The Future of Marketing is Automation

marketing automation infographic
Email is one of the most widely used and established platforms and has long been the cornerstone of many business-to-business (B2B) marketing plans.

Even as new digital marketing and advertising platforms, formats, and channels draw companies’ attention and budgets, email remains vitally important and is arguably more valued by B2B marketers now more than ever before. While its core function has not changed substantially, there are new developments and challenges marketers must address: mobile, content marketing and automation.

marketing automation

For B2B marketers today—personalizing messages and integrating channels are vital, and automation is essential for executing those tactics.

With content marketing now mandatory for email marketers and mobile making it critical that B2Bs reach the right individual with the right message at the right moment, it becomes nearly impossible to personalize email marketing without some form of automation.

B2B marketers recognize the value of marketing automation solutions, but many have been slow to fully integrate the technology into their sales and marketing efforts. Data released in November 2013 by BtoB Magazine showed just 26% of US B2B marketers had completely integrated automation into their sales and marketing initiatives at the end of 2013. More than half (52%), however, expected full marketing automation adoption for this year.

marketing automation features

Automation solutions are often broad and can be applied across multiple channels and formats, but for most, email automation is vital. B2B marketers surveyed by Regalix in March 2014 reported that among marketing automation features, email automation was the most important to them.

One significant insight from the Regalix data is that marketers say the email technology they need is not simply mechanisms to automate and manage email. Instead, they want sophisticated systems to manage cross-channel campaigns and deliver personalized, targeted experiences to customers.

Have you automated your marketing? To learn more – call Lori today at 877.447.0134.

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Personalized Ads More Engaging and Memorable [study]

Personalized Ads
Compared to general ads, many consumers find personalized ads to be more engaging (54%), educational (52%), time-saving (49%) and memorable (45%), according to a Yahoo survey of 6,000 respondents aged 13-64. The study also found personalized ads to outperform those that aren’t personalized across a series of measures, with respondents also generally perceiving them to be relevant than non-personalized ads.

Personalized Ads More Engaging

Personalized ads’ greater perceived relevance is important given a growing body of research indicating that consumers develop unfavorable attitudes in response to poorly targeted or irrelevant marketing messages. In fact, the Yahoo research found that few consumers find ads to be relevant: just 37% indicated that most of the ads they see while browsing the internet on their PC/laptop are relevant to them, and even fewer concurred with respect to the ads they see while browsing the internet on their smartphones (30%) or while in apps on their phones (27%).

Personalization carries with it questions of privacy, but roughly two-thirds of respondents said they either find it acceptable or are neutral about publishers gather the following types of information for advertising:

  • Specific content they’ve looked at;
  • Time spent;
  • Search words;
  • Ads they’ve clicked on; and
  • Products they’ve browsed.

The degree to which consumers welcomed advertising personalization varied by category, with 77% desiring personalized retail ads, but only about one-third feeling the same way for car or entertainment options.

Such discrepancies were also true for content personalization: while 60% felt that personalization technology would improve entertainment content, only 41% felt that way about finance content. Nevertheless, some 78% of respondents desire some type of content personalization.

About the Data: Yahoo partnered with Ipsos MediaCT to survey 6,000 respondents ages 13-64, a representative sample of the US online population, about online content and ad personalization.

How are you personalizing your advertising campaigns?

Top Digital Priorities 2014: Targeting and Personalization

Personalization and Targeting
Personalization is this year’s top digital priority by B2C marketers, according to eConsultancy’s Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing published in January.

Marketers expect personalization to be the third most exciting opportunity in five years  (after customer experience and multichannel campaign management).

Top Digital Priorities 2014: Targeting and Personalization

Participants of the Adobe-sponsored roundtable conversations varied in experience from those who are doing little to nothing to those that are doing quite sophisticated segmented targeting based on context or past behavior. However, none felt they were at the point of personalizing one-to-one.

The definition of personalization varies from person to person and company to company. As Ashley Friedlein wrote in his blog post on the rise of context for customizing digital experiences, there are good opportunities to tailor the customer experience based on context such as location, device (mobile versus desktop), time or day and even weather.

