Digital Journeys 2016: A New Era - Automating Customer Choice

Blog | 10 Oct, 2016

Marketing automation is a current buzzword – but how do we effectively work it into our marketing strategies? 

Monica DiBartolo, Email Marketing Director at Jellyfish, heads up the morning panel to discuss investment in automation, how it can be affordable, personalization, email blocking and ultimately, the customer journey and experience.

We were joined by:
Ian Stanley, EMEA Marketing Director, HubSpot
Jeremy Waite, Strategic Marketing Evangelist, EMEA, IBM
Phil Draper, CMO, dotmailer

Video transcript

Monica: We've had a really great morning. A lot of good information has been shared, and now we're gonna take it into talking about marketing automation and really planning for that customer experience. As we're moving into a bit of a new era with marketing automation, one of the things that I took from Jeremy's presentation is that brands want their...customers want their brands to be where they are when they want them. And that's something that marketing automation really helps with.

So before we get started, if everybody wants to do a quick intro. Jeremy, I know you just did an intro, but if you wanna say hello, again, and then...

Jeremy: Hiya, evangelist.

Ian: My name is Ian Stanley. I'm the Director of Marketing for HubSpot, and I'm based over at the Dublin office.

Phil: And I'm Phil Draper, I'm the CMO of dotmailer, an email marketing company based just over there, and we've also got offices in America and Australia.

Monica: Thank you. So marketing automation has become somewhat of a buzzword recently and we want to find out what does that really mean to you and what kind of misconceptions are out there that we've had to debunk as we, you know, talk about it and try to work it in with our marketing strategies? Do you want to start?

Phil: Yeah. I mean, I guess the answers may vary a little bit based on our particular perspectives on the business. I mean, for us an email marketing automation company, a lot about what we say is you can start small and scale quickly. You don't necessarily have to change all your systems and infrastructures to start feeling the benefit of automation and be able to better messages with more personalisation at a time when people want. And that's a lot about how we build our platform and what we're trying to say to our customers. But I guess that might also be slightly different, some parts there, I'm not quite sure. I'm not going to answer your question fully.

Ian: I mean, I think for most of them, I think there are a couple of different angles, and I think there's a lot of misconceptions around marketing automation. One about the complexity or the amount of investment that's involved, but also the affordability of it. So normally, things like, "Oh, it's very complex. It's a big beast and therefore it costs a lot of money and a lot of investments." We don't see that. We see a lot of smaller companies investing. And actually, where bigger brands like the Coca-Colas of the world may not invest in inbound marketing, maybe they should, maybe they should think about it. But certainly for smaller brands, the one trying to get an edge and build a business quickly, inbound marketing and marketing automation is definitely both affordable and achievable.

Jeremy: My take is really the shopkeeper story. There was a slide at the end of the old shopkeeper, and I was thinking back to my newsagent friend who knew exactly who I was and what I wanted and stuff before I went in and he got my order ready for me.

I've spent a lot of time working with Sony PlayStation, and one of the things that they use in automation, for example. They've been using it across hundreds of millions of customer journeys and they have a really nice saying in their team internally, and it's about, "We speak to our customers on their preferred channel." Now, the issue is they want to work like the corner shopkeeper but you can't do that when you're managing a PlayStation network and hundreds of millions of different people at scale in real-time within seconds. And how exactly do you do that? So all marketing technology, really, for me, is enabling you to be that corner shopkeeper at scale but it still takes people because you can't automate an experience. It still takes people and agencies to figure out what that beautiful experience and that piece of content looks like.

Interviewer: Great. And that's a great case study. And I was actually going to ask if you guys had case studies that you wanted to share where you were working cross-channel with marketing automation. So bringing in other channels and filling out that customer experience.

Ian: That's actually another misconception, actually, that lot of people think that marketing automation is all about like email and, you know, drip campaigns and lead and all that kind of stuff. But it has to go beyond that. It has to live within social media, it has to live within the website personalization and all those different areas. So, I mean, I think starting with the very basics before you even take on technology, before you think about like what the channels are you're going to use and the process and the approaches you're going to take, you need to think about who your customer is and how they engage with the brand, the channels that they prefer to use, the time of when they actually want to engage. And then customize a whole experience based around that. So like taking it away from email marketing.

I mean, at the end of the day, ultimately, we know that there's more and more email marketing being used every single day, and we also know more and more people are blocking email. So it's becoming less effective over time. Still an extremely effective channel, but it's becoming less effective as things move more towards dark social and all these kind of other interesting areas. We need to think about how we can adapt the approach to have a kind of personalized experience based on not only the information that we've gathered but on the channels and the networks where people are.

Phil: Customers, they love email. There is this study by the DMA where they surveyed what channel do you prefer to get your marketing messages in? Is it social and all the rest of these things and email had the highest response rate for any channel in all age groups. And I think that it still has a huge benefit.

