How Email Fits into Marketing Automation & Vice Versa: My Chat With Marketo’s Jon Miller >

marketing automation

Jon Miller is VP Marketing and co-founder at Marketo, where he leads Marketo’s thought leadership and content marketing programs. He recently co-wrote a free 150+ book along with DJ Waldow called The Definitive Guide to Engaging Email Marketing. You can follow Jon using @jonmiller.

1.       Jenkins – How do you view email marketing as a marketing channel and how do you email marketing within the marketing automation lens?

Miller – Marketing automation is a category of software that streamlines, automates, and measures marketing tasks and workflows, so companies can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue quickly. It is used to create a real-time, relationship-oriented approach to marketing across all channels (including email). A marketing automation platform combines a marketing database and workflow engine with multi-channel interactions and rich analytics in one tool. This allows companies to streamline marketing processes and improve customer and prospects relationships to grow revenue.

In this context, email marketing is one channel that companies can use to run programs and communicate with buyers; marketing automation is the platform that orchestrates all the channel interactions.

2.       Jenkins – What are the biggest opportunities within email marketing for the many rushing to take advantage of marketing automation?

Miller – Today’s consumers are bombarded with marketing messages, and it only going to get harder to get their attention. They don’t want to feel they are being marketed to, and will find ways to tune-out unwanted communications.  When it comes to email marketing, no consumer wants to get “blasted” – but they are willing to engage in relevant, human conversations with brands.  So, the opportunity is for marketers to use the capabilities that are unique to marketing automation to make their email more conversational, more relevant, more strategic – and ultimately more engaging. This includes behavioral targeting, multi-step cross-channel conversations, and strategic metrics.

3.       Jenkins – Why do you think it matters whether you leverage email from a more traditional technology platform (e.g., ESP) versus within a marketing automation platform?

Miller – As email marketing has become more sophisticated, ESPs have struggled to move beyond their original batch and blast origins. In many cases, they are constrained by their very nature. EPSs rely primarily on targeting audiences based on demographics and flat “subscriber” files. More sophisticated targeting using behaviors and online body language requires technical skills and complex queries, making it harder to craft highly relevant communications. And, ESPs were built for rapidly sending the same message to many, not for orchestrating intelligent one-to-one conversations, and are destined to always view everything through an email-centric, not omni-channel, lens.

4.       Jenkins – You talk about graduating from email marketing to marketing automation. I think that is a fair point to make but I find many marketers jumping on the marketing automation train are overlooking many of the basic fundamentals of email marketing and therefore diluting the impact they could make. An example would be great content marketing that drives leads but ultimately fail to convert because of poor email marketing. What are your thoughts on this?

Miller – Great email marketing still matters regardless of whether your use an ESP or marketing automation.  But my point is that a marketing automation platform does everything an ESP does, and goes beyond to mitigate the shortcomings discussed in the last question. When marketing automation is used to its full capacity, it becomes a full-fledged engagement-orchestration tool, enabling you to listen to consumers’ unique needs and deliver what they want, when they want it.

Jenkins – I whole heartedly agree with you on “Great email marketing still matters regardless of whether your use an ESP or marketing automation.” Marketers tend to forget that at time and think technology will elevate their email program without great strategy and people.

 5.       Moving on, much like social media, too many people have said email vs. marketing automation. Tell me about how they work together not against each other and how you view the future of email marketing.

Miller – Email is a feature of marketing automation.  It’s not a question of working together.

 Jenkins – I don’t agree with that statement as email can certainly live outside of marketing automation. Email has been the wingman for search and social and now marketing automation to a certain extent – whether it is a feature or not. Bad email marketing can make the best marketing automation technology and practices fall flat.  I continue to view email as the digital marketing hub in a social and mobile world (subtitle of my new book “The New Inbox” as well).

 6.       Jenkins – Who (from the brand side) does marketing automation better than anyone else?

Miller – We have thousands of customers, and many of them are doing amazing things.   One customer that has done some very interesting stuff is Algonquin College. To generate student leads, they used to operate essentially in batch email mode, leaving the college unable to manage the “sales cycle” with potential students, which could range up to 4 years.  They now use marketing automation to provide insight into how customers progress through the website, interact with landing pages, and respond to marketing campaigns in real time. They are using “advanced nurturing” with an elaborate set of campaigns and triggers to launch relevant, targeted content at the instant the prospect expresses interest, and are refining lead segmentation to ensure they deliver the right message at the right time.  As a result, they have improved deal flow and are able to move prospects through the buying cycle faster. In fact, the college has improved lead generation by 28% year-over-year and increased sales by 18%, all while lowering its cost of distribution and marketing.

7.       There are many in the marketplace that want best of breed technology even if it is not integrated with other marketing features. How do you compel email marketers to consider Marketo where in the past you would not have been on the short list for their email platform needs.

With the advancements we’ve made in the past few months, I am confident that we are a best of breed email solution.  I don’t think this is an either / or proposition.  Marketers can get all the email volume, deliverability, and customization capabilities they expect from a high-end ESP – but they also get the enhanced targeting, measurement, and engagement capabilities of marketing automation.

8.       What does Marketo’s email tool do really well, especially compared to other tools?

Although there are my areas, I’ll focus on three.

First, with our smart database, you can build dynamic behavioral lists that segment customers and prospects by demographics and by behavioral data, such as Web activity, social sharing history, transactional history, and more. Marketers can then send the right message, in the right format, to the right person at the right time.  Second, engagement engine automatically and intelligently provides consumers with the next appropriate and relevant message – which builds lasting relationships. And third, our analytics give a deep understanding of marketing ROI, to prove the revenue impact of campaigns. Company executives don’t really care about Open and Click Rates; they want a measure of true engagement and actual financial metrics that tie email and all marketing to the goals of the entire company.

 9.       So much news on the M & A and financial side make this a really hot sector. What have you learned since Marketo went public?

Honestly, it feels very much the same.  We’ve got a business to run, and we are excited about the future!

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