Personalization

Participants at the roundtable confirmed this loose definition of personalization. The level of personalization on websites of those participating in the roundtables varied from basic geo-targeting to recommendations based on past purchase behavior to advanced segmentation.

The challenges most frequently raised by participants included migration from legacy systems, skill gaps, data management, the technology behind personalization (including recommendation engines, content management systems and campaign attribution software) and for those just getting started – where to start!

The most common form of personalization was in email marketing and was said to be the easiest place to start.

It is easier to control the email content and landing pages and there are fewer departmental silos involved. ROI is also easily measured, making it easier to allocate future resources.

Some participants were using behavioral and past purchase data to fuel recommendation engines. There was much discussion as to the effectiveness of these engines.

Those further along the personalization journey were exploring displaying personalized website content, beyond just recommending additional products based on past purchases.

There was a strong desire to hear best practices and successes in personalization. Participants lamented the promised increases in ROI from vendors and came in search of real world success stories.

Some success stories and best practices were shared including a bank using life-change triggers such as change of address to serve personalized website content.

The Outnet’s emails showing offers available in the consumer’s size were also heralded. Amazon’s recommendations received mixed reviews. In particular, many expressed frustration with the lack of relevance based on past gift purchases.

Firms are looking to improve personalization based on advanced segmentation. There is a desire to align content management systems with individual purchases to personalize the content displayed on the home page.

Participants seemed to feel that they were doing a good job with personalizing email campaigns. The next step is to personalize website content and the web experience.

Data and organizational silos seemed to be the biggest challenges to personalization as well as a feeling that if one goes to far, the damage could be huge. One participant asked: Do you only show clothing in size six and risk offending customers who’ve gone up a size?

2014 should be the year when personalization really takes hold. Email, social, marketing communications, mobile, in store and web experiences should become much more integrated and much more focused on the individual.

It seems that retailers have been pushing fastest and hardest on this but banks, telcos, media businesses, and travel companies are catching up.-eConsultancy

How are you personalizing your marketing initiatives? Learn more – call 877.447.0134.

Why Personalize Your Website?

Personalized Web Sites
Over the last 10 years, marketers have gotten really good at personalizing emails. Retailers know your order history, style preferences, and sizes; airlines know your travel preferences and frequent destinations; and companies in all industries know what content you have downloaded and which events you have attended. Savvy marketers then use all this information to make sure their outbound messaging is as relevant and engaging as possible.

Websites, on the other hand, have lagged far behind email. How often do you go to a website and see offers and promotions for products you already own? We are at a point where the tools exist to make our websites just as targeted as our emails. Technology today allows us to customize experiences, messages, and calls to actions across any content management system.

Once you’ve decided to make your website as personalized as your email, you’ll have to determine how you will segment and target visitors. Here are four ways:

Visitor Information

This is the most basic level of personalization. At this level you use information that isn’t tied to any demographic or persona. The data is specific to each individual. For example, you can track the number of times a viewer has visited your page to craft an appropriate message. The premise behind it is simple – someone looking at the site for the fifth time should not be seeing the same screen as someone looking for the first time. A first-timer will find basic information useful, while a repeat visitor will likely need information that’s more in-depth. You can also capture how a visitor came to your website – did they type the URL directly into their browser? Did they navigate to the page from social media or a PR article? Identifying a referral visitor’s source can help shape the message and experience they receive on your website.

Location

Analyzing a visitor’s IP address can give you a physical location, and you can personalize the experience based on that. For example, my company has prospects from all over the world, and we personalize the currency we use to display our prices and customize the information we ask for on forms. As another example of using location, say you’re a clothing retailer: you can use the weather in a visitor’s area to suggest the most appropriate images to display. That way you’ll be able to offer a potential customer board-shorts in San Diego, a sweatshirt in San Francisco, and a ski jacket in Tahoe. Going further, you can use real-time to dynamically put in pictures of jackets and umbrellas when it happens to be raining outside.

Industry and Company

If a visitor is surfing from work, then their IP address allows you to look up their company, and in turn you can match that to an industry. Understanding which industry an individual works in can determines the images you use, the products you highlight, and the type of case studies you offer.