One of the things around about how we work with email and social together is one about our clients, Odeon. They did a piece of work about what the average spend was that somebody had had at Facebook and it was 10p. And then the person who'd had email is £1.50. And it was £2.40 if you had both those pieces of data. So I think it comes into a little bit about how if you're gonna be cross-channel, I think that there's value in all those metrics. And actually, when you get them all together, it can be a really powerful. We live in a multi-touch point world now where, you know, it's not just one blast and you're gonna convince. It is part of that journey and that experience. And I think the more channels they can be speaking to harmoniously, collecting data for different points, the better chance you've got is to make your marketing not feel like marketing, to make it feel like the thing that they want.

Jeremy: Wow, those are two really good answers. We're looking across our marketing cloud and email is still top performing. It's just that it's not always the coolest thing to talk about because we wanna be looking dark, social and all sorts of other really fun, exciting things like we saw in that hype cycle.

When Facebook launched Messenger for brands, there was a really interesting stat that came out of that because marketers just love jumping on new shiny things, don't they? It's like we're the magpie industry. We just on the new stuff. And people still, they're researching brands about 80% on a mobile, but over 70% of transactions are still checked out in traditional channels. You know, using desktop and email is still the traditional channels which are the most effective.

But for me, let me just give you a really quick example of marketing automation turned on its head. If you think about customer data, call it big data, whatever we like, it's basically just purchased data, consumer data, social data from across wherever those social webs that came from and connected data. That's all big data is. It's just those four buckets kind of stacked together.

So if a marketing cloud is to try and make sense of all that data in real time, it doesn't matter what you plug into it. Sony PlayStation plugin PlayStation network, in their CRM and purchase data, in email and social. But what about if you're the NHS and you're trying to use marketing to solve really big problems? We're doing a lot of stuff with the NHS at the moment and they found out, well, what if we could just plug in MRI data? What if we could plug in patient records and GP records and the 10,000 different research papers?

And they're finding some really interesting things. Apart from trying to diagnose... This is marketing technology, by the way. Apart from trying to diagnose some really, really big issues, they're finding things like they can save the NHS an absolute ton of money. This is one of the best business cases I've ever seen. For every 1% of the UK population that stays out of the hospital, NHS had saved 200 million. So if you imagine you don't speak English as your first language and you could use natural language processing to see what people are searching for, they've got no idea where to go because there are 67,000 pages on the NHS's website. So you've got no idea.

Now, if you've got real-time marketing technology that might normally be responding to a tweet, what if that just sends them to the right page of where they can go and get a solution to their problem instead of calling an ambulance for 600 quid or going to A&E and spending £50 on paracetamol? And that's where marketing technology, someone just looked at that and thought, "How can we solve some of the bigger problems?" You know, by using exactly the same technology. So for us, you know, this isn't just about marketing automation to make more money and sell more stuff to people. You know, this is like, how can we solve some bigger problems with these amazing tools?

Monica: So it sounds like, with marketing automation, a lot of data is collected and a lot of data is used to really make everything work together and bring customers through a journey. How do you use that data ethically, and do you have any best practices to share?

Phil: I think it's a very personal thing, to be honest. I mean, if you think you're acting like a stalker, there's a chance you may well be. And then I think, also, how you use the data varies depending on what you sell. Who you're speaking to, and also the permissions that the person is giving you to speak to them. I mean, the example that when we spoke before about this question I thought about was a while ago I was trying to organize a birthday party for my eight-year-old daughter, and I said to her, "I'll get you a bouncy castle. I'll play the good dad card. I'll get a bouncy castle."

And it was raining, so on the day I phoned up and said, "Look, you know, we've gotta cancel the bouncy castle." I thought that was the end of it. And then he kept on contacting me on WhatsApp every day for weeks. And that felt like harassment because, for me, I hadn't really...I thought that was just how we're gonna speak about one little purchase, not a continued thing. So that felt wrong, but it also felt particularly wrong because it was in WhatsApp, which I saw as a personal messaging tool, not a professional business tool. So for me, that was wrong.

But then if you take about why I say it changed into an audience is we do quite a lot of work with clients in the Middle East and they want WhatsApp more than they might want email sometimes. So I think you've got to stop listening [SP] to the lot of them and make your own path.

Ian: Yeah. I mean, I would totally agree with him. And I think just because you have data doesn't mean you should use data. You know, just because you have knowledge doesn't mean you should use it. Like, I think I always kind of try to think back to the real world. If I go and I buy a suit or a pair of shoes or whatever it might be, and I went to the store the very first time, how do I wanna be approached? How do I want that engagement to go? If somebody is like, "Hey, I see you're looking at these particular trousers, can I help you?" Or if somebody is like, "Oh, you look like you've got long legs, maybe you'll like these trousers," or whatever it might be. I think, you know, for the first experience, you wanna try and build trust. Like it's very easy to erode trust. I think over time, as you build that understanding of who the person is, you wanna use the information that you have to benefit the user so that it's user-centric or, you know, consumer-centric as opposed to marketer-centric.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, we're all chasing numbers. Marketers are chasing, you know, click-through rates, open rates and pricing, whatever the numbers are. We're all chasing these numbers. And the temptation is, like a sales rep working behind, you know, in a store selling suits, the temptation is to go after the goal. But I think if turn it around, you just wanna be empathetic and try and be at service to the people that you're dealing with, everything else looks after itself. So I think empathy is a big part of this and just, you know, using good judgement, really.

