I am a big fan of marketing automation.  It has a lot of great uses to streamline your marketing efforts, get you a wealth of insight and help you tailor the right messages at the right time to the right people.  But as with everything, there are exceptions.  One big exception is using marketing automation tools when you are trying to reach a C-level audience.  The typical CEO or other C-level person is extremely busy trying to run their business day-to-day.  The last thing they are going to do is read marketing emails or surf the web in search of information about a particular solution set.  And if they do, they certainly don’t want a vendor calling them up and trying to sell them the latest widget to solve their problem.

C-level people are best reached through live interactions or interruptive marketing techniques such as a slick direct mail package.  These are not the type of techniques that you can automate or score on.  I am hard-pressed to tell you how you can use marketing automation at all when reaching this audience.  The only way I can think to take advantage is to use marketing automation to reach the people that will sell you internally to their C-level.

The bottom line is that every technology has a time and place.  It is probably best to back away from the technology when you are trying to sell into most C-level audiences.  There is no shortcut to reach that target audience.

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After a successful first half of her day and a good break, Janet is ready to tackle the tasks ahead of her.  At 1 pm, Janet reviews the latest campaign metrics.  She notices that one of her campaigns is not getting good response rates.  She calls the campaign manager into her office to brainstorm getting this campaign back on track.  It is determined that the messaging and offers should be tweaked.  The campaign manager goes off to make the changes and they agree to discuss the results in a few days.

Next she takes a look at the lead scoring results.  She notices many leads in “hot” status.  A quick look in the CRM shows that many of these leads have not been followed-up on by the lead qualification team.  She heads over to talk to the lead of that team.  The conversation is easy because the teams are in close alignment on strategy and incentives.  Everyone is working towards the same goals.  She determines that the issue is around having too many leads in hot status, but when the lead qual team follows up, not many are converting.  She discusses with her Marketing Automation administrator some changes she wants to make to the lead scoring criteria.  The changes will be made by the end of the day and they can review the results in a few days again to see if it helps.

At 3 pm, Janet interviews a couple of candidates for her team.  She is looking for a business analyst who can help with reporting and data quality.  This will be a key role to keep her team supplied with the right information and prospect data to be effective in their campaign efforts.  She is looking for someone who can not only crunch the numbers but also analyze the results and bring suggestions to the table.  She also wants someone who is familiar with data best practices that can keep their database clean and complete.

At the end of the day, Janet looks back at her dashboard to find some campaigns that are working well.  She shoots off some meeting invitations to business leaders to discuss how she might be able to replicate these campaigns with their content.  She updates the campaign calendar based on her earlier strategy discussions and shuts down her computer for the night.  She’s now off to watch her son’s soccer game secure in the knowledge that her marketing department is an effective and efficient piece of the company’s revenue engine.

Janet gets to the office around 7 am because she likes to work early to avoid interruptions and be done with work at a reasonable time so she can spend more time with her family.  However, her CFO feels the same way, so this morning she is accosted with questions as soon as she walks in about the effectiveness of her marketing spend.  Fortunately, Janet has this information readily on hand because she has a marketing dashboard that gives her real-time information about closed-loop marketing ROI.  She can tell the CFO exactly how much she has spent and what she has in both closed won and anticipated revenue for the month, quarter and year.

At 9 am, Janet has a meeting scheduled with her CMO to talk about the marketing strategy for the next quarter.  She walks in with information about what has been working for them and what hasn’t.  She also has some ideas about what they could try because she has been quietly testing out new strategies for the past few months and has information about what might work.  The meeting concludes promptly at 9:30 with a clear vision of the strategy for the next quarter and buy-in from the CMO.

At 10 am, Janet chairs a staff meeting where the Revenue Marketing team reports out on the status of current campaign projects.  With simple workflow tools and project dashboards, Janet can clearly see where everything stands and get tasks at risk of slipping back on track.  Everyone on her team has clear roles and understands how they are evaluating campaigns against revenue.

At 11 am, Janet sits down to review the latest content pieces the team has developed.  She has clearly defined personas and buy cycles for her prospects, so she knows what content will be effective in each stage of the decision process for each type of prospect.  That makes her job in editing the content easy.

At noon, she finally gets a break before gearing up for the second half of her day…

My first real experience with creating web pages was in the mid-90’s with the Purdue University Graduate School.  They knew they needed a web site, as it was the next big communication medium.  So I took their existing application forms, converted them to PDF, and added all the fields so an applicant could fill it out online, print it out and mail it in.  That seems crazy now, but that’s the best we could think of at the time.  They were just doing what everyone else was.  It’s not really a lot different from how most companies use video, social media and other new media today.

Granted, there are a few companies doing great things with these channels.  And we can learn a lot from watching them.  But until you can create something that is really adding value to your clients and prospects, just jumping on the bandwagon is probably not the right answer for you.  As your mother might say, “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you need to.”