Knowing the specific company a visitor works for gives additional personalization possibilities. Most companies have a list of target accounts and ideal customers, and would want to know if one of those targets is checking out the website. When they do, you can specifically welcome them by name and perhaps use the opportunity to connect and say, “Three other departments at Acme Corp are using our product and are seeing a lot of success. How can we help get you on board?”

Marketing Automation Integration

Use the information in your marketing automation system for true 1-to-1 personalization. For example, you can identify where a specific prospect is in the buying cycle and customize the calls-to-action you give them. For prospects that you are nurturing, you can share educational thought leadership and offer a free trial. If you know that the sales team is actively engaged with the individual, he would get an entirely different set of messages, reinforcing your brand and showing why your company is a safe choice. And, of course, you would have an entirely different set of messages and offers in place for current customers. As another example, you can use the website to reinforce the last offer and email seen by a prospect, creating a true coordinated experience regardless of whether you send the message to the customer or they come to you.

Knowing where an individual is in the buying cycle isn’t the only road to personalization through marketing automation. Persona-based personalization is extremely helpful. You can create personas and match your visitors to a persona in your system to send them the most relevant messaging possible. You’re probably already customizing your nurture tracks to be relevant to each persona, so why wouldn’t you do the same for your website?

Websites should not be static. We’ve learned so much about personalization through email and there is no reason why we can’t have the same kind of targeted, dynamic efforts on our websites. Ensure your customers get the right message for them, whether you approach them or they come to you.-ClickZ

Take your web site to the next level. Call 877.447.0134 today.

Email Marketing: All About Relevant, Compelling Content

Email marketing tactics
Recent research has highlighted the importance of relevance in marketing messaging, and a benchmarking report from Ascend2 concerning email marketing comes to a similar conclusion. Respondents to the survey indicate that the creation of relevant and compelling content is by far the single most effective email tactic for achieving important objectives. And it’s also the most challenging to produce.

Email Tactics
First, a look at the objectives that email marketers are looking to achieve in the coming year. Closely grouped at the top are 3 main goals:
• improving lead nurturing (52%);
• improving click-through rates (50%); and
• increasing website traffic (49%).
Much as other related surveys have found, subscriber growth is a little lower on the agenda. (See here for a list of email marketers’ most popular – and effective – list growth tactics.)

Having established the top goals, the study looks at the types of email tactics used for marketing purposes, finding that the top 3 signal a “shift toward one-to-one marketing” – creating relevant and compelling content (80%), personalizing email messaging (72%), and segmenting email marketing lists (61%).

When asked to choose the single most effective tactic of those used, relevant and compelling content was easily the top response, cited by 51% of respondents, ahead of personalization (15%) and segmentation (15%). (Given these study results, marketers may want to give personalization a closer look, too.)

Some 40% said the creation of compelling and relevant content is the single most difficult tactic to execute. Interestingly, the second-most difficult (though trailing by a significant margin) is the integration of email with other tactics (13%), considered the most difficult by slightly more respondents than for segmentation (11%) and personalization (10%).

In a separate question regarding the most challenging obstacles to achieving important email marketing objectives, content relevance was also the top choice, cited by 43% of respondents. Behind that was email list growth (37%), an interesting result given that almost all the respondents said their email list has either grown (68%) or remained stable (25%) during the past year.

In other results, about 9 in 10 respondents rated their current email marketing program as successful in achieving important objectives, though fewer than 1 in 5 rated it “very” successful. Marketers were a bit less enthusiastic about the change in effectiveness of their programs, with 46% saying it has stayed the same and 46% saying it has increased over the past year. In terms of the email marketing software improvements that marketers would most like to see added to their current platform, the largest proportion pointed to improved analytics/data visualization (41%), with improved mobile capabilities (36%) following.

About the Data: The Email Marketing Benchmarking Survey was fielded by Ascent2 and Research Partners and completed interviews with 518 marketing and sales decision-makers and practitioners from around the world. Two-thirds of respondents are in the US, and more were exclusively B2B-focused (43%) than B2C-focused (13%).

Take your email marketing to the next level. Call BDS today at 877.447.0134.

