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In Frequently Asked Questions format (because that’s what people asked for…)

Things you wanted to know about Marketing Automation but were too afraid to ask...

We’re Protocol Global, a consulting and advisory firm based in London, a marketing automation agency formed in 2014 that helps organisations large and small (including 3M, Virgin and Google) deploy and build marketing automation into their strategies.

We’ve worked with Marketing Automation for well over 14 years helping over 60 brands develop hundreds of campaigns to millions of customers.. We’re a bunch of techy marketing folk who often patiently help not-so-techy marketing folk with their Marketing Automation challenges  😉

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation is software that enables marketers to deliver highly personalised, segmented  and targeted communications (often email) to their customer database. In a nutshell it’s simple software that helps you automate marketing campaigns. Some of the best tools include Oracle Eloqua, Marketo and HubSpot. Many email marketing platforms such as MailChimp also now have simple but effective Marketing Automation. Marketing Automation is helpful when trying to manage either large volumes of contacts or sophisticated and complex customer journeys that need automation to help deliver personalised content.

How does Marketing Automation work?

Marketing Automation tools are usually web-based software-as-a-service (Saas) tools that use a set of features including behavioural tracking (like cookies), user preferences, advanced segmentation web-based forms, lead scoring and automated campaigns to help create evergreen ‘always on’ programmes that deliver personalised and relevant content to customers and help your sales team prioritise the best leads.

How do I use Marketing Automation Software?

Are there Marketing Automation courses? Some Marketing Automation Software tools are easier than others. Some require little or no technical knowledge and others (often large Enterprise platforms) often require training, technical teams and large scale implementation plans.

What is the Best Marketing Automation Software?

It really depends on the size, complexity and budget for your company. Many smaller companies use tools such as HubSpot or even MailChimp, more complex organisations use Marketo and large global enterprises sometimes use software such as Oracle Eloqua. There are pros and cons to all of them and we can help you evaluate the best tool for you.

In terms of popularity most of our clients (who are mostly large enterprise firms) use Oracle Eloqua or Marketo - we’re independent and unbiased, some of our team prefer one tool over the other 😉

Why should we use Marketing Automation?

A simple Marketing Automation Definition :

delivering the right message, at the right time,
in the right way to the right person

...Which is the opposite of traditional batch ‘n’ blast or spray ‘n’ pray messaging. Customers expect more in 2018, a tailored, relevant and personalised engagement with a brand.

This means that timing and marketing message/content becomes critical - delivering a unique and targeted customer experience can hugely impact on your leads, sales and customer growth and retention.

It would be impossible for human beings (marketing or sales people) to personalise hundreds or thousands of interactions without the use of these automated marketing tools. Marketing Automation makes the job possible and much easier. When up and running teams can create always-on and fully Automated Marketing Campaigns.

Is Marketing Automation Right for Us?

Not always - sometimes it can be better to streamline and focus your energies on alternative strategies such as sales teams, events or social. Ultimately customers we see having success with Marketing Automation usually have one or more of the following characteristics as a company:

  1. They’re possibly marketing to large volumes of contacts - over 5,000
  2. They might be in multiple territories with multiple countries and languages
  3. They have a very complex/extended buying cycle (e.g. it takes over 3 months to sell their product)
  4. They might be selling to multiple stakeholders - e.g. 3 or 4 people in one company
  5. The product has a degree of sophistication to it that needs extended messaging - e.g. it’s technical or complex
  6. Products may be higher priced, higher ticket items (not a disposable purchase)

What’s the ROI for Marketing Automation?

That’s a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question. Things worth considering when Building your Marketing Automation Business Case include:

  1. The software cost is probably the smallest factor in many respects - delivering good Marketing Automation requires a shift in thinking, training, resource, process, content and approach
  2. Oftentimes Marketing Automation is about nurturing leads over time - not just delivering a quick hit
  3. How valuable is Customer Experience to your business?
  4. How resources and technically competent is your team?
  5. What are your sales objectives?
  6. Is acquisition, conversion or customer retention and growth the biggest driver?

What does Marketing Automation Software track in terms of privacy?

In terms of data and privacy Marketing Automation uses a number of interactions to build up a picture of a contact. Unlike standard web analytics Marketing Automation works primarily on the principle of your Known Contacts - your subscribed and opted-in prospects and customers. Well it should (those who loaded bought data into their databases are now facing the wrath of GDPR).

So Marketing Automation starts with the idea of a known database of contacts (from form submissions, sales enquiries, events, customer records etc) and combines explicit preferences and tracked behaviour. It  can only track:

  • Tracking code (cookies) on owned web assets like your web site (no we can’t track other peoples web sites - and shouldn’t)
  • Engagement in our campaigns such as email activity, form activity, web or landing page activity and engagement with sales teams

What does GDPR mean to Marketing Automation?

The General Data Protection Regulations and wider privacy debate has, in our opinion, changed the landscape of marketing and advertising for the better. Hopefully gone are the days where companies have acquired contact data in a dubious way and lazily spammed out messaging. Marketing Automation, together with strategies such as Preference Centres and more robust, traditional approaches to audience engagement are helping to improve the dynamic between brands and customers. To understand how GDPR affects your business - and how Marketing Automation can improve your marketing strategy speak to us.

