Welcome to Not Another Marketing podcast where we’re talking to Mike Maynard, CEO of Napier B2B about marketing automation.

Episode 74

The words Marketing Automation are thrown around quite a bit and the topic can sometimes be seen as a dark art, something that only giant companies do but that’s not true at all. Automating in an intelligent way can lead to better results and happier customers.

In episode 74 of Not Another Marketing Podcast I’m talking to Mike Maynard, CEO of Napier B2B. It’s a really interesting chat about email automation, chat bots and a lot more.

You can find Mike on LinkedIn and he’s just launched a new B2B marketing podcast called The Marketing B2B Technology Podcast.

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Transcript (edited for clarity)

What exactly is Marketing Automation?

Well I think that’s a great question Jon and the reason is I actually feel that market automation is a terrible name for the technology because a lot of people think is that you take what you’d already on automate it and that’s actually not what it does it all .

So I think in terms of a definition I’d like to think of it as using rules on marketing technology to personalise the marketing you do. So you as the marketer create the rules on the market automation platform which is the technology that allows you to not only personalise the content you send to each individual but also personalise the timing and that is probably one of the biggest things is making sure that the content you send is sent at the right time for each individual prospect

So it’s not necessarily about saving the marketer time ?

It’s about trying to be able to react quickly and more intelligently to customer engagements very much so. I mean we really don’t do many projects around efficiency. It’s all around selling more for the client that we work with.

So what you’re trying to do with market automation depends you know a lot on on your situation so it can do things that you could do automatically as a marketer. For example it could send out lots of e-mails that you could do manually if you want at the very simplest end but it is a little bit more like being the perfect salesman for each individual customers

So when a customer for example downloads some content to your website or fills in a form you can then automatically trigger immediate responses. That’s something that as a marketer typically can’t do and then finally you could do things that actually sales and market people simply can’t do so you know one of the things we have a lot of clients looking at is triggering campaigns based upon what happens on their website. So if someone for example goes and visits your pricing page you then want to do something about it because it’s a pretty good sign they’re interested in buying but you simply can’t know who’s visiting the pricing page and I suppose if somebody’s visit that visited that pricing page say three times in one week you might be able to pop something up and give them a little nudge

So how people deal with this depends a lot on what product they’re selling on who they’re selling to.

So as example where you’re a hub spot partner working with them when someone visits the pricing page on Hub Spot internally they immediately send an email that highlights this to one of their internal sales people and then they can forward that onto an agency working with that client.

So in that situation because you’re selling marking software there is an expectation that there will be a fairly immediate response. People understand the tracking because they’re looking to buy that sort of product.

If for example you’re working a local business you probably don’t want to be jumping on the phone as soon as someone looks at you know for example a menu. If you’re a restaurant trying to get them to book a table that probably is gonna feel you know at best creepy and at worst it’s going to feel like harassment

So you know I think it’s very much about understanding your customers walking in their shoes on trying to just make the experience of buying from you that little bit better, that little bit easier

Yeah, you mentioned about immediate responses, and I think it can sound a little bit fake and a little bit a little bit automated. If you do something and then suddenly, instantly within 1/10 of a second you’ve got a response from you know that’s that’s automated. Is it better to kind of build in natural pauses to make make it campaigns feel more natural?

Well, that’s one of the great things about marketing automation. You can control the timing so very often what happens is is that a marketing automation campaign is not just about a single action.

In fact, it very rarely is so. For example, if someone fills in a form on your website, it would be quite unusual Just to send one reply. You’d send a sequence of emails that’s related to what they’ve done.

So you know, if it’s a booking, say they booked, for example, on a webinar, you don’t just want to send them a confirmation with a link to put the appointment in that calendar. But you also want to send them reminders nearer the time. A very simple example. But the same applies, you know, if people are actually just downloading content.

We have a lot of clients who worked with engineers and one of the most effective things to do is write a technical white paper and very rarely would we just send one email after someone downloads white paper because it’s a very complex subject. There’s lots of different things that that person wants to know. So we’d send a sequence that highlights some of the key elements that are talked about in the white paper and maybe links to more resources that we can see how marketing automation in a sense, could be useful for large companies.

