Automatically systematic

David Gilroy looks at marketing automation in the professions – or should it be marketing systematisation?

We’ve all had those emails. You clicked on something in an email newsletter, went to a form on a webpage and downloaded some piece of content.

30 seconds later you get an email from your new best friend (NBF), let’s call her Sarah. In her email Sarah thanks you for downloading the piece of content and would love to get some feedback on what you thought of it – as a busy professional services marketer you barely have time to scan read the damn thing, let alone send your NBF some feedback on it. And doubtless she would like to learn some more about your business (So instead of emailing me back in 30 seconds why didn’t you take a few minutes and look at my firm’s website, know more about what I do before trying to become my NBF?).

At the simplest level, this is marketing automation, or more commonly called an auto-responder.

As the title of this article suggests, automation by its very nature is going to be systematic, but I don’t think you can have one without the other. There will be a massive difference in how systematic a firms marketing will be based on their size (bigger definitely does not mean better in this case).

Defining marketing automation

We define marketing automation is a series of processes and systems that integrates your client database, your online marketing, your website(s) and usually a third party software service that converts visitors to your website from being anonymous to being known.

Marketing automation will usually require the creation of a series of workflows. A workflow is a series of automated actions that you can trigger to occur based on a person’s behaviours or contact information.
For example, when someone downloads a whitepaper, you could just ask for an email address, no name, no phone number. But, the next time they visit your website to download something else, you can make it mandatory that they give you another piece of information about themselves. This way, you are subtly building up your contact data on them over time.

When marketing automation breaks down

My biggest issue with marketing automation in professional services firms is the lack of professional sales people in most PS firms. What do I mean by this? Imagine the following…

Ms Large Prospect downloads a whitepaper from your website and gives you a name, phone number and email address in return. Your marketing automation workflow then triggers a series of follow up emails from Ms Big Partner who authored the white paper. Let’s just say one a week for three weeks. After the second email Ms Large Prospect decides to call up Ms Big Partner as something really interested her (the holy grail right, they called you!).

Do you trust Ms Big Partner to put some detailed call notes about the phone call into your CRM system and that for your CRM system to be sufficiently joined up with your marketing automation platform to then ‘break’ the workflow so the third and final email does not get sent? I thought not. So what happens? The third email gets sent anyway suggesting that they speak by phone (when they already have) and Ms Big Partner ends up with egg on their face.

Marketing automation tools

Tonnes, loads, and I’m not going to attempt to list them all. The market leaders would tend to be:
•    Vuture – one of the market leaders in the UK with 30 of the UK top 100 law firms and two of the big four accounting firms.
•    Concep – another UK based market leader also strong in professional services.
•    Hubspot – one of the global market leaders with a range of modules from free CRM to full on marketing automation. Interestingly now Hubspot has modules allowing you to build an entire website with visitor level personalisation, not just marketing automation.
•    Marketo – one of the global leaders in this space
•    Pardot – now owned by SalesForce so perhaps the obvious choice for those users and OnePlace customers.

Typical costs (hard and soft)

You might want to sit down. Depending on the size of your contact list, marketing automation can run in many thousands of pounds per month in hard costs. For example:
•    Pardot – starts at £800 per month for their Standard service for up to 10,000 contacts
•    Hubspot – starts from £140 per month, but only gives you 100 contacts and little or no real automation. For 10,000 contacts the price is £1,680 per month

The soft costs range from £2,000 to £5,000 for ‘onboarding’ as software companies call it. In my day we used to call it training, which is almost always done remotely nowadays. And the good news is you can do it all yourself.
But the real cost is in everything else you are going to need to run a marketing automation programme effectively:
•    People – you are almost certainly going to need at least a 0.5 FTE to run the programme.
•    Content – there’s a good chance you will have to up your content marketing game to generate enough content to really make marketing automation work for you.

Of course, this does limit the size of business that can implement anything more than the most basic of marketing automation programmes, ie. think more than just a web form auto responder drip campaign as typically one person does not have all the right skills.

Bottom line: Should I bother?

Is marketing automation something that professional service firms should look at as part of their 2017/18 marketing campaigns? Undoubtedly yes.

Implemented correctly there is no doubt that marketing automation can improve your lead nurturing, your ability to close new business and cross sell (or as we call it ‘milking your own cows’ – a phrase we borrowed from a US author called Jeffrey Gitomer).

I question whether for most professional service firms, they have the volume of leads, I mean pure leads driven by inbound marketing, to effectively utilise all the options that marketing automation systems can offer so proving a true ROI is going to be difficult.

David Gilroy is Director of Stuff & Things at Conscious Solutions. Contact: dgilroy@ conscious.co.uk