Taking the Mystery
Out of Bank Marketing Automation
In a white paper on digital age marketing and financial services, Marketo describes marketing automation as a must-have tool for financial services marketers, enabling them to streamline, automate and measure marketing tasks and workflow, so they can increase operational efficiencies and grow revenue faster. But the reality is that relatively few organizations with marketing automation platforms (MAP) are enjoying those benefits. According to Marketing Growth Strategies, only about 20% of large enterprises are using some form of MAP. And for those who do have a system in place, deployment remains a major challenge.
Determining the ROI of marketing automation remains a challenge as well. The Sirius Decisions research brief, Calculating the Return on Automation, notes that for a marketing automation investment, demonstrating an ROI must be more than showing an increase in marketing campaigns and sales leads. For automation to generate meaningful performance improvement, marketing skills and processes must be integrated with the technology. The Sirius report cautions that companies using technology alone to improve demand creation may see their marketing results deteriorate. However, when combined with the proper processes and skills, marketing automation can produce exceptional results: Users discover more functionality, increase conversion rates and ultimately increase revenue.
We asked Matt Read, Senior Marketing Services Manager with Eric Mower + Associates, a marketing communications firm specializing in Financial Services, to help us understand the procedures necessary for success.
Marketo gives us a macro view of what marketing automation is designed to accomplish. Matt, how would you describe it from a marketer's point of view?
Read: Marketing automation is designed to create a responsive, self-operating two-way dialogue between your audience and your brand. You're feeding them content and they are giving back information. This feedback helps you to determine where the prospect is in the buying cycle. Knowing where the prospect is in the decision-making process enables your automated system to send the appropriate information to move the prospect further along the buying cycle, ultimately leading to a sale.
That sale is what it's all about, isn't it? So why do banks and other organizations seem so hesitant to pull the trigger on the means to make it happen?
Read: Aside from the upfront investment that implementing a marketing automation system requires, banks, in particular, have data security concerns. They're hesitant to share their customer's financial data, account numbers, etc., for fear of it being hacked or otherwise compromised. While all major marketing automation platform vendors guarantee security, the majority are cloud-based* services. At the same time, most automation systems do integrate with the bank's in-house systems, so there's some control over how much bank information is shared.
Banks can also circumvent concerns about divulging secure information by limiting the scope of the customer data they input into their automated system to only a name and email address as well as behavioral information a customer shares that will feed the buying cycle process. Firewalls can also be put in place for additional security. While security is a well-founded concern, some risk is considered a cost of doing business. And with the proper security systems in place, that risk is minimal.
Some banks have made the decision to move forward with a systems purchase but have not successfully implemented it. Often this is due to an unrealistic expectation, created by the system's seller, that once a system is bought and installed it's ready to go at the flip of a switch. In reality, that's like buying a hammer and expecting a built house to appear. The marketing automation platform is just the engine that drives the strategy. The strategy the bank develops determines the customer data the MAP contains and the content that feeds it. The real work is getting to the point where both data and content can work together to achieve the desired outcome.
How do organizations get to that point of data and content integration?
Read: All stakeholders need to work together, particularly Marketing and Sales. With all the talk about the disconnect between these two groups, this is a great opportunity for those two units to work together and create meaningful, measureable results that both will want to stand by. They are the ones who will collectively determine what online behaviors will trigger which content, so that clients and prospects are getting the appropriate information to move efficiently through the buying cycle, culminating in a sales engagement. This process is critical in that a poorly planned data and content integration system is a difficult thing to unravel.
Can you walk us through who does what in the collaboration you've just described?
Read: First you need to get the "right people" in the room to determine who should see what content and when. And while Marketing typically takes the lead in that decision, Sales must be an integral part of the process. Sales will be essential in helping identify and categorize target audiences. And with their time and experience in the field, sales reps also have insider knowledge about what content those targets might be most likely to engage with.
During one of the marketing automation classes at a recent Marketo conference, the instructor put it this way: "We are going to take your best salesperson and find out what they say to whom when they are out in the field. Then we are going to replicate that via automation."
The impact of that automation will be the equivalent of at least 50 salespeople delivering the same information manually.
With Sales and Marketing working transparently together in setting the criteria for quality leads, and Marketing incorporating this field intelligence from Sales to determine and develop the content, both departments are now committed to a cooperative system that generates far better results than either could achieve working alone.
