Marketers today are under more pressure than ever to deliver bottom-line results. This series sponsored by Autopilot explores how essential automation has become in that pursuit and the many ways it’s evolving to shape the customer journey from acquisition through to greater lifetime value. Check out the whole series here.

Between social media, email, and the plethora of platforms designed to support a business in 2015, many companies assume marketing will be a slam-dunk. Yet even with a website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook, they find e-blasts can generate more unsubscribes than orders, and the bottom line is stagnant. What gives?

Marketers may be out of touch, according to an in-depth study by Autopilot, which revealed that across all industries, 65 percent of companies felt their marketing department could be doing a better job of staying connected with and marketing to their customers. But the typical marketing team is under siege: stretched, gauzelike, between ambitious growth targets, multiple programs, and the need to satisfy diverse stakeholders.

They need an adaptable and integrated way to automate the customer journey, one that’s personal and purposeful, and can be replicated thousands of times over, automatically.

The survey found companies that stay in touch with customers every two to four weeks generate twice the leads of companies who touch base less frequently. Marketing automation, or lead nurturing, can help improve customer contact. However, most businesses haven’t heard of it, or don’t understand how it can help them.

And for those who are interested, the cost, access and complexity of existing marketing automation software has placed it beyond the reach of the average business.

Personalized agility

The key to marketing automation success is personalizing the customer journey so companies enjoy a remarkable experience. With this approach, a business will:

  1. Attract: Turn strangers and contacts into leads.
  2. Acquire: Convert leads to sales, e.g.: a SaaS 30-day product trial.
  3. Grow: Onboard and educate new customers about how to achieve long-term success, or grow customer loyalty through engagement, customer feedback surveys, or regular newsletters.

Transforming obstacles Into opportunity

Like all innovation, marketing automation, done well, can turn potential pitfalls into a strategic advantage:

  • Marketing automation isn’t email marketing in designer clothes. Traditional marketing automation platforms have been souped-up email automation, sending “one size fits all” messages to many different segments — which may be why there hasn’t been broader adoption before now. This approach leads to high unsubscribe rates, lower brand recognition, and user discontent. Nobody wants to receive a one-to-many message.
  • Getting to know Milkshake Joe. Best practices marketing means developing a more integrated view of your customers. By pulling together various aspects of customer identity, from how often they visit your site to what support information they’re searching for, to how often they open an email newsletter, you can easily send messages tailored to where your customers are in their journey. So instead of just knowing your site visitor as Joe, you’ll know he’s Joe who visits your site once a week, always clicks the hamburger page, and always clicks on the special deal page offering a free milkshake with burger purchase. Deliciously simple.
  • Like Legos for marketers. To create a customer-centric, multi-channel marketing solution, automation needs to be as easy as using a whiteboard, not just for the “tech elite”. As an example, the Autopilot platform is built like a video game, which appeals to marketers, drives adoption and usage, and lowers costs.
  • The sweetest spot. Finally, automated marketing must be affordable. Identity, agility, and ease of use are moot if a business can’t automate the customer journey within a lean marketing budget. A low-cost, try-before-you-buy, SMB-friendly model will appeal to the 96 percent of global companies who have yet to adopt marketing automation.

Nobody does it better…

Who’s mastered the new generation of marketing automation? Dropbox, for one. When you create a Dropbox account you immediately receive helpful onboarding educational content to teach you how to get the most out of Dropbox. If you cross a certain usage threshold, you’ll receive information about ways to take it to the next level, and a look at paid plans. If you purchase a plan and begin to use it regularly, sharing with other Dropbox users, they’ll suggest you consider a Dropbox for Business plan. And if you’re heavily using a Dropbox for Business plan, you’ll receive an email suggesting a call with one of their customer success teams. Clearly, Dropbox is focused on ease of use and the customer journey, and has integrated this into an automated approach that drives onboarding adoption and purchasing.

Swedish-based Narrative, which launched one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in history, markets a small wearable camera that takes a picture every thirty seconds and compiles a time capsule of your life; the founders wanted to create a family record of “moments that matter”. They’ve built an onboarding journey integrating Autopilot with The Clip (their wearable camera) that pulls a customer’s product usage into their marketing automation. A user receives marketing messages based on whether they’ve achieved certain new user events and activities with The Clip once it’s been purchased, downloaded, and used. Narrative is seeing significant results with personalization. Travelers, athletes, and new parents all receive tailored messages and support in creating their unique life histories, with the help of optimized marketing.

Sealed with a KISS

The acronym KISS — Keep It Super Simple — applies to marketing SaaS. Affordability paired with accessibility creates a “pay as you grow” model that appeals to companies of every size and stage of development. The moment is ripe for marketers who love the whiteboard to get onboard with marketing automation. 

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