Relational marketing (or relationship marketing) is a term many marketers use today to indicate that they send email blasts to their customers. It seems that whenever I meet a new prospect or client and ask them if they do relational marketing they nod their heads, smile and say emphatically “Yes, we group our customers into four segments and send each one of them a personalized message.” If I am foolish enough to follow that question up with “And how do you measure the effectiveness of your program?” I usually get a response such as “We check the open rates” or “Our bounce rate is very low”. Very rarely do I get an answer such as “Our sales rise about 10% in the week that follows each mailing”.
This is the business environment that is being actively targeted by “Marketing Automation” vendors (see my blog Eloqua, Marketo, and Aprimo are not Marketing Automation for my rant on this subject http://whatsnexx.com/2011/02/eloqua-marketo-and-aprimo-are-not-marketing-automation/)
It should not be surprising then that many “Marketing Automation” solutions do not live up to the hype, as many are being used as glorified, and expensive, email marketing systems. It is really hard to generate a very compelling business case with a high ROI when the cost of the software, implementation, training and on-going support accumulate into a significant amount, and the returns or profits derived from the solution are a long way downstream.
The key to a high and rapid ROI: Low investment and fast implementation. A rapid implementation cycle, such as seen when using an Agile Marketing approach, means that costs are relatively low (as long as you can avoid that high priced marketing automation consultant fee) making it easier to generate a high ROI.
So where to start if you fall into the “I blast four times a year category”? The best place is to start with what you are already doing today; however why not turn those punctual campaigns into ongoing programs? For example, if you are currently pulling a list twice a year to blast a reactivation offer to all customers who have not purchased in the last six months, instead automate it so that a reactivation offer is sent whenever someone has not placed an order for six months (i.e. ongoing reactivation program). If you currently blast a “Back to school” offer to all your customers and then wait to see the results at the cash register at the end of the month, instead blast the offer and then automatically send reminders to those contacts who did not open it within three days (note: you should be doing this for all your emailings), and follow that up with an automated survey to anyone who did not open the email at all.
These are simple first steps you can take to graduate from “Batch and blast” automation to “marketing operations” automation.