Marketing automation software is widely acknowledged as being key for enabling scalable, co-ordinated, relevant and personalised communications to customers and prospects across multiple channels. Yet, in most companies have yet to implement anything of this kind even though they may have acquired the software.

Companies have held back or persisted with ‘what we have already’ as many still believe that marketing automation is complicated, expensive and difficult to prove ROI – and whilst we still see examples of failed projects – the reality is that the majority of these have failed due to a lack of proper planning and requirements definition and linking it to measures of success.

Let’s assume then that your company is keen to implement a marketing automation solution. What should be your first step? Or rather, what should you be doing before you even speak to any of the software companies and hear about seamless integration, single views of customer data, or automated omni-channel campaigns?

Step one

Step one, is the ‘requirements definition’. This is the key stage in the entire process.

While the overall business strategy may have been defined, it’s all too easy to just say ‘improve customer engagement’. For this to work, you need to find out how you are actually going to enable this. You also need to ask yourself, what considerations do you need to define?


First identify who has contact with consumers from the business – both inbound and outbound – and requires access to the solution. E.g. in the case of the call centre – does an operator need to know what has already been communicated to the consumer when they call in? Should they also know if the consumer has already clicked through a link in an email but shown interest in a different offer or product? If the call centre operator updates information during the course of the call, can this information be acted on immediately in the solution?

How is the business structured? Is it centralised or de-centralised?  Does the solution need to support regional marketing operations where brand guidelines and content templates are managed centrally, but adapted locally?


Which channels does the solution need to support? Is it direct mail, email, SMS, mobile app, call centre – what is the role for each channel within the business? How do customers interact with the business and expect to be communicated with? Some solutions will have native engines built in to them that allow automated execution – whilst others require API integration to enable their usage. What does that mean for your business?

Communication programmes 

Defining the customer journeys and contact strategy to deliver against business objectives and also the consumers’ expectations for how you engage with them? Welcome, Upsell / Cross sell, Lapse / Retention, Abandon Basket, Order confirmation / Dispatch can be defined based on segment objectives and customer preferences but in order to enable these we need to have the data available for the solution.

Frequently companies will have multiple disparate pieces of consumer profiles residing in various applications. As a result, departments often have access to only a snapshot of consumers’ profiles, obviously this would be more informative if they had a picture of the consumers overall relationship and behaviour.

Being able to leverage and act on full insights around consumers, the ability to deliver personalised, relevant and timely content and access to testing / results across all channels is key to optimising communications effectiveness and customer engagement.

Contact pressure

With automated communication programmes comes the problem of customer fatigue, should a customer fall into multiple journeys, that could potentially see them receive a number of messages across different channels all in one day? If this does happen, this can lead to frustration and ultimately disengagement with your brand.

Planning messaging can be managed and prioritised to enable only the most relevant messages to reach the customer.

Is the solution going to be used to manage all service messaging? If not then how do you integrate the service messaging into the contact history?

Systems and data

These are inextricably linked but probably the most vital area and often the one that is not given enough consideration until after the software purchase decision has been made.

Companies sit on massive volumes of data, stored in various applications and departments and as a result, data integration of just the core operational (behavioural and transactional) data is key. That is before we start to integrate new channels or sources of data into the equation such as mobile app behaviour, i-beacon information, website behaviour, social interaction.

This is often the greatest challenge when setting out on a marketing automation project and this brings the need to ask ourselves:  what information sits in which system? What data do we need to form each? How do we access it? Is it batch or real time requirement? Is an API integration required or do we use a Federated Data Access approach?

Data integration

Once you have the answers to these questions then the next challenge is the design of the underlying data solution that is going to manage this single view of the consumer. Bringing together all of the communication activity, consumer behaviour, and tracking information from multiple sources will support the solution moving forward, but this is an entire project in itself!

Step two and beyond

If the correct level of requirement definitions has been undertaken through step one, then step two is easier for both the software supplier to answer against and also for the business, as they will clearly understand what they will be buying. In the long-term, this will mean it is far more likely that the software, if successfully implemented, will achieve the required business objectives.

Written by Peter Russell 


Talk to us if you want to learn more.

Back to Insights

Bench Newsletter

Register here to receive the latest Newsletter