Everybody talks about Big Data and marketing automation, and for good reason. Data can tell you a lot about your customers and your business. Automation saves money and engages customers. Together they increase profitability.

ChannelNet-Ford Simulator-Interactive Ad

A simulator that ChannelNet developed for Ford in 1987 was the first interactive ad and marketing automation tool.

Marketing automation is not new. The first time we used marketing automation was back in 1987. We sent prospective buyers a personal invitation to test-drive a Buick and a Ford. What is new is using data to drive automation.

Done right, automation enables companies to target the right customer with the right message in the right way at the right time, leading to incremental sales. It also saves companies money when compared with other marketing initiatives. Companies typically reduce both direct mail costs and customer service costs when they implement automated marketing strategies. However, the biggest reason for using marketing automation is customer engagement.

Better data doesn’t equal better content.

Not all automated marketing programs are created equal. You could send identical emails to the contacts in your database once a month that are personalized with their name and call it automated marketing — but that might do you more harm than good.

True individual attention is what brings a customer back. Customers want to feel special and that the communications you send are relevant to them.

Robust automated marketing programs can leverage the rich functionality found in personal consumer microsites, self-service online account management and online credit applications. These types of solutions provide content that draws current and prospective customers further into the sales funnel. Consumers who want to take out a loan can get real-time approvals, which will likely clinch the sale. Automated messages about other services and products pushed via online accounts can be based on rules such as the term of the loan. The element that makes marketing automation sing is to use data specifically about the customer or prospect to deliver timely and relevant information. Read this blog to learn about 5 ways the finance department can promote relevant messages.

Your approach needs to be based on the customer’s own preferences and data. When it comes to lead generation, if a potential customer has spent time on your website learning about Product A, you need to send the prospect additional compelling information on that product right away. Later in the sales cycle, you might send information on special pricing or credit terms or content designed to get the lead to not just buy the product, but to buy it from you.

For automated marketing to be effective, it needs to be based on an understanding of your customers, their position in the sales cycle and their needs. Companies need to be able to capture customer information in real time and sort it into useful buckets. Best-in-class marketers give customers reasons to want to engage with the company.

If your company collects data and customer information in silos, such that no one can see the big picture, you need to find a way to integrate that data so it is more useful as a tool for generating leads. Your competition is using marketing automation now. They are learning from their mistakes and getting better at it every day.

Done right and in an environment of continual improvement, marketing automation driven by data can:

  • Enhance customer satisfaction
  • Drive loyalty
  • Generate leads
  • Add revenue through cross selling and delivering custom incentives/specials
  • Speed the sales cycle
  • Boost the loyal customer’s shopping frequency
  • Amplify awareness and recall of brand identity
  • Bring in more new customers from referral and word of mouth

Done smartly, marketing automation enhances your relationship with customers because it enables you to be more customer-centric by giving them exactly what they want — a seamless path from research to decision to purchase and loyalty.

Paula Tompkins, CEO and founder of ChannelNet, is a digital marketing and sales expert. ChannelNet has helped hundreds of the world’s leading companies use technology to sell their products and build customer relationships.