What's the difference between CRM and Marketing Automation?

CRM can be seen as the sales teams 'sales ready' database, Marketing Automation often serves as the marketing database of record holding all pre-sales ready leads. It's often the job of the Marketing Automation Platform to capture, convert and nurture leads to sales readiness  score, filter and prioritise them handing them over to CRM and sales.

What are some Marketing Automation Examples?

Protocol has developed a suite of standard Marketing Automation Plays in a Protocol Marketing Automation Playbook which demonstrate the applications and use-cases for many different types of campaign. Our playbook menu below gives a good introduction and includes Acquisition Plays, Prospect Nurtures, Channel Partners and Customer Marketing:

B2B Marketing Automation Playbook

  • Inbound Acquisition Playbook
    Build your marketing database. Capture and convert net new contacts to grow your marketable database
    • Play 1 - Gated Content / Promo CTA
      Capture and convert inbound net new contacts (from Social/Paid Advertising) by offering digital content, demos, samples or promotions
    • Play 2 - Gated Subscriptions - Editorial Series
      Capture and convert inbound net new contacts by offering recurring timebound editorial/promotions content such as Newsletters
    • Play 3 - Gated Sales Handraiser/Enquiry/Contact Forms
      Capture and convert sales ready leads and hand them to sales or channel partners
    • Play 4 - Tradeshow Contact Acquisition Play
      Capture inbound net new contacts from trade show events, stands and booths with an automated form
  • Enrich, Profile & Cleanse Playbook
    Sanitise your data. Automated programmes for improving data contactability and segmentability - covering compliance and third party programmatic enrichment
    • Play 5 - Automated Database Cleanse 
      Clean up prospect database by expiring old records, enriching existing by capturing opt-ins/interests and improving overall marketability and data health (contactability/segmentability)
    • Play 6 - Preference Capture Programme
      Capture subscriptions, profile data and areas of interest for your contacts such as job roles, products, types of communications etc
    • Play 7 - Opt-In Privacy Consent/GDPR Play
      Legal Opt-In and Express Consent Gathering
  • Prospect Nurture Playbook
    Outbound Prospect Messaging - Email Marketing Automation   Bread and butter marketing automation plays aimed at engaging non-sales ready prospects - covering both time-bound and user triggered messaging.
    • Play 8 - Evergreen Nurture - Customer Journey Email Plays
      Deep-dive trigger based nurture based on profiled areas of interest, topics or job roles - often aligned to buyer's journey stages
    • Play 9 - Editorial, Timebound (Newsletter) Email Plays
      Develop brand presence and recognition. Demonstrate leadership and ownership of a business issue/market/product through insight, critical trusted opinions and knowledge
    • Play 10 - Timebound Alert or Promotional Emails
      Date or season specific play such as seasonal promotion, news or event content
    • Play 11 - Profiling / Data Enrichment Email Plays
      Improve segmentability of existing records for use in campaigns and programmes - aimed at large datasets with poor field completeness (e.g. job role/interests)
    • Play 12 - High Potential / Propensity Email Plays
      Targeted campaigns (or content blocks) with custom offers, calls to actions or content for targeted accounts/territories or job types
    • Play 13 - Conquest Renewal - Countdown Email Plays
      Specifically targeting customers or accounts with fixed long term renewal dates - currently held with a competitor - large multi-year contracts (multi-stakeholder, complex buying cycle)
    • Play 14 - Prospect Abandonment/Re-Engagement Email Plays
      Re-engage prospects who have abandoned self-service purchases or multi-part forms (applications for example in education/financial services)
    • Play 15 - Prospect Direct Mail Personalised URL Plays
      Send direct mail with personalised URL with custom calls to action and content (useful to gather email address and profiling data if absent)
    • Play 16 - Sales Re-Nurture - Lead Warmup Email Plays
      Warm up leads that sales have previously engaged with and deemed non-sales ready - get marketing to do heavy lifting and move to sales readiness
  • Events/Field Marketing Playbook
    Hyper-Localised. Localised or targeted campaigns for specific countries, cities or regions and virtual online events.
    • Play 17 - Locally Run Event Invitation/Reminder Email Plays
      Empower local field sales and marketing to create and manage regional events
    • Play 18 - Webinar Invitation/Reminder Email Plays
      Integration of online marketing webinars including promotion, invitations, sign-ups, reminders and post-webinar communications
    • Play 19 - Local Information Email Alert Plays
      Empower local field sales and marketing to create and manage localised messaging (alerts, news, PR, customer announcements etc)
  • Sales Enablement Playbook
    Empower Sales Teams. Provide air-cover for sales teams, empower them with automated marketing tools and content to close sales
    • Play 20 - Sales Alert / Lead Prioritisation Email Notification Plays
      Highly visible alert to notify sales by email of a hot lead, activity, behaviour or interesting moments (web activity, downloads, webinar attendance, eLearning etc)
    • Play 21 - Personalised Account Manager Email Plays
      Improve cut through of key messaging by leveraging the fully personalised human aspect - branded with sales persons email signature and signoff
    • Play 22 - Sales 121 Email Follow Up Email Plays
      Enable sales to follow up active lead with engaging content
    • Play 23 - Prospect automated Telesales Script Email Plays
      Provide prioritised and personalised scripts for inside or telesales teams
  • Channel Playbook
    Drive growth through channel partners. Leverage distribution partners with intelligent co-branded communications, automated partner lead management and channel specific promotions.
    • Play 24 - Channel Lead Management Email Plays - PRM
      Hand off leads to the channel and capture lead stages (acceptance, rejection, won/lost)
    • Play 25 - Channel News and Promotional Email Plays
      Engage your channel partners directly with channel specific news, training, product announcements and promotional offers
    • Play 26 - Channel Prospect Co-Branded Email Plays
      Target your distributers customers and end-users with co-branded messaging based on shared content and promotions
  • Customer Playbook
    Drive organic account growth. Use key customer datapoints to deliver highly targeted and personalised customer messaging based on renewal dates, purchase history, propensity to buy and customer lifecycle touchpoints.
    • Play 27 - Customer Renewal Countdown Email Plays
      Improve customer renewals of products by messaging to them during and leading up to contract end/renewal
    • Play 28 - Customer Adoption & Product Usage Email Plays
      Onboarding - ensure customer makes use of product or solution by encouraging take-up and adoption
    • Play 29 - Customer Advocacy & Reputation Email Plays
      Encourage customers to share positive feedback with the community building justification content for prospects and improving churn
    • Play 30 - Customer Up Sell Email Plays
      Encourage customers to upgrade their existing product to a higher tier with value propositions
    • Play 31 - Customer Cross Sell Email Plays
      Encourage customers to purchase additional complimentary products to existing
    • Play 32 - Customer Welcome Email Plays
      Customer experience play to ensure customers are welcomed and feel positive about their purchase (especially with sales that include a cooling off period)
    • Play 33 - Customer Repeat Sale Email Plays
      Sell additional repeat products to past customers
  • Skills & Achievements Playbook
    Gamification approach or leveraging certification, training or compliance.
    • Play 34 - Achievement / Progress Play (e.g. Learning) Email Plays
      Track key customer and prospect digital activities (such as eLearning, Games or Online Apps) and send automated alerts for progression tracking

