Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning… Oh my! These were the buzzwords floating at this year’s Salesforce Basecamp in Stockholm, Sweden two weeks ago. My team at Recoordinate and I, along with a sold-out crowd of over 1800 attendees, gathered at the event to see what is the “next big thing” within the martech industry and why marketers have now entered the 4th Industrial Revolution of Connectivity, according to Salesforce’s newly released State of Marketing Report.
As the day progressed into the late afternoon, however, I couldn’t help but noticed a dark-stormy cloud lurking into the networking hall, as I kept overhearing marketers say, “I really want to work with AI and predictive data… but I don’t think my company can fully utilize this feature just yet.” And it was then in this moment when I realized, as a marketer myself, that perhaps we’re not in Kansas anymore.
It is true that we live in an interesting time, and I must admit, I give a lot of kudos for the folks over at Salesforce for highlighting this at the event. Since AI has finally caught up to us, technology is now seen as a commodity within the digital community. What was once a marketing mantra for companies to become “digital-first” for over two decades, has now shifted for companies to become “customer-first.” Now more than ever, businesses are forced to keep up and adopt new ways of connecting with their customers.
Meanwhile, consumer behaviors and expectations have drastically changed due to machine learning, advanced personalization, and automation, and companies are now looking for new ways to grow their business and stay relevant. As Michael Chui, Partner of the Mckinsey Global Institute, said in this Mckinsey report, “It is clear from our research, but also just looking at history, that people increasingly, over time, will have to be complements to the work that machines do. Work side by side or work with machines.” This is good news if you work with marketing automation already.
However, as one brave marketeer said during the break, “It’s great seeing all the possibilities what you can do within marketing technology nowadays, especially with the help of AI, but it’s just not within our reach. Our company is simply not ready for it.” This was the overall tone I felt coming from marketers as I interacted with them during the day.
So, if this situation sounds familiar to you, what can you do to make your marketing automation technology relevant in the advanced digital age, especially when your organization and processes are outdated with the current times? Here are three simple ways to get started.
1. Understand your “why”
Although seen as an obvious answer, understand your “why” deserves to be on the top of the list since it often goes unnoticed within many marketing departments. Whether you implement your marketing automation tool first then you create a strategic plan, or vice versa, you are going to need a marketing automation strategy at some point within your journey.
Marketing technology is only an enabler, helping you to connect with new prospects and customers. There are many pieces in the puzzle to create a good customer experience, and your marketing automation tool plays a tiny part in that equation. Thus, it’s a good idea to build a robust martech strategy that is not tool dependent. Your plan should live on its own and for a long time, no matter what system you use.
So how do you build one? Where should you begin? Here are some basic questions I like to ask clients when they first get started:
What are your company goals for the next coming years?
What type of existing data do you have?
Have you developed personas and what are their specific needs?
Who are your important internal stakeholders?
What are your competitors doing to convert new leads?
Having a clear marketing automation strategy will not only guide your business decisions, but it can also help you customize your solution – so that the system can meet your expectations.
2. Align teams with the same goal
As Tiffani Bova, Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, said during her keynote at the event, “We don’t have a technology problem. We have a people and process problem.” I couldn’t agree more. Yes, technology is a way of making things work, but the core is to have good processes and the right people in place.
It’s not uncommon to hear that departments still work in silos. As an advisor, I often see teams suffer from perceived internal issues. When the goals are unclear within a company, people will often look internally, at their own processes, because they want to provide some sort of value. For instance, an audience member kindly explained during a Q&A session, “We haven’t set our processes and we don’t know the purpose of why we are using the system; and therefore, people are unsatisfied. They have different goals.”
This is not the optimal way to work. Yes, as a marketer, you should align with sales for qualifying new leads. However, are your goals aligned with them (sales)? Have you thought about other stakeholders and teams who should be involved in your processes, such as IT, BI or finance? What are their business goals? In theory, everyone at your company should be working towards the same mission: to grow the business. Thus, it’s a good practice to align your marketing automation plans with your stakeholders and get them involved early so that they can become your ambassadors.
3. Have a beginner’s mindset
If all else fails, don’t go big: go small. This is perhaps not an easy task for most go-getters. However, let’s say if you had the chance to implement your marketing technology from the beginning all over again, what would you do differently this time if resources, budget and time were not an issue? What actions would you take? Maybe it means that you would take the time to better identify your customer needs or dig deeper into your systems and do a little bit of research of the existing data you have. In fact, you probably already have a good idea what’s been working and what hasn’t been working. Whatever it is, I’m sure you would do things differently. So, why not start from there.
Finally, if there is one advice I can leave you with, remember that it’s not a race. It’s a journey, and it’s your journey. The era of AI and predictive automation is something new for all of us. Starting small doesn’t mean you have to have all your marketing automation processes ready overnight. It does mean, however, that you should be walking in the same direction with the rest of your peers. You owe it to yourself to do that. All you need to do is take one step at a time.
Senior Marketing Consultant