chris: Take a little extra time to think about what could go wrong and how you’re about to mess up your messaging… and fix it. Marketing automation is typically to your best customers, so it should be your best messaging.

How does marketing automation improve – on the tech side or the business side?

Dave: Good alignment is temporary. Never assume you’re well aligned. That’s the big opportunity – lock arms with sales.

Kevin: We’re in an awkward phase. People don’t know where to put the budget for automation so its get silo’d in the wrong place. Or someone gets the budget when they shouldn’t have control over it. AMEX has all of his business. AMEX sent him a benefit email. Small problem, he doesn’t have the card they sent him the email about. Then they emailed him again and said, oops, here are the benefits for the card you actually have. And then AMEX sent another apology emails, and he’s just starting to lose faith in this company that he relies on. It’s amazing how disjointed these entities are and that’s why we keep seeing error after error.

Who is doing automation well?

Chris: He says Uber and then goes on a tangent about his 5 star Uber rating. We don’t have Uber yet in Albany.

Dave: There are a lot of companies doing really cutting edge things.

Marketing automation is improving. At it’s core it’s about reaching the right consumer at the right time at the right message. When you focus on automation (the tool) and not what you’re trying to do, that’s when marketers get lost.

Nice overview from some smart folks. Time to run to our last session of ad:tech!

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