Is marketing automation the answer for associations?
15 August 2017
Posted by: Olivia Palmer
As associations look for more efficient ways to attract and retain members marketing automation and personalisation are growing in popularity. What could be better than a software platform that can handle routine, repetitive tasks like email marketing whilst personalising content for customers?
Louise Clarke gets the low-down on marketing automation (MA) from Ricardo Molina, Director of Brightbull Marketing and Allister Frost, Digital Marketing Thought Leader.
Ricardo Molina describes marketing automation in terms of progress in three stages down a marketing funnel.
- At the top of the funnel automated emails and social media messages using platforms such as Hootsuite and Buffer help generate awareness and attract potential clients/members.
- At the middle of the funnel when prospects engage with your organisation by clicking on your emails, visiting your website, subscribing to a blog, filling in a form or downloading information from your website, Marketing Automation is used to create a sequence of communications or trigger campaigns (email in most cases), with the aim of elegantly helping people make an informed decision around your product.
- At the bottom of the funnel when prospects/opportunities are ready to purchase, Automation is used to trigger a call by a sales representative or a customer services person.
Subsequently, automation plays a very important role by activating a series of messages by email, social media or phone to welcome new members or to retain existing members.
“The biggest potential of marketing automation for associations is in renewals which plays a huge part in member engagement,” says Ricardo. “Associations might actively engage with potentially loads of enquiries on a weekly basis, but according to the marketing and sales platform Hubspot, only 25% of those who reach the middle of the marketing funnel are going to progress further. Therefore dealing with high volumes of member enquiries manually is very time consuming and resource intensive and automation empowers marketing teams to sieve through the noise and focus on only the most relevant hot potentials to drive membership growth.”
Allister Frost adds that a principal benefit of MA is that it allows organisations to deliver more tailored experiences to customers, thereby increasing their satisfaction and loyalty.
“A dynamic website uses the information it holds to show different content to different people, for example,” says Allister. “So if a customer attended an event recently, we can show them information about that event when they come to our website.
“Similarly, our email newsletter can be ‘automagically’ adjusted to include content that they should find interesting to maximise the likelihood of their engaging with it or buying from us again.”
Allister says uses the word ‘automagically’ to emphasise how ‘fiendishly complicated’ marketing automation is. “Software is only as good as the rules that a human feeds into it. When the rules are intelligently designed and correctly programmed into the MA system, it can feel like magic to encounter such a rich, customised experience. If it’s done badly though, customers can feel like they’re being handled by a robot, not a good old-fashioned human being. And that’s never a nice feeling.”
More sophisticated personalisation, like adapting content to predicted customer needs or including hyperlocal information based on their postcode, is the sort of thing that impresses people.
“Efficiencies come from intelligently embracing MA to replace costly, outdated ways of working,” Allister continues. “This means that many jobs in the industry will change, but there will always be a need for highly adaptable, empathetic human staff to give truly personalised experiences at times. We just won’t also have to spend so much of our day jobs on sometimes dull, repetitive tasks; computers are ace at stuff like that.”
As for tips and advice for those planning MA, Allister recommends thinking through your goal and purpose first, then figuring out a smart strategy that will allow you to get started easily and learn quickly.
“Don’t start by buying into a technology platform you don’t understand. Only buy what you need and don’t buy anything else until you’ve maxed out the capabilities of your existing toolset,” he warns.