Deploying a marketing automation platform
In a previous article, I covered the selection of a new marketing automation platform. So, you have your new shiny platform. But now the real work begins: the successful deployment of the tool in your organisation. This blog post intends to get you started.
Let’s start with a warning: the implementation of a successful marketing automation platform is never finished. First, the ideal campaign flow does not exist; it is imperative that you are constantly finetuning your existing communication processes. On top of that, shifts in the marketplace and the introduction of new marketing methodologies and technologies mean that sitting still is not an option.
Strategy comes first
In this article as well as in the previous one, I assume that you already have a (digital) marketing strategy regarding automation. If not, I - and my colleagues at Intracto - can assist you to define that strategy, so do not hesitate to contact me if you need guidance.
Often forgotten in an implementation is that we are indeed deploying a marketing automation tool. While these platforms are perfectly capable of delivering ad-hoc communications to your audiences, the real strength is the capability to automate some processes, resulting in engagement with your contacts without the need of intervention of you and your colleagues.
A successful deployment will make sure that those processes that behave predictably are running in the background without the need for human intervention.
The plan of approach
Before diving into the actual implementation, it is important to define the targets for the first iteration of the application deployment.
Following steps are to be taken:
- Data model definition and set-up
- Integration with other systems
- Template design and development
- Set-up of the initial process flows
- Training the users
In defining these targets, make sure that the reach of the initial implementation is ambitious but attainable at the same time. My experience has taught me that it is preferable to deploy a limited number of processes/flows/campaigns with basic steps.
Enhancing and fine-tuning these processes as well as setting up the next ones will be part of next iterations. That way, it is easy to learn from your experiences and include these in the future iterations.
Data model definition and set-up
A well-designed data model is extremely important for your marketing automation strategy.
Using the data available, you are ready to start segmenting your target contacts and personalise the messages you will be sending.
To achieve the desired degree of segmentation and personalisation possibilities, the selected marketing automation platform must have the possibility to store information in a relational database model as opposed to just having a flat file storage solution.
This setup makes it easier to keep the data model up to date while ensuring that new data elements do not result in contact tables with hundreds of columns (my highest personal experience with a flat database is more than 600 columns in the contact list).
It is important to store all relevant information in the marketing automation platform, that way you can ensure that you have full options to segment your contacts and personalise your communication to the fullest.
More information regarding data and the significance of it can be found in my previous two blogs: 'The significance of data in digital marketing - part 1' and 'The significance of data in digital marketing - part 2'
Integration with other systems
The majority of the necessary data is originating from external applications and this data needs to be integrated into the marketing automation platform.
There are two basic methods to interface data into the tool:
- The information has to be instantly available, and so the interface needs to be (near) instantaneous.
- The information is more static, and the interfacing can be executed on scheduled times. This type of interfacing is simpler to implement.
Also, the direction of the different data types can be inbound, outbound or unidirectional.
This part of the implementation is more technical than the other parts and involvement from your IT-department and/or the suppliers of the various platforms is needed. Take into account that a ‘perfect integration’ is very hard to achieve and the closer you get to this ‘perfect integration’, the more effort (diminishing return) will be required!
Template design and development
When communicating across the different channels, it is important to make sure that your corporate image and corresponding house style are reflected in your various communication channels. So, an important task of the initial implementation is to develop the different templates to be used in the application for frictionless deployment by users.
This step can consequently be used for two distinct purposes:
- To challenge the current house style(s) and see where enhancements or innovations can be applied. Not to be confined to this moment only, I recommend revisiting the house style at least once a year to check and – if necessary – update the designs.
- To make sure the house style is consistently applied across the different channels.
Set-up of the initial process flows
Now it is time to develop the process flows that are part of the initial implementation. It is tempting to select ‘everything’ when deciding what process flows to be included. However, this is not a good idea, this for several reasons:
- The time needed to analyse, develop and deploy all desired processes into the platform would result in a very long lead time, delaying the start of usage of the new tool. Moreover, this long lead time may have as a side effect that defined processes are partly outdated at the time of final deployment.
- This way of working disallows the application of a learning process, where results of the processes can be applied to the next processes that are implemented.
- The installation of all different processes can result in having too high a marketing pressure to your audiences. Even though several platforms have tools in place to govern the marketing pressure, even then it can become unclear what messages in the many different flows will be sent and which not.
In the same vein, it is not necessary to develop the selected processes into flows with all whistles and bells. Here too, you can benefit from the lessons learned to constantly refine the processes, a task never finished due to ever-changing market environments. Also, do not forget to include A/B testing in your processes (in the flow itself and in the communications), because this will give you valuable information on what works best with your target audience.
Areas for selection for processes to be automated are to be found in:
- Lead generation
- Welcome new customer process
- Loyalty programs
- Cross- and up-selling
- Churn management
- Service messaging (this is an area frequently overlooked by marketing as these messages have very high open rate)
Start planning future iteration steps, to refine and augment the already existing flows as well as to implement new flows. Both should benefit from the lessons learned from achieved results.
Training the users
The final step before the go-live of your marketing automation platform is to provide training to the users of the tool. For best results, I recommend not to have a standard training, but instead to train the users on the developed environment, resulting in transferring knowledge not only of the tool itself, but also of your organisation’s implementation.
The training should include following elements:
- Obviously, the functionalities and usage of the tool itself.
- Transferring knowledge about the data model. You want the users to be able to segment the contacts as well as personalise messages based on the information in the database. For that, the architecture of the data model should be known and understood.
- The implemented channels that can be used in communicating with your audiences.
- The design and lay-out of the templates and how to deploy them across the different channels.
- The implemented flows. This knowledge is important in that it will make the users understand what is automated and make them understand what communications are no longer needed to be sent out manually.
Go live and plan reviews
Congratulations, you are now ready to go live with the first iteration of your marketing platform. Make sure to plan the next review moments where you will analyse the results of the already implemented flows and prepare the deployment of the next flows.
Get help from the experts
Need advice or help on how to implement your marketing automation platform? Our experts are at your disposal. Make an appointment today.Contact us