The Keys To Marketing To Small Businesses

The Key to marketing to SMB
Marketers must make better use of data about their small-business customers

It’s a basic rule of marketing that knowing your customers is key to targeting, reaching and pulling them in. But when it comes to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which make up a large chunk of all firms in North America, many marketing executives don’t know as much as they could.

Research from the CMO Council and Penton Media conducted in Q4 2013 found that just half of senior marketing executives in North America felt they had good data on SMBs’ transactions, behaviors and customer support issues. And that was the most common piece of marketing knowledge cited.

Nearly four in 10 respondents said they had only basic customer contact information, only 15% used social media to learn more about SMBs, and just 8% said they had 360-degree views of their customers.

These marketers were still making efforts toward segmentation and personalization, however. Most were using segmenting and targeting to connect with SMBs, and 40% were attempting more personalized and relevant communications. But how well this can be done without more data about SMBs is debatable.

“Many large organizations see the SMB community as one big group, without segmenting within it,” said Liz Miller, vice president of the CMO Council. “Many businesses start as fail, and it’s very difficult to deal with databases with so much churn,” Miller noted. “But marketers could be delivering the same types of data-driven, personalized and relevant messages to SMB decision-makers as to others in large organizations.”

No time? No resources? Not sure where to start? Call 877.447.0134 today!

What Are Marketers Most Excited About in 2014?

marketing opportunities
What are marketers most excited about this year? That was one question posed by Econsultancy and Adobe in their latest quarterly intelligence briefing. That it depends on who’s asked. While a surprising area topped the list for in-house marketers, the responses differed significantly when respondents were split into various groups.

marketers most exciting opportunities
According to the global survey, company respondents are most excited about customer experience (20%), beating out other topics such as mobile (18%) and content marketing (15%). Even personalization, social media and big data couldn’t hold a candle to CX, each picking up just 10% share of respondents.

It was a slightly different story among agency respondents, who tabbed the same top 3 opportunities, but in a different order. For agencies, mobile presents the most exciting opportunity of the year for a leading 21%, ahead of customer experience (17%) and content marketing (13%).

The differences are even more interesting when comparing B2C and B2B marketers. Content marketing shot to the clear lead among B2B marketers, among whom 24% named it their single most exciting opportunity. Customer experience (15%) was a relatively distant second, followed by multichannel campaign management (11%) and mobile (10%). For B2C respondents, mobile (22%) edged customer experience (21%) as the most exciting opportunity; only 11% are most excited about content marketing, on par with personalization.

The study also contains some intriguing results concerning what company marketers believe the most exciting opportunities will be in 5 years’ time. Notably, CX retains its position at the top of the list, with 20% share of respondents again saying it will be the most exciting opportunity. Next up, 17% believe that multichannel campaign management will be the most exciting area (as opposed to 10% today), while 15% feel that way about personalization (compared to 10% today).
While there’s tons of buzz about content marketing, social, and mobile, company marketers believe that the excitement surrounding those areas will die down over the next few years. A comparatively small 11% (versus 18% today) feel that mobile will be the area of most opportunity in five years; just 7% share that sentiment about content marketing (compared to 15% today) and 5% about social media (versus 10% today).

How about marketers’ top digital priorities? The study provided respondents with a list of 13 digital-related areas, asking them to name their top 3 priorities this year. The responses indicate that while some areas aren’t considered the most exciting now or in the future, they are top priorities. The top 3 for each group were:

Company Respondents
• Content marketing (36%);
• Social media engagement (36%); and
• Targeting and personalization (32%).

Agency Respondents
• Multichannel campaign management (35%);
• Content marketing (35%); and
• Social media engagement (34%).

B2B Respondents
• Content marketing (44%);
• Content optimization (26%); and
• Social media engagement (26%).

B2C Respondents
• Targeting and personalization (34%);
• Conversion rate optimization (33%); and
• Social media engagement (32%).

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of more than 2,500 marketers and internet professionals carried out at the end of 2013. 37% are based in the UK and one-quarter elsewhere in Europe. 46% of company respondents and 28% of agency respondents are exclusively focused on B2C marketing; the corresponding figures for B2B marketing were 29% and 33%, respectively.-MarketingCharts

What marketing opportunities are you most excited about?