Can a cloud based Marketing Automation be implemented using cloud tools?
This is not just a thought or aspiration, but been put to use in a few instances successfully. While the present success covers over 80% of implementation activities performed virtually using cloud tools, every project is helping us to move closer to the 100% mark. Customers love the least intrusive methodology. Providers of Marketing Automation (MA) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) too embrace it for scaling-up operations with cost-efficient delivery.
This article will focus on ‘how to perform such an implementation virtually’. In the globalized world, teams often collaborate over the web, and that is the basic premise of the virtual implementation. The steps explained in the article will be useful for marketers who are planning to adopt marketing automation, in the near future.
Step 1: Setup a Virtual PMO (Program manage online)
Planning and program management cloud tools, are plenty. Using these cloud tools, setup a Virtual Project Management Office (v-PMO). Creating an implementation plan in alignment with client business teams and system teams is key for success. A pre-populated implementation plan template comes handy, during the project kick-off meeting. It takes away the hassles of scrambling for ‘what’ activities to be included in the implementation plan. Instead the focus is only on deciding ‘who’ performs those actions.
Corporates are used to work with V-Teams (Virtual Teams), even between colleagues who are either sitting in different floors or in another time-zone. Create the v-teams that are responsible for different activities of the plan, and setup cadence to meet periodically. Meeting cadence at different levels from ‘Project Sponsors, to Administrators, and to User groups’ help in managing expectations to actual delivery.
Ensure the cloud based ‘Planning and Project Management tool’ is equipped with features such as Client secure logins, hands-free activity tracking, integrated IP telephony to call & chat with the activity owner, mobile app to track even on the move, et al. This will give ultimate comfort for the Clients and Collaborating Partners to work in harmony. A sponsor dashboard will also be a must-have to timely intervention and decision making.
Step 2: Business Needs Workshop (Envisioning online)
The goal of a needs workshop is to create a common understanding of the marketing situation in the organization. The workshop approach allows the marketers to reflect, and business teams to agree on challenges. A clear understanding of the present, helps to envision the future.
How will success look like after MA adoption? This vital question gets answered in the workshop. Clarity emerges from where are we now, to where will we be after MA adoption.
MA adoption presents a variety of scenarios that could suit your business. Making informed choices will help in steering the future of your marketing. For instance, the current practice is of performing on-ground events, and the choice is to transition to a hybrid mix of on-ground and online events (Scenario – A). Then the implementation steps should include setting up landing pages for events, manage registrations, integrate online meeting tools to capture attendance, web-hook card readers to capture on-ground visitor info, and to compare outcomes. If the choice is to completely transition to online events (Scenario – B), then the steps to implement change too.
Future is often hazy. Boiling the ocean is not a great strategy too. This points to an approach of taking small steps, in a progressive manner. We envision for next 3 years, but plan for phase 1 that is landed in next 3 months. At the end of phase 1, plan for the next phase, and continue.
Step 3: Setup a Sandbox Cloud (Test before you leap)
During pre-sales discussions do not forget to include a sandbox or testing environment, in your order. Some MA vendors include this by default in mid to higher editions. Sandbox cloud helps in testing your business communications, before going live with production.
It is a best practice by agile teams use to perform functional setup, integration with CRM and other legacy systems, conduct user acceptance et al. It helps to de-risk errors adversely affecting the larger organization and restricts it to people absolutely necessary at the time. Imagine a test email wrongly triggered to 10,000 customers, with a payment advice. In the sandboxed environment, the email process is the same, but on a pseudo customer, sample payment advice, and the money paid is virtual. It’s for testing purposes.
The sandbox will only be accessible to the implementation consultants, API programmers, and client v-teams involved in the QA process. With the sandbox on the cloud virtual teams collaborate and perform their tasks, and client teams can perform tests and confirm.
Step 4: Back-office led Data design (Fuel your MAUT engine)
Remote back-offices are ideally suited for consultants to analyze the needs gathered, identify the datasets, and relationships that are to be set in MA platform.
A simple client requirement will translate into sophisticated data-sets and relationships. The picture below depicts a scenario of a ‘customer in a shop’. The MA platform need to capture information about the ‘Customer, Product, Retail, and Social’, to meaningfully map your customer scenario and journey. What is your customer’s preference in your Product stack? The actions your customer performs online and corroborate with their social profile. By converting your business scenarios into meaningful datasets, the MA platform can capture these details, and in turn use them to effectively segment and target your customers.