Do you have Marketing Automation Case Studies

We do, we cannot share the detailed work files of customers or clients (Privacy and NDAs prevent us naturally) however we can provide simple overviews of challenges and solutions for many industries including Automotive, Retail, Manufacturing, Life Sciences, Telco and Technology.

What is Marketing Automation Best Practice?

In reality its probably just solid modern marketing best practice. Over the years Protocol has developed many trusted and reliable Strategic Marketing Automation Tools, Frameworks, Research, Templates and Resources to help marketing teams be more successful. This includes Campaign Architecture Planning Blueprints, ROI Planners, Customer Journey Frameworks, Lead Scoring Matrices, Content Planning Tools, QA Testing Plans, Dashboard Reporting Templates and more.

Ultimately we see the primary best practice in developing a considered, scalable and pragmatic approach to Marketing Automation Strategies & Campaign Design.

What’s the Biggest Marketing Automation Challenge?

Or as a customer once asked ‘What is the biggest Marketing Automation Fail you’ve seen?’

This is linked to the previous question but in 8 times out of 10 companies that are struggling with Marketing Automation are usually the ones treating it as a technical - not a strategic project. Assuming that if they plug in all the right bits it will just ‘work’.

In reality Marketing Automation is only as good as the Campaign Architecture and Strategy that goes into it - which oftentimes represents about 70% of Protocol Analyst & Consulting Time. Our training courses and workshops, along with our Advisory Services help teams understand how to design for Marketing Automation to ensure it gets the best results. Usually this is a mixture of expectation setting, solid frameworks and processes, inspiration and know-how - mixed in with a good dollop of pragmatism.

The Best Marketing Automation Solutions - Top 5

What are the Top 5 Marketing Automation Tools, Platforms and Software in 2018 this is our pick:

  1. Oracle Eloqua
    Ideal for large Enterprise organisations with complex needs, SFDC/Dynamics and a large wallet. If you can afford it, it’s the grandaddy of platforms.
  2. Marketo
    Best for Medium to Large companies with smaller marketing teams. Has a great user community and is more affordable than Eloqua.
  3. HubSpot
    Great for Small to Medium companies that use a lot of Social Marketing - affordable with great support
  4. SalesForce Pardot
    Part of the mighty suite of products, Pardot is intuitive, great for small to medium businesses and even large organisations with more basic needs
  5. MailChimp
    Marketing Automation on a Budget - perfect  for Micro and Small companies needing something simple, effective and cheap. Great support from a stable known company.

What’s the Best Marketing Automation Tool for Small Businesses in 2018?

Our choice is between HubSpot and MailChimp.

Is there a Marketing Automation Software Comparison?

Sure - we maintain a Google Sheets of Comparison which you can request via our contact us page.

Is there Free Marketing Automation Software?

Yes, there’s also free lunches (we recommend neither).



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