Crap in, crap out (english)

Marketing automation – sometimes called behavioral marketing or lead management – has moved onto many companies’ radar since the Gartner Group called it a megatrend last year. It seems to be everywhere you look – as long as you’re looking in the IT industry. Yet outside of that little world, you just get a “Huh? What’s that then?” when you mention the subject. What really amazes me is that consulting firms have hijacked the subject – you still don’t hear it much about it from marketing or ad agencies. If you ask students at an advertising or marketing college about it, you just get a blank look as an answer!

That’s nothing short of misguided, in my view. So why are the consulting firms so keen on it? Well, they would be, wouldn’t they? They stand to benefit from advising companies on how to develop new processes. Sounds nice and complicated, too. Analysis of actuals, definition of plans and how to achieve them, set up project groups, develop project plans etc. It reminds me of the British Army 7P motto: “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. This plays right into consulting firms’ hands. Why? Because they can sell lots of lovely man-days, of course! Then they get cracking on processes, set up a lead funnel, throw a bit of content in the top of it and watch the shiny golden leads trickle out of the bottom. Don’t believe me? You’re right – that’s the best way to fail!

What the !@#$ is marketing automation?In fact, marketing automation is nothing new – the basic principles were developed back in the 80s, when it was still called database marketing. As technologies evolved – such as CRM – companies started having a shot at 1:1 marketing. And with the internet, we now have the potential to do much more with behavioral marketing. We can observe our target prospects, get to know them better, align our activity to this knowledge and win them over to our product or service. Marketing automation platforms help us do this because they allow us to monitor and guide our communication across all channels. These technologies are fantastic of course – but there are a couple of things that will never change: ideas and creativity. Bad content is bad content and stupid processes are no different. The coolest marketing automation technology in the world will never turn bad content into hard cash, whereas a brilliant campaign idea may succeed without the technology. It just won’t succeed to the same extent.  Sooner or later, everyone will be using these tools – they’ll have to. Because they’ll be under pressure to get more bang for their marketing buck, understand their customers better, and win them faster and more effectively. But one thing’s for sure: marketing automation won’t ever make them rich if they don’t have any great ideas at the outset.

Oh, and there’s another thing I’d like to get off my chest while I’m at it. It’s amazing how megatrends like marketing automation get the charlatans crawling out of the woodwork. Marketing automation has huge potential if it’s used in the right way. So why doesn’t anyone talk about the risks? Because there aren’t any? Get real. When it’s done badly, process-driven communication can drive the recipient crazy or even make them feel harassed. Bad communication is one thing – but automated bad communication can put people off you for life. Many of us have signed up for email updates or newUltracrappersletters, only to be bombarded with too many messages. And what happens then? We get exasperated, unsubscribe and maybe even write the sender a furious email! And – most importantly – the company has lost a lot of goodwill, maybe even a potential customer. You’d be surprised how many companies in the IT industry use sophisticated marketing automation tools – they trust the technology but they’re still doing it wrong.

Today, more than ever, communication depends on expertise, monitoring and experience. I get the impression that there are more consulting firms and agencies saying they have “many years of experience” in marketing automation than there are installations of the technology. What are these consultants doing? They’re handling very sensitive data, building up target profiles, developing permission concepts – yet most of them don’t even have a data protection specialist in house or under contract. Others are poking clumsily around the central nervous system of the company’s communication – with zero experience in how best to approach the issue.

Here’s a top tip. Before hiring a consultant or service company to help you implement your automation strategy, there are two things you should do:

  1. Get some real references from the service provider and contact them. Try and find out what the provider did at their company and what the scope of the project was. It might have been the addition of a quick Facebook form or an extensive multichannel campaign lasting several months. But the most important thing is to ask how successful the project was!
  2. Make absolutely sure that your company complies with data protection laws. If a service provider is juggling merrily with your data, you should know the legal implications off by heart. If you don’t, you and your consultant will soon find it’s a minefield out there!

