Most of us think of marketing automation in positive terms. And for good reason, as the benefits of a good implementation are clearly evident according to the business leaders and senior marketing executives surveyed in a report by Regalix.

Source: Regalix Report “State of  Marketing Automation 2014”

According to another study by Smart Insights, the digital marketing activity that will have the greatest business impact in 2016 will be automation. They conclude that this is because “marketers can see the benefits of making improvements across the customer lifecycle from engaging and nurturing prospects, qualifying leads, shortening the overall sales cycle and communicating to existing customers.”

Source: Smart Insights Report “Digital Marketing Trends for 2016”

However, to achieve positive results, it is necessary to face the challenge head-on. Fortunately, automation is not a new topic and we have industry experience and best practices to fall back on. These are the fundamental steps you should consider when creating a successful automation process in your organization.

1. Set a clear and measurable goal

It is impossible to achieve a goal without really knowing where you are going, so the first step is to define an objective for your automation. The SMART criteria will help ensure you create a clear and concise objective:

  • Specific:It should be very clear what it is you intend to achieve. Make sure that different people have the same interpretation of your objective.
  • Measurable: The objective must include a measure so that the current state can be compared to the desired state.
  • Achievable: It is important that the objective is realistic. There is nothing more frustrating than pursuing an impossible goal.
  • Relevant: The objective must be of value to the organization, otherwise no benefit is perceived when creating a process to achieve it.
  • Time-bound: A time frame must be established within which the objective should be achieved.

2. Define a segment

If you can define a very specific segment to target, the objective you want to achieve will be easier to accomplish and your actions and communication can be tailored effectively. Evaluate the information you have and what additional information you need to formulate a good segmentation.

    • Demographics: These are the most basic data points but they are still useful for segmenting.
    • Preferences: Information that your clients have given you, usually through direct questions in forms and surveys.
    • Behavior: The actions that a person actually takes are the most relevant tools for segmentation. Specific product or service purchases, information consumed, channels visited, times, dates, etc.


Gathering all that information can be difficult in some cases. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the full picture. Start with the basics and add to the information you already have as the campaign you are automating progresses.

3. Determine the “job to be done” for the segment

Before trying to sell a product or service, think about how to help the people in the segment you defined accomplish what is it they want to achieve or the “job to be done”. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and consider what they are looking for, what their problems and motivations are, how they solve their problem today, and what channels they prefer to use. Finally, consider what you can do to help.

This is the most difficult step. But remember, you will get better results if you can align your objectives with those of your segment.

4. Design the automation itself

Unfortunately, most people start with this step of the process and end up designing “sophisticated” automations that a tool allowed them to create. Often these automations have unnecessary or redundant steps that do not add value to the organization or worse, to its clients.

The best way, however, is to start with a very simple automation (about three steps). If you have the information described in the three previous points it should not be very difficult to determine what those few steps should be. Finally, when implementing, there is one fundamental principle: Don’t forget to measure the results! Execute, adjust and repeat: simply enter new steps and conditions as you go along, adjusting your efforts based on your experience.

As we have seen, the key to good automation is defining the objective, segment, and benefit to the customer; however, the automation tool also plays an important role, especially in the execution. Salesforce Marketing Cloud has three key tools: Audience Builder to gather information from multiple data sources and perform advanced segmentations, Personalization Builder to collect behavioral information from your audience in real-time while interacting with your communication campaigns, and Journey Builder to implement and execute seamless automations.

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