Philosophically this makes a lot of sense. Can you walk us through how the philosophy turns into something that, excuse the pun, you can "take to the bank"?
Read: Once you have qualified your leads, you can not only show the ROI, but you can also measure cost per sale or cost per lead. With a system like this in place, you can now measure the impact of lead nurturing content and buying cycle behaviors. You also can determine an actual cost per action or cost per sale. In addition, you can track what results are happening in real time, and make adjustments on the fly. You can better prepare for future marketing planning, instead of just writing checks and crossing your fingers hoping that marketing will drive sales.
That marketing automation programs can reduce the average sales cycle is also an important fiscal benefit. Today, your typical B2B sales cycle can range from 18 to 24 months, from first outreach to closing the deal. With that much time, it's hard to follow up at the right moment, and whoever is closest to the finish line is the one with whom you're going to want to spend the most time.
What marketing automation does is eliminate that "spread too thin to follow up" aspect from the equation. It allows Sales to maximize the time they spend directly communicating with prospects who are ready to buy. Basically, your salespeople will spend more time doing what they do best: selling to qualified, interested prospects. The more time they spend with people at the end of the cycle, the more effective they and your bank will be. So, a comprehensive MAP doesn't just automate interactions with the end user, it paves the way for an automated interaction with the Sales team.
What do you mean by "paves the way"?
Read: For a marketing automation system to function as a sales tool, it needs to be integrated with the organization's CRM system. For instance, say we are tracking the activity of a prospect listed in the MAP database. Marketing and Sales have come to an agreement on lead scoring and this person registers as someone that's ready to talk to a sales rep. That information is sent from the marketing automation system to the CRM system, and it triggers a message to a salesperson, typically by email, that they just got a lead. The salesperson can then go to, let's say Salesforce, and look at all of the things that prospect did that led up to their score, such as downloads, opens, views, etc. Now the rep has enough information to make a very timely and relevant sales call.
Do most of marketing automation systems integrate well with CRM systems?
Read: Most major players work with the other major players. For instance, the Microsoft and Salesforce CRM systems work well with most of the big marketing automation systems, such as Marketo, Eloqua and Oracle, to name just a few. Beyond that, home-grown or off-the-shelf CRM systems can still work together, but to do that, systems integration companies like ours usually need to get involved.
The purpose of system integration providers is to enable organizations to ultimately manage marketing automation on their own. The only way this can happen is by working together to identify and categorize the targets, establish trigger behaviors, formulate the content strategy and integrate that strategy into the CRM system up front. Once the strategy has been integrated and the system has been tested, they should only need to call in their system integration partner if they want to incorporate a new content strategy or otherwise enhance or make major changes to their current program. Any system glitches, such as repeated "user error" messages, should be worked out as part of that initial program setup.
In some cases, a bank may "turn over the keys" to a system integration partner, because it doesn't have the resources to manage the process internally. The bank may say "we know using a marketing automation system is the right thing to do, but we don't know how to do it." In that case, the partner will "architect" a system, helping the bank to choose a platform, and then implement and manage it completely.
What would you say to a bank that's in the process of selecting a marketing automation platform?
Read: It may sound surprising, but the choice often comes down to the human component. A marketing automation supplier should be less like a vendor and more like a partner. Good partners will continue to work with you after setup to manage the entire process. Service agreements can range from an expedited "walk through" with a single point of contact at the bank, to a few days of intense staff training, to a contract where the partner provides ongoing monthly service.
Whatever level of service you require, you need to select a partner who's committed to the mantra of success — which is to deploy and then revise, revise, revise to success. It comes down to believing that the partner you're talking to will view the challenge like you do. Do the people you're talking to have an in-depth understanding of marketing automation? Are they passionate about marketing? Will they be passionate about your brand? If they know their marketing automation and digital marketing and answer those other questions, you've got a good partner.
*Cloud services are available to users on demand via the Internet from the provider's servers as opposed to originating from the company's own on-premises servers.
Founded in 1968, Eric Mower + Associates is a full-service marketing communications, advertising and digital services agency with offices across the United States. To learn more about EMA and to see what a strategic partnership looks like, you can contact Matt Read at 315-413-4259 or via e-mail at [email protected].