How to Use Marketing Automation Software Effectively

How to Use Marketing Automation Software Effectively

The following is re-posted with permission from ASAE. The original article appeared on March 24, 2014. 

Marketing automation software has almost become a required tool in the for-profit sector. From Amazon recommending products based on past purchases to clothing retailers reminding you about items in your cart, consumers have come to expect sophisticated interactions—and their interactions with your association are no exception.

While some associations use this software, many are not using it effectively or to its full potential. In McKinley Advisors’ 2014 Economic Impact on Associations (EIA) Report, we included a few questions about association use of marketing automation software. The EIA responses reinforce our anecdotal experience with our clients.

Thirty-six percent of respondents reported that their association does not use marketing automation software, and an additional 24 percent indicated they were unsure if their association used the software or which program it used. Of the 39 percent who said their association uses marketing automation software, the majority (69 percent) reported that it is used “somewhat effectively” or “not effectively.”

Even though marketing automation software offers many opportunities to customize the member experience based on behaviors and purchases, associations may encounter a number of barriers to using it effectively. Here are four things to consider as you implement the software.

Train and Develop Super Users

For-profit businesses often develop “super users.” These are people trained in all aspects of the software to develop complex campaigns and programs, as well as to train other users. Staff turnover and a decentralized marketing department can hinder an association’s ability to develop super users. A super user is vital to successful use of marketing automation software to develop templates and best practices; otherwise, the software is transformed into a simple blast email tool.

Monitor and Use Metrics

When transitioning to marketing automation software, the biggest difference from the old system is often the metrics and reporting capabilities. Beyond monitoring the association’s overall trends, it’s imperative to review member behavioral trends.

Because an email can be created quickly, it is easy to bombard members if communications are not coordinated. Who is reviewing the number of members who are not opening your emails? Is that number increasing? Behavioral data can shed light on other issues that might be hampering your efforts. For example, if you’re successfully sending contacts to your join page but they are not becoming members, it might be time to test new page layouts, headlines, or copy.

Send Automated Emails

Automated engagement and renewal emails are just the start (30 percent of respondents using this software reported that their association sends automated emails based on information in the contact record). Most marketing automation software also allows users to create automated emails based on behavior—visiting a webpage, purchasing a product, or clicking an email, for example.

One pitfall of automated emails is failing to keep the content accurate and up to date. Will you remember to change all automated recruitment, engagement, and renewal emails if you sunset a member benefit? Someone at the association, or within each department, should be tasked with reviewing automated emails quarterly or semiannually to ensure that members and customers aren’t receiving outdated promotional messages.

Test, Test, and Test Again

Marketing automation software makes it easy for an association to test everything, from subject lines, to layout, to content, to time of day of delivery. Often the time it takes to test an email is a deterrent. But since it is so easy to clone and tweak an email or campaign, it’s important to spend time analyzing the results and optimizing future efforts. Eventually the tests need to stop and the campaign needs to run its course.

As associations adopt marketing automation software, it’s imperative to look at these tools holistically and not as blast email tools. EIA respondents report that marketing automation software helped increase open and click rates, as well as engagement and renewal rates, particularly when emails were targeted.