Maybe they have a long, complicated sales funnel, business to business you could have that last a year, for example, before somebody actually makes a large purchase.

What about small companies, small businesses, tiny businesses, micro businesses? Can they benefit from automation as well?

So that’s a great question. We actually have a client who’s sale cycles could be 10 to 20 years, right? So, so long. Traditionally marketing automation has been associated with selling products or services that are high value on have a relatively long sell cycle. So, typically, months is when people look at on. That’s where people have seen marketing automation be most effective where people are buying, you know, low value products.

To be honest, it’s still quite hard to make that work with marketing automation, unless you have a huge volume of contacts that you could engage through marketing automation, which is typically not the case.

Because those impulse buys, people don’t tend to, you know, download content or fill in inquiry forms or anything like that but small businesses, absolutely can hugely benefit from marketing automation. So a lot of what small businesses do is not just about winning new customers, It’s about making sure that they keep getting revenue from existing customers.

So whether you’re in a restaurant or a yoga teacher, for example, there’s real value in having some sort of automatic engagement with your customers to try and keep them coming back more frequently to help you increase sales.

Okay, give me some examples of automation. Let’s start off with some simple marketing because whenever you talk about marketing automation, we always fall back on a email. and give me some examples of what we can do.

I think you make a great point. I mean, one of the truths about marketing automation is that actually, most is based around email. Email is absolutely the primary focus for most upmarket automation tools.

There is some automation around social media, but typically it’s easier once you’ve got an email address to engage people with email, which, which is a limitation, is very hard to get and reach people through.

For example, Facebook ads, although marketing automation tools are increasingly allowing you to integrate that into our automation, quite often it’s done through partnerships with retargeting companies. We talked about visiting a pricing page, for example, that that’s a very simple example. Another thing might be if you’re selling, you know, for example, power tools online. You create some content and maybe have a little e-book on five easiest DIY projects for the weekend. When someone downloads that, you then want to start engaging them. You know, they’re interested in DIY so they’re likely to buy tools. You just don’t know what tools they want. So maybe you’re going to send them a sequence of emails talking about different types of tools to find out if they’re gonna build a swimming pool in their back garden or if all they want to his mend a fence.

It’s really a little bit of testing and learning rather than a magic sequence that’s gonna work.

So, you might send them information on three or four different types of power tools and if they click on one then have some information that you know they’re interested, that power tool you can then follow up. Send some other emails that really try to sell that particular category of power tools.

What about more complicated processes? I saw a great one the other day where you could actually check on the weather in a certain area. So it’s like 28 degrees and sunshine, you could put some dresses on the on the page and it’s a little bit rainy and overcast, we can put raincoats on the main page. Give Me some ideas of more complicated automation processes.

So I think there’s two areas, really where where things get complicated.

One is when you look at complex purchases, particularly if they scale across multiple countries. So we have a client who offers white papers to their engineer customers when somebody downloads they get sent a sequence of emails.

Because of the complexity of the product, there’s actually about seven emails or up to 70 emails in the sequence, depending upon what the role is of the person who inquires.

There’s also eight different people who could send the mail depending upon where in the world people are when they download the white paper on.

We’ve actually got different content inserted into the emails as well, so we actually have a sequence that has 30 email templates, but hundreds of different versions of those e-mails and it’s all triggered based upon you know what they do with the emails they receive, where they’re located on also their job roll so we can actually look and see what people do with in an email.

So, for example, if they’ve downloaded a case study and you sent them some email in the future, which has another download attached to it, you can actually see whether they’ve downloaded that thing as well. So this is a really important use of marking automation, in my opinion, is understanding what your prospect is interested in.

If you think about sending an email, if someone clicks on a link, that’s a really good indication that interested in that sort of product or that service?

So a lot of our email campaigns are really trying to narrate, and you got a rough idea of what the person might be interested in based upon how they entered the market automation flow but you actually don’t know precisely what they want. So, you know, in the case of power tools, do they want a circular saw or do they just want a power drill because those two are very different.