Jeremy: It's a really good point, actually. Since we talked about the Middle East as well, you know, there's I think in 2016 425 different marketing metrics that we can measure. So I doubt just because we can measure everything doesn't mean that we should. I had the chance to ask the News Director of Al Jazeera a while ago exactly that question. Because when they were looking at dark social and there was another very, very big news network in the U.S. which... Are we filming?

Monica: Yes.

Jeremy: Okay. Which we can't name. The thing is you look at some of these sites. You look at BuzzFeed and, you know, kinda Daily Mail, it's all about how do you get a story a thousandth of a second faster than somebody else before you need to go and pay for it to try and get the eyeballs back up? And the problem is with a lot of those stories that are now being shared on messaging apps, especially in the Far East, it's really, really hard. So there was this phrase that was being bounced around called "morally deep" and "ethically grey" which you can read into what you will. And it was this idea of at what point can we try and figure out what someone said on a private messaging app in order to figure out, is this likely to be a news story because traffic somewhere else has spiked?

So I was saying, "How do you balance that?" And his response was basically, "Look, if you're listening to your customers, then you're gonna know straight away." And I said, "Well, what do you measure?" And he had this thing called five Ws, which I've used a thousand times since. And he said, "These are the only things you need to worry about and you'll always be okay if you just do these. Just measure five Ws, who, what, why, where and when." Who are my customers? What are they saying? When did they say those things? Why did those conversations take place and where? And he just has a dashboard set up in real time, and that's all it shows. I love that.

Monica: Yeah. That's really interesting. I was at an event earlier in the year and one of the concepts was to be subtle. And I think that being subtle is also how you use the data to make sure that you're not invading somebody's trust or privacy with you. And I think that that, you know, really plays in with all of these stories shared.

So, we only have a few minutes left and I know that we have lunch that is gonna be served soon. So does anybody have any questions before we go?

Natalie: Natalie Maria from the OU. How would you use all these fantastic things that you've been talking about to unify the customer experience through all the different departments in your organization? The customer has lots of different touch points, tutors, and finance, all that. How do you create a unified customer experience?

Ian: That's difficult.

Jeremy: That's difficult, yeah. A billion dollar question before lunch. Well done. And nice shoes, by the way. Vodafone has got a really good strategy. And this is the short of it because agencies are getting paid hundreds of millions of dollars to answer that question, so there's not obviously a short answer. But Vodafone have got this idea of trying to solve exactly the same problem, and they say, "Let's actually reframe it. Let's just say we're gonna have a conversation strategy." Not a brand or a PR or social media strategy because then it becomes a silo and other people get upset.

So what they do is they just bring together teams. They started to do it, you know, in the office and now it's a bigger virtual thing. And each people, they got representatives from each different business unit, and all they do is get together every Monday. They're only allowed to have one metric. They call it a "moneyball metric," and they are allowed to come and talk about, "how are we impacting and adding value to all these other teams?" But what's happening is, everyone's seeing the value and also feeling accountable for their entire strategy. So social people impacting customer service and HR, and the CFO is getting excited about something that happened on Twitter. But just, I really like that, just the idea. You know, you put people in a room together, 80% of success is turning up, right? Like good stuff is gonna happen. It's just there are not enough businesses, because we all move so fast, that just get together and do that on a regular basis.

Ian: Yeah. I mean, I think within our organization, we've kind of taken a similar approach. I mean, we generally have's kind of cheesy but we have what we call "smarkerting meetings" where sales and marketing sit together and go through a lot of the metrics and figure out the trends. They [inaudible 00:15:40] and then like each department kind of meets in a similar way. So like the services team would meet with the sales team to see like what's coming down the pipeline and how we can adapt the approach. Get better visibility in terms of what the customers are looking for and how we can basically feed that information back to product. It's more of a cycle than everybody is sitting in the same room, but we pretty much like pass the information around the table.

Phil: Yeah. I think it has a new term now which gets unified, you know, the customer experience or customer success. But it's still the same difference between a good business and a bad business, isn't it? You know, you walked into a Manchester newsagent and if your guy know, was rude to you when you bought your first Financial Times, you might not have been...gone there to buy a second one. But a friendly service and looking after the customer fulfills and fuels further initiatives and further purchases. We now have a term for that and we have all these metrics which allows us to measure it, but the success of it is not, I don't think, by one person, it is by a group of people getting together, understanding that if we fail on delivering to the customer, the whole business will fail. And so the person mentioned the age of the customer, I mean, I think that now is a term that most people are aware of. The Internet has empowered the customers to research. They phone into us to buy a product and they phone in very often being more equipped than ever before. And we have to speak to them on that level and educate them more than we've ever done before.

Monica: One of the common themes that I'm hearing from all of you and what I've experienced is that really being able to focus in on the same goals and objectives across all channels and to come together to build a strategy and really collaborate, that helps build the unified experience.

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