Marketing Automation for Better Customer Impact
By Jessica Best, Director of Data-Driven Marketing, Barkley
The big thing that I see in the industry today is that everyone is working increasingly towards bringing together the sales and marketing operations for better outcomes. This is something that it seems nobody has been able to do well in the past three decades. I think as the marketing automation channel progresses, it becomes an absolute necessity to support sales for a completely integrated customer experience, in a regulated, automated, cleaned, and traceable manner. Sometimes, the focus is just making the marketing better, but the real concern should be to make sales and marketing processes work together to support each other.
It is extremely easy and cost efficient these days to add marketing automation to the company budget for the year. Years ago, a company had to choose between buying marketing automation software or an email service provider, but that is not the case anymore. Email service providers can now do nearly all of what marketing automation providers can and marketing automation software companies have been building up their tool set to send larger batched, designed emails as well.
What are the positive outcomes of the technology becoming easily accessible?
The ability for clients to take automated emails from just basic 'welcome' messages to more robust marketing automation programs that automate email interaction with prospects and customers exponentially increases their ability to do more. A sales team can be on the phone or knocking on doors, instead of writing hundreds of typed up emails. A well-run automated program can still feel personalized, using a system remembers important dates automatically and spell-checks automatically. This can free up a sales staff for hours a day, which can have a noticeable return on investment in addition to streamlining the nurture process.
Can you elaborate on some projects that you are currently overseeing?
The project I am working on right now is reworking Spirit Airlines' customer journey email program. We’re revisiting the series of emails that a flyer receives from the moment they book their flight with Spirit through their trip and even after they return. Spirit has an ultra-low-cost model where you can find tickets for as low as $39, sometimes lower. But being ultra-low-cost– thanks to an “unbundled” fare -- means that every add-on costs a fee.
You’ll never regret learning something new or understanding a fresh perspective
It means fliers get the very best pricing for their trip, but it also means that a lot of people are surprised by fees they thought would be included. They feel nickel and dimed and have a poor experience.
In light of that insight, we’re adding an education element to the email series, using material we already have on the website or things the customer service team repeatedly use in answering flier concerns. We hope to educate fliers how to fly the Spirit way, so they know what to expect and have a better flying experience.
The series is highly variable. We start by sending a booking confirmation immediately. The next day, we send an email to those who haven’t flown Spirit (or haven’t flown Spirit in a while) about the nuances of flying Spirit, including things like booking bag fees ahead of time to save money. A few days before the flight, we send reminders again to anyone who hasn’t booked their seat or their bags. The day before their outbound flight, we send an email to check-in, including a note that if they print their own boarding pass or use the mobile boarding pass option, they can save $10 at the airport.
Our goal with the campaign is to increase customer satisfaction, tracked by net promoter score.
How do you build an email and/or marketing automation strategy for companies?
Our clients rely on us sometimes to kick-start the process. We always try to start with customer insight, either from the brand’s own database or via larger market trend data. For marketing automation in particular, we want to align our communication to what the customer is thinking, feeling, needing, and doing at each stage of their journey. For batched email sends, we like to dig into a brand’s database and understand some of their segments that naturally occur, so we can find each segment’s “why” and speak to it, rather than sharing the same corporate marketing line with everyone.
Can you talk about how your personal life reflects in your leadership strategies?
I get my energy out of understanding how things work. I especially take note when someone enjoys an experience. I try to listen to what delights people, or what they hope to get out of something. Just understanding why something happens, or the frustration that comes out of a bad experience, and being able to empathize with that is a big part of being successful in marketing automation. Empathy is something that we use pretty much daily at our office. If you are communicating with a customer, we remind our team and our clients to take their own preferences out and put on their 'empathy' hat, to understand what that person is going through. Our clients’ C-suite rarely represents the target market, so we have to come armed with data around how their customer actually feels/thinks. Understanding what the customers are going through and being able to empathize is going to help allow us provide them with the best experience.
Would you like to give any advice for aspiring or fellow marketing directors?
The thing I always tell people no matter their role or level in marketing is, Never stop learning. Be proactive about teaching yourself different things every day. Be curious. You will never regret learning something new or understanding a fresh perspective. I have been a student of marketing and human psychology since day one. As an added benefit, it’s especially helpful to be able to learn enough about adjacent business departments to be able to integrate and work well with them/speak to what they do. You should know who to reach out to for expertise you don’t have yourself and, better yet, getting to know people means they’ll know when they need to proactively reach out to YOU for things that touch your area of expertise.