25 November 2020

Transforming Marketing Automation into a Value Generator

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In the race for digital matury, how do you know which software or services best suit your digital transformation? And how do you convince management that investing in one specific solution is well worth the money? Take marketing automation for example. As many organisations don’t understand the specifics or fail to see the possible returns, marketing automation is often seen as a waste of money.

Not for Hendrick Hogie though. He's the marketing automation manager at Engie and together with a strong digital team he has managed to bring the utility company into a new digital era in a short period of time. Focusing on going digital across all departments and reducing overhead to go green, Hendrick has successfully transformed the marketing automation department from a cost center into a value generator, bringing ever closer a sustainable future for Engie as well as its customers. In the most recent Beyond Digital, the knowledge-sharing discussion club organised by digital expert Ariad, he shared with digital peers how exactly he managed to do so.


A lot is being said about marketing automation, but according to Hendrick the biggest misconception is: If we invest in marketing automation, that means we can cut back on full time equivalents. “Funny enough, this argument is often heard within higher management when they're pursuing a marketing automation solution. Yes, marketing automation allows for cutting back on time spent on tedious repetitive stuff, but not on developing the actual campaigns. Here lays the real value: Moving away from single emails towards a complete, omnichannel customer journey design for relevant communications. Taking that into account means that the FTEs, so the people, are indispensable,” says Hendrick.

Four keys to success

So what does it take to change this mindset and move marketing automation from a cost center to a value driver? Hendrick defined four keys to success that can change the perception of marketing automation and can also be repeated across industries.

1. Alignment between the marketing and sales departments

If you are starting a new marketing automation project, make sure both sales and marketing are at the table. If not, chances are great that the project will not be successful. By uniting both departments at workshops and meetings you eradicate misalignment issues and come to a solution which is beneficial for both. Once off the ground make sure you hold bi-weekly meetings to ensure continuous alignment.

2. Campaign Structure

Define a campaign structure or process. This starts with a quality briefing with content, visuals, selection and exclusion criteria, timing etc. At Engie, a structured briefing was put in place which includes every possible campaign request to fill in. As a result everyone is at ease. Marketing and sales know what to provide and the marketing automation department knows what to expect and when to start.

3. Proactivity

Go beyond what marketing and sales are requesting and make an effort to really install new structures within your marketing automation suites to help them improve their campaigns. Plan regular inspiration sessions and set up campaign audits to avoid send-and-forget scenarios. Secondly, instead of just executing campaigns, review campaigns each quarter to make sure they are still relevant and have no outdated information.

4. Reporting on actionable results

Don’t just do campaigns for the sake of doing campaigns. What is the use of conversion, open and click-through rates if you don’t have a benchmark? If you don't have a way to improve, these results don’t say much. That’s why it’s important to establish a goal upfront and determine actions to achieve that goal. Afterwards, invest in extensive reporting on the results and make sure to improve upon these results in the next campaign. Agility is key. By executing proofs of concept that are easily scalable you can quickly develop and sell solutions internally. This easily proves the added value and gets management on board to fully adopt marketing automation.

Entire organisation

As such, marketing automation has the potential to benefit the entire organisation. “Marketing automation at Engie now empowers sales and marketing and even other departments like HR and finance. Campaign requests are no longer merely executed, they are analyzed first and improved together with the requestor. Our stakeholders know we can do a lot of things, but they often have no clue on what we can achieve with marketing automation. By reviewing requests first, we improve the efficiency: not only from an operational point of view but also from a business perspective because we prove to boost conversion rates”, says Hendrick.

In the end it’s about honouring the idea of marketing automation. If you are merely being reactive and believe you can save time and people by using marketing automation as just another tool in your shed, you will not create any value. You have to ensure proactivity towards your marketing and sales departments and support them to improve. If you want to improve marketing automation in your own organisation, be sure to keep the four keys to success in mind!

Join in

Interested in taking part in the next discussion of what's shaping the digital future of customer experience? Sign up for Beyond Digital, the monthly knowledge sharing group for Belgium's most ambitious leaders and digital experts!