Real-time databases: a must for insightful Marketing Automation

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Many email marketers have been looking to make their email marketing programs more effective, easier and more time efficient. Marketing automation seems to fulfill the promise of saving time and adding impact to your email program.

So what are the key elements of marketing automation?

And what should you look for?

Marketing Automation: All about insight

People will have slightly differing views on its exact meaning and interestingly some people will have a different name for what I call marketing automation, but ultimately it’s all about a process that uses insight devised through data collection. You can in turn use this customer insight to nurture customers via the set-up of automated campaigns.

Marketing automation is to the digital marketer what CRM is to the offline marketer
Campaigns produced through marketing automation are extremely targeted and highly relevant to each individual consumer if the right (email) data analysis is used. This can give a complete 1-2-1 experience between the brand and the customer.

Like CRM, marketing automation can be used to:

  • Increase the effectiveness of marketing activity through relevant marketing communications
  • Provide better management of marketing programmes
  • Effectively measure the impact of marketing on sales

Timing is king

The big difference between CRM and marketing automation – Timing! It is the big difference between automated or just email marketing software. In the marketing automation world we can get very close to real time, especially when we are using a behavioral email ESP, it becomes so much more powerful than offline CRM. An obvious example would be a basket abandonment email program, but it’s actually about how all forms of communication can be handled quickly and most importantly how quickly data can be captured and processed.

The 4 R’s of Real time targeting

Marketing automation takes the strategy of relevance and targeting one step further. By feeding all customer activity into one integrated database, marketers can understand how they should be targeting their users.

It provides the ability to automatically set up campaigns, marketing automation saves companies both time and money. It’s the ability to do all this in a real time situation that lifts it above things like offline CRM. It provides the means to ensure you are covering all 4 R’s: effectively targeting the Right people, with the Right message, at the Right time and through the Right channel.

Fig. 1 shows how a marketing automation database should work, enabling a range of data feeds to be integrated

As you can see, the data comes from various sources so it’s vital this database is built to handle all these sources and is not just plugged onto the side of something existing that does not have the capabilities for such a job.

The database – why you can’t just integrate with an existing CRM

At the heart of marketing automation is the database holding all customer data in one place. Using this, marketers can effectively assess the patterns and correlations leading to a sale and therefore build the correct strategies to effectively target and nurture users.

The problems with mixing real-time with Old Skool databases

Unfortunately many people think they can begin marketing automation by integrating digital data into an existing CRM database – WRONG! Unfortunately it’s not that simple due to the nature of online data. Offline data is based on household name and address, whereas online data is based around email address and cookie data. Offline data works well with just a daily update, online data is more real-time.

Merging or plugging in databases is not that simple
Simply plugging in digital data into the old style CRM databases and processing is like telling your elderly relative that email is just like sending a letter but on a computer – yes you could make the comparison but it negates pointing out all the inherent advantages of an email (is sent instantly, gets to the user quicker, computer checks your spelling etc…)

For many marketers, marketing automation is a big step towards getting all the 4 R’s of real-time marketing. So make sure you have the right system that can fulfill that promise. More about the requirements of a real-time marketing automation database and beyond in my next article.

Image via flickr

About Garry Lee


Over the last 10 years I have developed an account management team that offers the service led approach in the web analytics industry at RedEye. I am now responsible for the P&L of the analytics, usability & optimisation and behavioural email sections of the business, managing all costs and revenues, as well as the teams responsible for delivering the service to our clients. Dedicating my time to take the data available and developing new ways improve the understanding of online marketing. You can follow garry here on Twitter.

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  • Pete Austin

    Re that link, marketing automation saves companies both time and money. You know the linked article doesn’t even mention the word, “money”, let alone talk about saving it, right? Do you have a link to another article that does?

    Also, about “insight”:.I assume you actually mean that insight can automatically optimize all your marketing, not that it sets-up programs..

    • http://twitter.com/jvanrijn Jordie van Rijn

      Hi Pete, thanks for your comment.

      About the link, I think you are regarding to my earlier article called: How Email Marketing Automation can save you time: it’s in the Data. It does mention costs / money. Even more because time = money :)

      To quote: “Efficient use of email marketing can be a real cost and time cutter. Solid e-mail marketing system can create the same quality of e-mail campaigns while increasing productivity.

      Because preparing and sending email newsletters are steps within each and every campaign, those tasks can add up to a lot of hours. Yet, this time investment is often overlooked when calculating the the true costs of an email marketing system.”