So sending information about either the sort of projects they be related to or about the products themselves gives you a lot more insight on what it’s doing, It’s allowing you to again personalise the content so you’re sending e-mails that are much more likely to be successful.

But also you’re gathering information so you have a process where you talk to prospects before you actually sell, you can talk to them with a lot more knowledge about what they care about and focus on what matters to them.

So again, it’s going to make that selling process easier. You mentioned about being able to identify if somebody’s actually clicked something within an email. I suppose a really powerful thing as well, is to realise if somebody hasn’t clicked something in an email, that’s a new, interesting question, and it sounds like it’s really a useful thing to know but it’s actually much less useful than you think.

I’m going to disappoint all of your listeners. I’m afraid people care a lot less about your emails than you do so the fact someone doesn’t click it, maybe because they have absolutely no interest in the project, the product that you’re you’re offering or alternatively, it could just be that they’re busy, don’t make assumptions based on people not clicking.

Certainly just on the basis of one, email is a very dangerous thing to do because it’s actually quite likely that it’s other factors that have prevented them clicking. You know, they’ve got 50 emails in their inbox and they’re just deleting everything as quickly as they can. They’re going on holiday tomorrow, they’re not going to look at emails or alternatively, you know, they got some personal issue, you know, they’re that they’ve got a family member is ill, they’re not going to read their personal email.

If you’re doing business to consumer, so I would say that’s a dangerous approach to make assumptions based upon people not doing things with your email.

So it’s kind of like focus on the positives of what people have done, something that you can actually react to, focus on the positive.

Absolutely. I mean, if you send someone 20 emails, they don’t open any. Don’t click on anything. Either you’ve got a problem with your e-mails going into spam or this person really doesn’t care. But one email, you know, someone ignoring one email. Believe me, don’t take that personally. That’s not someone ignoring you, its probably someone who just had another priority at that time.

Can we build chatbots into this marketing automation world?

The answer is absolutely. Although most people focus on email, there are definitely other channels, and chat bot is one of the most interesting.

The thing we found is building a chat bot is incredibly time consuming, and you know where we’ve run projects to build chatbots we’ve pretty much found that almost none of the prospects are asking the questions.

So you build a chat and you think you’ve got answers to anything anyone can as in the first week then all the questions are different. So It’s a real challenge to understand what people are going to ask.

You got to get even deeper inside your customers thoughts and if it’s, you know, something simple, maybe a chat bot can answer things like opening hours. For example, if you’ve got a shop or or you know you’re running a gym or some other similar business, but going beyond that is very difficult.

You know, take the example of a gym. It’s then very hard to know what people are going to ask about, you know, different sorts of exercise, exercise classes, facilities, things like that. So although you know that there are certainly some examples we’ve typically found, the results of chat bots have been fairly disappointing, given the huge amount of time you’ve got to put into developing it.

I think where chat bots are working extremely well is where companies have huge numbers of customers visiting their websites. If you’re for example, a telecoms company or supplying gas or electricity, you’ve got hundreds of thousands of people visiting a website. They’ve all got questions about their bill, a chat bot can certainly be a good sort of triage process to actually eliminate a large number of those questions.

So I think in that case it works but you just need a huge volume to actually make it financially viable.

I think it can lead to a bad user experience. We’ve all sat there in a chat and we’ve just sort of have been screaming at the screen, just put me through to a real person.

Yes, yeah, I recently tried to cancel a mobile phone contract and trying to get the chat bot to understand cancel contract proved to be completely impossible. I’m sure that was deliberate, because I’m sure they don’t want me to cancel. But it’s incredibly frustrating when you when you are trying to get a chat bot to respond and it just doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say.

Yeah, and then you get a customer who, when they end up talking to you, is already upset.

Yeah, and the best chat bot will very quickly drop to having a real human answer questions, but then again, you’ve got this issue of scale because you know you need to man the live chat 24 hours a day. You need to be able to cope with multiple people chatting at one time.

Most small businesses just can’t do that. So again, it makes it very difficult, unless you’ve got effectively a call centre of people of which some of those could be managing the chat whilst others are taking phone calls.

Do you think artificial intelligence machine learning will start having more of an influence on marketing automation?

