Growing Profits with Marketing Automation

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The amount of data zooming in and out of companies continues to climb. There's company, product, and pricing information; competitive information; and customers' demographic, behavioral, and attitudinal data as well. Plus, all of this data has to be communicated over multiple channels. It can be overwhelming to say the least. So when it comes to addressing customers' immediate personal needs, marketers can use all the help they can get. That's what marketing automation sets out to accomplish.

Online video hosting site Wistia, whose clients include NBC, MailChimp, HubSpot, and Samuel Adams, was sitting on a mountain of user data from its popular 15-day trial, which allowed people to upload videos to its Web site and access viewer analytics. When it came to convincing users to try other features and switch to its paid options, the company relied on a one-size-fits-all approach.

"We were sending everyone the exact same message, which was along the lines of 'We see that you're halfway through using the trial; we hope you're enjoying it and don't forget to buy it,'" says Ezra Fishman, Wistia's marketing director. "We didn't have a way to personalize the message based on what people were doing on the site or what they showed an interest in."

Wistia enlisted the help of marketing automation provider Pardot (an ExactTarget company) to boost its lead management marketing campaigns. The company now passes the usage information it captures from its app to Pardot's platform to create and deliver emails tailored to a prospective customer's activities.

"For example, if you upload a video during the trial but you didn't embed the video on your Web site, you'll get a targeted email [with] instructions on how to do that," Fishman explains.

Reminding users about Wistia's additional features has led to a 30 percent increase in its conversion rate. "This was a big win for us. What we like about Pardot is that it's easy to set up the automation rules to drive a drip campaign that's personalized according to what makes sense for your business," Fishman says. With Pardot's help, Wistia has executed other email campaigns based on what users indicate they are interested in when they sign up for more information.

Wistia is also working on an integration with Pardot that would allow the two companies to share information about their mutual customers' video viewing history and inform customers of the types of additional videos that they would subsequently receive.

Marketing automation platforms, Fishman notes, make it easier to segment and deliver targeted content to a diverse user base. "You want to give customers content that they're interested in," he says, "and marketing automation can get the ball rolling."

In these fast-paced times, a growing number of businesses are turning to marketing automation systems to help them carry out numerous tasks. International Data Corporation predicts the marketing automation market will reach $4.8 billion by 2015, up from $3.2 billion in 2010. In response to growing demand, vendors have been rolling out increasingly sophisticated products that aid marketers in creating and delivering relevant messages as well as capturing, scoring, and nurturing potential sales leads, among other functions.

Turning Marketing into a Science

One of the benefits to using a marketing automation platform is that it takes the "guesswork out of marketing," according to Marilyn Cox, director of marketing communications at Cincom Systems, a software company that offers products for simplifying business operations and customer communications.

Before the company purchased marketing automation provider Eloqua's platform, it was difficult to understand why some marketing campaigns were less effective than others, Cox says. "With [the marketing automation system], marketing is much more of a science," she says. "It gives us analytics that show us our customers' engagement level—not just at an account level, but also at the different stages of the buying cycle, so we understand which content resonates and can adapt our strategy around proven results."

As an example, she points to an email campaign that Cincom recently launched. The initial results were disappointing, according to Cox. An examination of the contact database revealed the problem: Many of the people who received the emails worked in IT departments, while the email's message was sales-oriented. "That explained why we weren't seeing the engagement that we wanted," she says. To fix the problem, Cox's marketing team used Eloqua's platform to create and push out an IT-specific email while directing the sales-oriented messages to more appropriate contacts.

The difference was striking. Whereas 100 people unsubscribed from Cincom's contact list after receiving the original email, none opted out after receiving the targeted IT-specific email. In addition, after customizing the subject line for an IT audience, the open rate shot up from 12.9 percent to 15.9 percent. The engagement rate, e.g., clicking on content links, also grew, from 8 percent to 8.85 percent. "Segmenting our messages allows us to provide more relevant information, and a marketing automation system makes it much easier to do that," Cox comments. "What will be interesting to watch with this IT nurture campaign is which phases and pieces of content resonate more."

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