Many of these information may be available already in your legacy systems. However, they may be scattered in a variety of applications such as CRM, Sales, Accounting, and other business systems. Identifying and bringing them into MA platform will enable a unified view of your customer. This is often ignored by clients and implementation teams that go a long way in affecting the way MA platforms are put-to-use. The better the datasets, relationships, and integration points configured – the better your ROI on MA platform investments. There are three common ways MA tools are integrated with disparate systems viz., (1) Standard connectors – for example most MA tools have a standard connector to Salesforce CRM, (2) API call integration – top MA tools support latest API standards, to send and receive data between systems, and (3) Import-Export route – that is a time tested simple one.
A recent statistic by Ascend* indicates that only 25% of companies have extensively integrated their disparate marketing technology systems. Nearly as many (22%) have not integrated their marketing technologies at all. This explains why “3 out of 5 marketing automation adoption fails!”
Step 5: Cloud-collaborate for Segmentation (Razor sharp targeting)
Hyper targeting and personalization is what makes the difference. The previous step brings in a unified data, and the current step is to slice and dice it for effective communication.
The business logic to define the segments is key for success. In reality, even large enterprise marketing teams define segmentation loosely. Our experience with different environments show this area is a common weak spot across the board,
- In business-to-business (B2B) environment the logic resides in the minds of sales and account management teams.
- The business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers focus on demographics and link them to traditional media metrics – lacking personalization.
- And the Government-to-business (G2B) or Government-to-consumer (G2C) marketers often get fenced within transactional communication.
Without proper segmentation, every communication goes to all of your customers and prospects. Most of the customers see them irrelevant, and are left with no impact. No meaningful actions they can take with this generic information that helps to meet your business goals.
There are practical ways to decide on your segmentation and thereby well positioned messaging, virtually. We follow a template driven method, and host it in a cloud drive for v-teams to collaborate.
The blue-sky universe is fairly clear in most cases. Powerful templates help in slicing this universe into meaningful and communicable target segments. The above chart shows an example of how practical segmentation work in B2B environments. The primary focus is on ‘Existing customers’ and ‘New prospects’ – and the B2B marketers’ main challenge is to nurture them for revenue and repeat revenue. The basic wedges include, business size, previous purchase to determine product preferences, industry verticals, geography et al. The objective is to move these segments across the buyer journey or lead life cycle. B2B Marketers often talk about campaigns to move a set of leads from MQL to SQL (Marketing and Sales Qualified Leads).
In this journey they communicate through various channels to the target audience, and elicit a response to track them. The tracked information or in general referred to as the buyers’ digital footprint is used to analyze buyer behavior. The behavioral data is updated to the buyer profile, and to assign nurturing points, thereby further segmentation and lead staging. In the B2C scenario the behavioral data is used to create an affinity map of the buyer, and the same is used for predictive analytics and recommendations.
The cloud templates are used by the v-teams to define segmentation in a collaborative manner. The MA implementation consultants moderate the process, and help to derive at the best possible segmentation logic to operate campaigns in an effective way.
Step 6: Back-office led Functional Setup (Fire up the MAUT areas)
Major functional modules of standard MA tools include, Email, Mobile (Push and Text), Social, Events, Campaigns, Website tracking, and Analytics. Though different MA tools call and brand them, differently. For example, Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s terminology is Journey Builder & Automation Studio, and a similar function is called as Multi-Step Campaign & Program Builder by Oracle Eloqua.
Once the business needs are documented, data model setup and segmentation logic decided – functional setup can be performed by MA implementation consultants, from the back office. They Content Audit Online helps to understand the available content. A content map will be created to attract your buyers in different stages of their journey. Basis this content map, the functional setup is done in two levels, viz., (1) Basic communication setup and (2) Campaign communication setup.
Basic communication setup follows a simple send through any one channel. The below chart explains how the process happens. Content fuels the templates, and the standard sender profile is used to trigger the communication, to the right audience. The communication can either be scheduled at a specific time, or configured to be triggered on an event.
Campaign communication setup is an integrated communication of multiple steps, involving single or different channels, and makes it interactive to the buyer. The campaign manager can configure the workflows as per the buyer actions. If the customer responds, the campaign flow will take them to the next steps, and a no response may trigger a reminder. As it tracks the buyer actions, the campaign can also assign points, move them to different segments, and thereby guiding the buyer through the journey. It uses all the basic communication elements and builds on it in a multi-step journey. For example, below is a snapshot of a campaign in Oracle Eloqua that narrates how the target audience, is guided through multiple actions, and the system decisions to continue buyer interactions, effectively.
Back-office implementation teams, can setup the basic and campaign communication to perform the unit testing and user acceptance testing (UAT). You can provide the templates and brand guidelines to them, to carry on with the setup process.
Step 7: Provide User Access (Who will do what?)