I was actually initially was an engineer. I got an engineering degree. I work in an agency. The focus is on technology clients, and I’m probably going to surprise everyone by saying, I don’t see it happening anytime.

In terms of recognising patterns, which is basically what I want, to recognise the pattern of what works well versus what doesn’t work well, that requires a lot of training data.

So you need to send a lot of emails, have a lot of customers, and Ai’s are not very good at drawing conclusions from very small data sets and most of your listeners are realistically not going to be sending millions of e-mails, you know, we don’t as an agency send millions of e-mails.

I just don’t see how Ai is going to help us in the near future because it’s not gonna be able to learn quickly enough.

It could be years of data before it starts learning. And then you’re basically drawing conclusions on what was true maybe five years ago, which certainly probably isn’t true today.

When does ‘creepy’ set in with all of this? Because automating things can feel automated to the person who is receiving at the other end. So when does the creepiness level kind of set in?

That’s a great question, John and I think it depends on who your audience is. So, as an example, if I’m looking to purchase a marketing automation tool, I understand marketing automation.

There’s lots of research that says that if you call someone within five minutes of them downloading or filling in a form that’s going to be much more effective and calling them within 15 minutes. The effectiveness drops off very rapidly. But if you’re for example, you know, looking at local restaurants and you browse the menu, you really don’t want someone picking the phone up and calling you straightaway, saying, Can I book your table? It might work for some people, but for most people, it’s going to feel, you know, really uncomfortable. They’re going to be much less likely to to go to that restaurant.

So I think again, it’s about understanding your customer’s expectations. I mean, we send obviously a lot of campaigns out. I got one of my clients replying back, saying, Well, I see you’ve sent me a robot email, but I reply anyway and we had a great conversation afterwards because actually it was a robot but all the replies came to me, so I could then say, you’re absolutely right, a robot asked you, but I read your answer and we had a great engagement with a client which was a bit of fun, you know, he’s a marking director. He understands this technology. I think when you move away from from people in that situation to consumers you’ve got to be much more careful and you’ve got to think about what they want, probably more than what you want.

I mean, making someone buy is all about doing what they want rather than doing what you think you want.

Yeah, I think the creepiness factor works on different levels. I mean, for example, if you’ve got an app on your phone for a certain store or something and they noticed the location data and you get a notification or an email saying , we noticed you walk past our store a 10 am. this morning. Why didn’t you come in? Here’s a voucher for you to come in next time you walk past our store. That’s getting into the creepy levels, isn’t it?

Absolutely. I think people also quite often think creepy things are going on when maybe they’re not.

So you know, at the moment I’m seeing barbecue ads and I’ve talked to my wife and my kids about maybe buying a new barbecue, I really don’t think Facebook’s listening to me.

I think actually, the weather’s been nice. There’s lots of barbecue advertising and I’m probably, you know, a classic target market for buying a barbecue. So I think people couldn’t get almost a sign. Creepiness is when there’s no intent.

I always give the example. I was sat there talking to my son in a pub, he’s at university, and he was going on a field trip to Montenegro, right? This is the first time he’d mentioned Montenegro to me. I’ve never searched for anything to do with Montenegro on my phone, on a computer, anything whatsoever. I got back on the train to come home on and I opened my phone, the first advert I saw was for flights to Montenegro.

Well, I’m not going to pretend I know exactly what Facebook does, so it may well be going on, but I think you know one of the problems is whether or not it’s going on people are assuming it is.

What you don’t want is you don’t want your business to be associated with with doing things that make your customers uncomfortable.

Absolutely So what sort of technologies and tools should we look for? Because there’s every man and their dog selling marketing automation at the moment.

I actually don’t think you should look for a tool to start off with. You know, you don’t go out and buy a hammer and then look for something to hit. You have something you want to hit, and then you buy the right hammer to do that so it comes down to deciding what you need to do and buy the best solution.

And a lot of it comes down to budget for a lot of smaller companies as well.

If you look at prices, you can, spend $20 a month for a very basic WordPress plug in that has automation and support in all sorts of cool stuff. You know something like ground hog day, which which is amazing. A simple marketing automation tool that is, you know almost free but includes, frankly, great support, great technology.