That may seem blasphemous to most marketers today.  You should always be exploring new channels.  But you can waste a lot of time and money doing things just to blend in with the crowd.  What you really want to do is stand out from the crowd.  What if you bucked the trend and creatively used some “older” techniques?  What if you were the only company in your industry sending out hand-written letters?  What if you were the only one taking your product samples door-to-door?  What if you didn’t attend that industry trade show but instead hosted exclusive dinners of your own in cities around the country for those who couldn’t go to the show?

Yes, you need to make sure that you are doing efficient and effective marketing, but you may find that you can stand out more by looking for things that everyone else is not doing.  And if you happen to come up with a creative way to use social media or email to stand out in the meantime, go for it!  Just don’t limit your channel choices to only the latest and greatest trends.

Clickthrough rates on email are notoriously low.  With all of the emails that you get in your inbox everyday, it’s easy to see why.  There is just so much stuff out there to consume.  But just because overall clickthroughs will always be low on email, that doesn’t mean you should dismiss a low rate on your emails.  Here are five reasons people might not be converting from your emails.

  1. Low relevance.
    This is a biggie.  If the text and offer aren’t relevant to me in the buy cycle stage I’m in – then I’m never going to pay attention.  Make sure you are customizing your text and offers instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
  2. The call-to-action is buried.
    I often see marketers get so caught up in setting up the call-to-action that they don’t notice how buried it becomes.  Don’t put it in the middle of a big paragraph – put it all by itself in larger, bold font.  Put it in a couple of places in the text and maybe even use a graphic button to make it stand out.
  3. Unclear or multiple calls-to-action.
    If there are too many things to do or I’m not quite sure what I’m going to get, I’ll give up quickly.  I have enough other emails in my inbox to deal with.  Make sure your calls-to-action are simple, direct and stand alone.  If all I do is read the call-to-action in your email, it should be clear where I’m going.  And don’t give me more than one choice within the email – save the choices for later once I am engaged with a webpage.
  4. The call-to-action is not compelling.
    Downloading your product data sheet is not compelling.  What is compelling is saving time or money, making more money, getting a great deal, learning more about a challenge I am facing, etc.  Focus on what I need, not what you are trying to sell me.
  5. Too wordy and/or wrong focus.
    I combined these two because they always seem to go hand-in-hand.  If you find yourself writing several paragraphs for your emails then you are probably focusing on the wrong thing.  Often it’s how great your company or product is.  I don’t care.  Think about it this way – when you walk into a store to buy something, do you want the sales associate to start selling you a product or brand, or do you want them to ask you what you want and talk about your needs?  Same applies with email – you will catch my attention with short (and easy to skim) copy that focuses on my pain points.  Once you draw me in you can tell me all about your company or product at the appropriate time and I’ll listen.

If you’ve been following the News Corp media ethics inquiry, you may feel just as frustrated as I do about Rupert Murdoch’s continued stance that he is not really responsible for the actions of his company.  Nobody wants to hear excuses.  If you are at the top of the chain of command, you are expected to take responsibility for the whole chain.  We don’t really care whose fault it is – that’s your problem.  There are some good examples that I can think of in B2C products where the company took responsibility even though it wasn’t their fault – the 1982 Tylenol incident and the more recent Enfamil issues come to my mind.  I’m sure there are a thousand examples.  The ones who take responsibility see the issues go away quickly and those who don’t (like Mr. Murdoch) just see it grow into a bigger and bigger issue.  It’s Public Relations 101.

There is a lesson for marketers in there, too.   If you use a marketing automation tool of any kind, you probably know how easy it is to screw up your marketing campaign.  If you don’t, I’m sure you’ll soon learn.  You might mix up names on personalized emails, send the wrong emails to the wrong list or at the wrong time, or have a link pointing to a wrong or dead location.  It happens to the best of us.  When I did my very first marketing automation campaign, I had set up the automated workflow wrong.  My list (thankfully it was a small one) got the first email requesting them to download something.  They immediately got a second email saying “We noticed you didn’t download that yet – you really should do that.”  I didn’t setup the timing right so it waited a week and then checked the responses before sending out the reminder.  Doh!

So how do you respond when you screw up?  In my case above, we decided not to do anything because it was a small list and chances are no one would notice.  They would take more notice if we drew attention to it.  In other cases, it’s best to just take the blame (no matter whose fault it is) and send out a correction.  If you don’t, you may leave your prospects with the impression that you can’t even get a simple email right.  But if you do correct it, they are usually very forgiving and you haven’t done any harm to the campaign.  Make sure your correction is simple and straightforward.  No one cares what happened or why.  Just simply state that there was an error and give them the corrected version.  Or if you sent the wrong campaign or to the wrong list, just simply state an apology for the error and ask them to ignore the previous email.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly the issue will go away!