And here’s another tip. If you want your marketing automation implementation to succeed, it’s a good idea get your service provider, marketing agency (preferable one specializing in dialog marketing that’s experienced with automation) and your PR agency around a table. Some service providers have a deep understanding of the technology and know exactly how to integrate a marketing automation solution with your existing systems and set up the relevant processes. Your marketing agency will be able to develop campaigns, promotions and ideas and define the follow-up processes. PR can help by developing good content. With marketing automation, it’s really important to get all the actors involved at the same time. If there’s one mistake companies just keep on making, it’s implementing marketing automation in a vacuum without input from the exact people who could make it a success.

I recently met a company whose marketing automation system had been implemented by the company’s sales department. The result was that their end customers were being “automatically” harassed every day to push them to “just buy the product already”. The result? A massive flood of emails with Unsubscribe in the subject line. Needless to say, the company had never even heard of content marketing.

The moral of the story is clear: marketing automation might be great but it can’t defy the laws of physics. If crap goes in, crap comes out!

Best,

Philipp Brüggen

PS: In my view, marketing automation works best when you understand the future needs of a potential customer, which you could glean via social search. But I’ll be looking at that subject in my next blog post. Until then, take a look at this great article on the subject of content marketing.

Ideas for nothing? (english)

Last week I stumbled on an article that really amused me. Not new by any means, but it could have been written yesterday. A guy working at an ad agency decided to get his apartment painted. Nothing unusual there – except the way he went about getting quotes for the work. He decided to get the housepainters to pitch for it.

“Steppmüller Wall Painters and Stucco Plasterers, what can we do for you?“

“Good day, this is Schmid from Düsseldorf. I intend to get my apartment walls painted. I’d like to invite you to a pitch. When can you be here?”

“Pitch? You mean an estimate?”

“No, a pitch, working on spec. You paint a part of the wall for free in advance to demonstrate your knowledge about off-white.”

You’ll find the rest of the story here!

So what do you think? Great idea, isn’t it? But none of us would ever do it. Yet marketing agencies get this type of request every day. We received one ourselves not long ago. It was for a project with a budget of €50,000. Nothing wrong with that – except that there was a restriction. Agency fees couldn’t exceed 10% of that sum. The rest was earmarked for online media costs for a pan-European, big-bang campaign. And for the princely sum of €5000, they wanted strategy development, conceptual work, implementation examples in 4 languages, a media plan, schedule and – last but not least – a detailed prognosis of the results they could expect. But that wasn’t all! They made a part of the €5000 fee dependent on results. If the campaign wasn’t successful, the agency would only be paid half, so €2500. Tempting, eh? Oh, they also said we’d better make sure our presentation was good, because five ROI of 5S programagencies would be pitching against one another.

You might think I’m exaggerating. I only wish I were. Perhaps I should mention the target group too. Companies with five or more employees, across all industries, and the contact person would be different in each case, depending on company size and industry. But they should be “some type of manager”. Right, that’s good to know. And what’s the USP of the product? “It’s faster and saves money.” Aha. Great. And what were they hoping to achieve with this campaign? They didn’t know. “We’ll leave that up to your creativity,” they said. I’m not kidding – that was exactly what the briefing said.

Sometimes I dream of a sort of Wikileaks for briefings. Agencies can enter the briefings they’ve received and vote on the “best” one. But I digress. Briefings – and expectations of what an agency can do – are often absurd. Some of these firms think it doesn’t matter – or it’s not relevant – if they don’t have a coherent business strategy, as long as the ads look cool. Maybe we’re affected by clichés like Mad Men and the rest. Unlike the famous New York agency, we don’t have cigarettes balanced on our bottom lip with a whiskey in one hand and a secretary in the other. So how do ideas, concepts and strategies get developed? Well, Don Draper (the protagonist of Mad Men for those who haven’t seen it) might make time for them after a visit to one of his many lovers, between yet another cigarette and the 6th whiskey of the day. But not too much time; he doesn’t bother with market research, analyses and prognoses. And he looks so cool with his feet up on the table, right? The series might be describing the way ad agencies were in the 60s, but the image has stuck! It bears about as much similarity to the way an agency really works as Baywatch does to the real job of a lifeguard. I think that’s the only explanation for requests like this: “In Q2 we’ll need 1000 qualified leads. Target group is management in midsized companies. Oh, and our budget is limited to $10,000.” There are several like this. I’d be really interested to find out who prepares these pitches. Management, a marketing specialist, sales staff? If not, then who? Any thoughts?

