Written by Gina Testa
Vice President, Graphic Communications Industry Business, Xerox Corporation

Marketing Automation

At Print 13 this week, Xerox has focused on the imperative to automate production workflow to control costs, improve service and capture new opportunities. But the imperative doesn’t end on the shop floor. Rather, automation has a growing role in your customers’ marketing programs. Plugging into those programs—or helping your customers initiate them—can build strong annuity revenue streams and strengthen not only your customer relationships, but your customers’ customer relationships.

Marketing automation involves the use of technology to manage and automate the process of converting prospects into buyers. It has gained traction in response to changes in buying habits brought on by the Web. Today’s buyers engage suppliers much earlier in the process than ever before. Marketing automation programs seek to nurture the prospect during the longer buying period, and to instill loyalty post purchase.

Author and sales trainer Kevin Davis outlines an eight-stage process in today’s sales cycles: from shaking the status quo to deciding to decide; finding, studying and evaluating options; managing the risk; making the decision; and getting the most out of the product or service. Effective nurturing of prospects along this path starts with education, leads to specific solutions and proposals, and culminates with training and product support. When marketing experts say that content is king, they are referring to this expanded opportunity to engage prospects during the buying process.

Large enterprises have been early adopters of marketing automation, but small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are just turning their attention to these programs and represent a good opportunity for graphic communications providers. Marketing automation can help SMBs automate initial sales call follow-ups and trigger additional contacts based upon transactions, like sales; recurring dates, such as membership renewals; and thresholds, such as loyalty rewards. And for SMBs that have limited marketing expertise, the graphic communications provider can help to fill that role.

Many of the available automated marketing services focus on digital marketing and miss the print component. But some print providers are helping their customers capture those opportunities, too. For example, QuantumDigital, Austin, Texas, focused for years on meeting the marketing needs of real estate clients, building an information technology expertise that they’ve leveraged to work with franchise businesses, such as Hallmark Crown Stores, Michelin and John Deere. Today their solutions typically blend print, mobile, social, email and Web components. “We automate marketing to take it from a random act to a systematic one that frequently takes place whether the client touches it or not,” said Eric Cosway, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, QuantumDigital.

Typically these systems improve sales results, generating more deals and higher revenue per deal, while boosting efficiency and providing analytics and reporting to constantly improve the program. But ultimately, the reason these programs work is that they benefit the prospect with timely information that is relevant to them based upon where they are in their buying process. It extends the print shop’s automated workflow to the customer’s marketing program to benefit their customers. And it represents a great opportunity for any print firm that is transforming into a marketing services provider. You invest in your customer to create streams of revenue, rather than transactions.

What is your view of marketing automation? If you’ve tried to establish the services, what challenges have you faced and what successes have you achieved? Is it proving to be a source of sustained growth?