Or you could choose to go and buy a tool like Marketo, which, you know we have several clients who are spending, you know, literally hundreds of thousands of pounds a year on.

But if all you want to do is have a form and send e mails after people fill in the form, your customers won’t tell any difference between the two tools. They’ll see exactly the same thing. Whether you spend a couple of $100 a month or a couple of $100,000, it’s about understanding what you need to do and then buying the tool for that.

I mean, having said that, you know, our large enterprise customers have got lots of different teams doing lots of different campaigns. Believe me, you would not be wanting a $20 offer. They would fall apart.

Whereas Marketo is amazing at managing that complexity and also dealing with databases that have got hundreds of thousands or millions of contacts.

So it’s understanding what you need and then buy the best tool and don’t believe that money or cost correlates directly to how useful it’s going to be. It depends upon what you want to do.

There’s been quite a rise in marketing CRM systems of such almost like all in one systems, where you’ve got a customer database built in with email marketing, built in with social media, monitoring, building with all sorts of different things. Do you think this could be useful to small businesses?

So this is where I think that the value really lives for small businesses, particularly if they’re the sort of business that needs a CRM to manage their customers because actually what’s happening is, and it’s kind of happening both ways, CRM packages are beginning to add marketing automation features, and marketing automation packages are adding CRM features.

The reality is ultimately both tools try and do the same thing. They try and send personalised communications out your contacts. The differences is that market automation does it automatically, whereas CRM tends to rely on a sales person to do it manually, but with the same objective.

Actually, the underlying tool is fundamentally the same, so it’s it’s very rare in a small business to see a lot of value in having a separate CRM and marketing automation tools.

You know, when you look at enterprises, they’re very different. They tend to build a lot of custom stuff around, particularly Sales Force and so all the enterprise level marketing automation tools just talk directly to Sales Force.

But, you know the small and medium sized business the CRM tools that were available that incorporate market automation technology is just as good.

So one of the big downsides to automating is kind of like just really sounding unnatural?

Because you’re sounding automated, you don’t need to sound automated, so I really don’t think that that’s a downside.

That’s the downside of poor marketing, right? Yeah, and I think that’s really where the problems lie.

You know, if I bought a paintbrush and easel on a canvas, it isn’t going to produce a masterpiece because I don’t have the ability to use that to paint a great picture on. It’s the same with marketing automation, If you don’t think about what you want to do, If you can’t understand what your customer wants, you’ll use it badly and fundamentally you’ll be wasting time and wasting money, and that’s probably more important than any negative impact you’d have from a creepy feeling or automatic feeling campaigns.

So I suppose the big question is, how do we know if all of this is working out? Different campaigns will measure things in different ways, but other any specific things we should be looking for to measure success in automated campaigns.

Absolutely. You should be looking to make more money than your marketing automation tool costs. It’s really simple and there’s no point buying a tool if it doesn’t lead to a greater profit.

Now, obviously there’s there’s a couple of caveats, so that one is It’s not always easy to track where you get sales from, particularly if your sales are not online, which actually with marketing automation a huge percentage actually ultimately result in face to face sales, but equally I think people mustn’t think marketing automation is like this magic bullet that works on its own.

Most good marketers understand that it’s a mix of all their marketing activities that work together. So what you’ve got to try and do is look at what you’re doing and identify that market automation, either, at one end frees up more time so you can sell, you can run more campaigns, more proactive outbound campaigns that drive more revenue or, alternatively, increases your conversion rate on again.

For outbound advertising campaigns then you then let the marketing automation nurture and engage the prospects that come from it, but it’s always working with other tools, so I think you do need to take some time to try and and understand how much money you’re making.

You’re never going to get the number right. It’s always gonna be an estimate, but the more you try, the more likely you are to understand whether the market automation tool is making money, and then, once you know that it’s really important to then understand, if it’s not making your money, is that because marketing automation is the wrong thing or your tool doesn’t have the right capabilities or what’s probably most likely the campaigns you’ve created are not very good on its on you, and you need to improve them.