Best,

Philipp Brüggen

PS: By the way, if you’re wondering how to deal with briefings properly, you could do worse than take a look at our briefing form here . We can’t guarantee it’s exhaustive and certainly won’t apply to every project. Nevertheless, it’s a good start and will help you avoid exposure on the blog of some agency owner or other!

PPS: No time to download the form? Then check out these points. These are how we detect that a potential customer has put some thought into the project.

  1. Is the briefing well thought through and – especially – does it provide a clear description of our tasks? This shows us that the customer has spent time on the RFP.
  2. Who takes part in the briefing and the presentation? This indicates how important the project is for the company.
  3. Is the budget realistic? It doesn’t have to be huge, but is an indication of how much experience the customer has with this type of campaign.
  4. The goals may be challenging, but are they achievable? Even difficult projects should have realistic goals.

Does the customer offer to pay a pitch fee? This shows that the customer understands the time and effort involved in a pitch, especially if they want a good idea of what we can do.

Shit in, Shit out

Marketing Automation (von manchen auch Behavioral Marketing oder Leadmanagement genannt) – seit die Gartner Group es letztes Jahr zum Megatrend adelte, ist das Thema omnipräsent! Zumindest in der IT-Branche. Außerhalb dieses Kosmos provoziert der Begriff noch oft ein: „Hä, was is’n das?“. Was mich wirklich erstaunt: Vor allem Berater scheinen das Thema gekapert zu haben! Von Marketing/Werbeagenturen kommt da noch zu wenig! Fragt man z.B. bei Werbe- und Marketing-Akademien nach, Fehlanzeige! „Hä, was is’n das?“

Aus meiner Sicht eine dramatische Fehlentwicklung. Warum sind vor allem Berater so scharf auf das Thema? Na warum wohl? Es gilt Prozesse zu entwickeln. Das klingt erst mal komplex. Ist-Analyse ermitteln, Soll-Zustand definieren… Projektgruppen aufsetzen, Projektpläne erarbeiten… etc… etc… Ganz gemäß des alten 7P-Sprichwortes der Britischen Armee: „Proper Planning and Preperation Prevents Piss Poor Performance“. Es klingt vor allem nach einem: Kräftig Mann-Tage verkaufen! Und jetzt wo es ein Megatrend ist What the !@#$ is marketing automation?sowieso. Also auf geht’s! Kräftig Prozesse definieren, Leadtrichter aufbauen, oben ein wenig Content rein und schon fließt der Leadstrom. Glauben Sie nicht? Ist auch Quatsch!

Die grundsätzlichen Prinzipien der Marketing Automation gibt es schon seit den 80ern. Damals hieß es Database Marketing. Mit der Verbesserung der Möglichkeiten (z.B. CRM) kamen erste Ansätze des 1:1 Marketing dazu. Und heute hat uns das Internet die technischen Möglichkeiten für die Königsdisziplin geschaffen: Behavioral Marketing – verhaltensgesteuertes Marketing. Wir können unsere Zielpersonen beobachten, noch besser kennen lernen, daraus Schlüsse ziehen und sie so für uns gewinnen. Dabei helfen uns Marketing Automation Plattformen, die Kommunikation über alle Kanäle zu überwachen und zu steuern. All die Technik hat jedoch eines nicht geändert: Entscheidend sind die Ideen! Die Kreativität! Schlechter Content bleibt schlechter Content! Ein blöder Bildschirmfoto 2013-05-06 um 10.11.27Kommunikationsprozess bleibt ein blöder Prozess! Er wird nicht zu Gold, nur weil er in einem Marketing Automation Tool abgebildet ist. Eine geniale Kampagne ohne die Möglichkeiten der Automatisierung wird vielleicht trotzdem funktionieren. Aber mit Marketing Automation wird sie deutlich besser funktionieren. Auf Kurz oder Lang wird jeder diese Werkzeuge einsetzen. Sogar einsetzen müssen. Damit Sie langfristig mehr rausholen aus Ihren Kommunikationsinitiativen, Ihre Kunden besser verstehen und sie besser überzeugen. Aber eines ist sicher: Wer keine Ideen hat, wird auch mit Marketing Automation kein Millionär!