Our experience shows multiple teams operate MA tools, in an enterprise. Identifying the users, organizing them into groups, and assigning them the right roles with credentials, is an important step in the implementation. Standard user groups and roles exist in most MA tools that include, administrators, marketing, sales, sales managers, analysts, content creators, data managers, integration gate-keepers et al. They inherit access credentials for functional areas such as email management, landing page creation, edit, and delete rights – all the way to the full administration rights.
IT administrators, along with Marketing Leads in the organization, should decide the users, roles, groups – and provide these details to MA implementation consultants. A simple and practical way of extracting the list of users, is to export them from closely associated systems such as CRM – and modify the credentials to suit the marketing technology access.
Single sign-on (SSO) setup depends on the MA tools, and the editions you chose. It may require collaboration between your IT administrators and the MA support teams to configure it.
Once setup, users should be informed by triggering an internal email with their access credentials, password change duration, and a simple user guide to refer to.
Step 8: Perform UAT in Web-meetings (Users play around)
Training the teams with their specific responsibility areas, is a vital step, for quick adoption. In many cases, we hear of an overall training across the board that leaves users wondering of what they will do with such a vast canvas. This had been the case of some smart consultants directing them to online training provided by MA vendors. While these online training are good, they cover the whole system, and many a times not all users need to take all the training. It consumes too much of time, and make them feel lost.
Given this backdrop, preparation for UAT needs close attention. Our consultants take standard UAT templates and training modules, to map it with the business requirements, thereby building a custom UAT training and a list of test cases. These test cases are specific to teams, and as per their needs. This helps to perform UAT in the shortest possible duration, and satisfy the users. Users not only get satisfied, but also gain confidence to operate the MA tool, on their own.
Web meetings come handy in delivering the UAT sessions. The implementation consultants conduct the training, introduce the use cases, and allow the users to perform the test. While the users create communications, and trigger them as per the test use cases, the consultant keeps a tab on the steps performed – with the cloud login. The consultant then goes on to explain the steps the users did well, and where to correct. In the process, the consultant imbibes the best practices followed by the industry.
Administrators and Project Managers monitor the process, and record all the new requirements that comes up during UAT.
Step 9: Run a Pilot Campaign (Test run your MA tool)
An online conference room pilot (O-CRP) is a must have before going live with the tool. User teams create the campaign plan, with objectives to reach, and the communication tactics they would want to employ. The campaign is then configured in the MA tool with test data, but with real-time content. MA consultants are on standby for any hand-holding support to the user groups.
Senior management teams are invited to participate, as their team performs the first campaign. Pseudo constraints are introduced to test how the teams handle situations. For instance, the test email is reported to have landed in junk folder, or the landing page is not pointing to the client’s domain or the click rate is lesser than the industry benchmark. This helps the teams to understand what they need to do, if they face similar issues in production.
Marketing teams equipped with MA tools need to be agile, keep a watch on the metrics, and perform course corrections as part of the campaign – and avoid post-mortem, as they used to do without the technology. To perform these scenarios, stakeholder reports are scheduled to land with senior members, and interim reviews are performed. In general, a pilot campaign runs for a week’s time, with multiple planned iterations (by consultants and administrators), though they occur without notice for users, to make it real.
Handholding through a pilot campaign, helps the organization to check the full cycle of running a campaign. It gives the senior teams the needed confidence to signoff for Go Live.
Finally: Meet F2F during Go Live (Put a face to the name)
It is time to Go Live, and the MA Consultant lands at your office. In our experience, with the 9 steps been performed virtually, the client teams welcome the consultant.
The consultant has a well-defined Go Live checklist. This includes admin setup such as IP whitelisting to ensure only genuine users login to your MA tools, Server warming to ensure deliverability, et al. The data synchronization and filtering tests are performed in the production system, before going live. Once the checklist is completed, the admin teams are signalled to switch from sandbox to production environment, and the users move to the live system, which hosts their real-time customer lists, to perform campaigns. The 9 step virtual implementation comes to a grand finale.
Don’t forget to signup for ‘progressive implementation’ for the next one to two years minimum. This helps in getting your organization reap the full benefits of Marketing Automation, and to map the changing marketing landscape.
Revisiting our question. Can a cloud based Marketing Automation be implemented through cloud?
This thought has led to our service offering “Augentia Virtual Employee” – a seasoned marketer or team of marketers, who apart from setting up ‘Marketing Automation and Cloud Analytics’ can also run campaigns on client’s behalf, and offer marketing services using these tools, virtually!
You are welcome to join the virtual (marketing) reality!
*Ascend2 “Marketing Technology Strategy” (August 2015)