With 2017 now underway, I’ve started to wonder about this year’s key buzzwords. I’m aware that the term ‘agile’ is already often over-used and over-rated. For those of you who have ever played corporate bingo, it’s probably even on your bingo card these days. So, let me start off by saying that I’m not trying to be fashionably late to the ‘agile’ party.

But with agile methodology now the norm in many tech-savvy organisations and speed to market faster than ever, I think it’s time the average marketing function took a leaf out of their tech team’s book.

When I worked in Investment Banking (a lifetime ago now), we were fortunate enough to engage the best agencies and we bought attention with some pretty impressive budgets. But if I had a penny for every time a Banker whined about being able to put together a multi-billion dollar deal faster than we could get an ad out, I would have been one of their investment opportunities.

Timing is everything when business is this fast.

But luckily for marketers today, technology now enables us to know more and do more, faster and smarter than ever before. Below are a few quick tips on how setting up your marketing automation solution with agility at its core will help you deliver quality campaigns, at pace:

1. Pre-approved templates.

Designing for automation means you can build a handful of brand-approved email and landing page templates to have at the ready for any on-the-fly campaign or single message. With pre-approved banners and imagery already available in your automation tool, simply select the one you want, add your copy and you’re good to go. All this, at less cost and in a fraction of the time it would take to brief your agency.

Building your target audience shouldn’t start with a spreadsheet. Gathering digital body language and combining that with rich profile data will facilitate powerful segmentation. Template your key segments and you can kiss Excel goodbye.

Then, there’s reporting. A strong set of reporting templates you can apply to any campaign will provide you with real-time insights to impress your internal stakeholders and to optimise your campaigns instantaneously. Send them regularly via automation to your sales teams and they’ll have all the data at their own fingertips.

2. CRM Integration.

Many marketing teams struggle with target lists so if you fall into this category, be reassured that on some level, all of us would like to improve our data. But if you’re still downloading contact details, manually manipulating them in Excel and uploading them into your mail distribution tool, chances are you’re unlikely to move quickly when an opportunity arises that requires a sense of urgency.

Integration doesn’t have to be complex. Your automation platform should easily map to your CRM and offer a two-way sync, according to your business’ unique operating rules. It should be simple enough for you to adapt as your CRM changes, yet sophisticated enough to provide you with the following benefits:

  • Easy to define segmentation, using CRM data: For example, you may want to build a segment for all prospects in a particular stage in the buyer cycle (often the ‘status’ field), but you’ll need to include different geographies as your copy differs for UK vs US English.
  • Dynamic personalisation: For example, if you know which products naturally fit with others, you can add content about new products based on what your customer is already buying. Personalise this even further by adding their name, details of their last purchase and making it look like it came from their Account Manager, and your conversion rates will be even stronger.
  • Trigger programs that run themselves: Using automation for specific campaigns is generally the first step of marketing automation. If you’ve been using automation for a while now, I’d encourage you to start applying it across your end-to-end customer experience by building programs that run on CRM or behavioural triggers. For example, kick-off a welcome campaign for a new customer to get them up and running faster or to prolong the ‘champagne moment’ – if done well, they’ll become an advocate and actively talk offline and in social channels about it. Another example that is easy to implement and adds value to your sales teams is one that simply notifies the Account Owner that a contract is coming up for renewal and engages their customer ahead of time to build loyalty before the contract closure.

3. Don’t forget the importance of internal communications.

It’s taken me much of my career so far to appreciate the value of celebrating and sharing your wins. Many of us are generally uncomfortable blowing our own trumpets and are eager to move onto the next campaign, but it’s important that marketing functions regularly keep the business up to date with key learnings and results. After all, being agile is about taking such learnings and adapting them for the next campaign – not rinsing and repeating.

Automation should be as much about sharing and discussing the insights as it is about building them. Here are some tips on how to do just that:

  • As mentioned above, automate your reports so they go directly to the campaign sponsor. Review these regularly so they aid your future decision making.
  • Use automation wisely to communicate internally when something changes in the customer journey. For example, if sales have dropped recently for a client, use that as a trigger to notify the Account Owner.
  • Make sure your automation tool provides your sales teams with easily accessible campaign and channel information. For example, Oracle Profiler app is a window into customer engagement – it arms your Sales Execs with information on whether their contact is opening and engaging with emails, and what they’re interested in on your websites and landing pages.

In summary, agile marketing through automation will help you to…

  • Find time to monitor changing customer behaviours, market conditions or business strategies.  In other words, more time on insights/optimisation and less time on execution;
  • Respond with immediacy – create and deploy within minutes, where necessary;
  • Maintain brand control, without the needless approval workflow for every message; and
  • Earn some well-deserved clout with your internal stakeholders.

…you might even get a pat on the back from your Sales Exec!