Ach und eines möchte ich noch loswerden: Der Megatrend Marketing Automation ruft auch viele Scharlatane auf den Plan. Die Möglichkeiten der Marketing Automation – nutzt man sie richtig – sind enorm. Aber warum spricht niemand von den Gefahren? Weil es keine gibt? Mitnichten! Prozessgesteuerte Kommunikation kann nervtötend oder belästigend für den Adressaten sein, wenn man sie nicht richtig justiert. Schlechte Kommunikation „automatisiert“ wirkt wie ein Mixer in der Jauchegrube! Viele von uns sind auf Newsletter- oder E-Mail- Verteilern gewesen und haben sich irgendwann völlig entnervt abgemeldet! Sie wären erstaunt, wie viele dieser Absender (in der IT-Branche) bereits hochentwickelte Marketing Automation Tools einsetzen.

Kommunikation ist nach wie vor eine Frage des Know-hows, der Beobachtung (Monitoring) und der Erfahrung. Und zur Zeit habe ich das Gefühl, dass es mehr Berater und Agenturen mit „jahrelanger“ Marketing Automation Erfahrung auf dem Markt gibt als Installationen dieser Technologie. Da hantieren Berater mit hochsensiblen Daten, reichern Profile an, entwickeln Permission Konzepte und haben nicht mal einen Datenschutzbeauftragten. Andere fummeln am zentralen Nerv der Unternehmenskommunikation und haben sowas noch nie gemacht.

Ein Tipp: Bevor sie einen Dienstleister mit der Unterstützung bei der Umsetzung von Automatisierungskonzepten beauftragen, tun Sie zwei Dinge:

  1. Lassen Sie sich konkrete Referenzen geben und rufen Sie diese an. Versuchen Sie herauszufinden, was und in welchem Umfang der Dienstleister dort gemacht hat. Und versuchen Sie zu unterscheiden, ob nur mal ein Facebook-Formular angebunden wurde oder ob eine umfangreiche, mehrmonatige Kampagne gemacht wurde. Aber am allerwichtigsten: Fragen Sie nach dem Erfolg!
  2. Prüfen Sie die Einhaltung der Datenschutzrichtlinien. Wenn Dienstleister mit Ihren Daten jonglieren oder im zentralen Nervensystem Ihrer Kundenkommunikation operieren, dann sollten Sie die Rechtslage genauestens kennen. Wenn nicht, begeben Sie sich gemeinsam in ein Mienengebiet!

 

Und noch ein Tipp: Wenn Sie erfolgreich Automatisierung einführen und/oder betreiben wollen, dann bringen sie Implementierungspartner, Marketing Agenturen (die Marketing Agenturen sollten Dialogmarketing Experten sein und Automatisierungserfahrung haben) und PR-Profis an einen Tisch. Für das Thema Marketing Automation gibt es Implementierungspartner, die vor allem die Technik und die Anbindung an bestehende System perfekt beherrschen. Auch können sie schnell Prozesse einbauen. Die Marketing-Agenturen entwickeln Kampagnen, Promotion und Konzepte und definieren die Nachfassprozesse. PR kann bei der Entwicklung von Content unterstützen. Gerade bei der Automatisierung kommt es darauf an alle Disziplinen zusammen am Kommunikationsmotor entwickeln zu lassen. Wenn es einen Fehler gibt der immer wieder wiederholt wird, dann ist es dieser!

Neulich habe ich einen Kunden kennen gelernt bei dem die Marketing Automatisierung mit dem Vertriebsmanagement eingeführt wurde. Das Ergebnis war, dass der Endkunde „hochautomatisiert“ jeden Tag gedrängt wurde nun endlich das Produkt zu kaufen. Der Erfolg: Massenhafte Abmeldung! Die Vokabel „Content Marketing“ war dort vollkommen unbekannt.

Und die Moral von der Geschicht’: auch Marketing Automation überwindet die Physik nicht. Es bleibt dabei: Shit in, Shit out!

Ihr Philipp Brüggen

PS: Marketing Automatisierung funktioniert – aus meiner Sicht am besten – wenn man  zukünftigen Bedürfnisse des potenziellen Kunden versteht – z.B. über Social Search. Aber dazu mehr in meinem nächsten Beitrag. Bis dahin empfehle ich folgenden Artikel: hier klicken…