Marketing Automation for Dummies

This Q&A with 2-Time Sitecore Strategist MVP, Angela Gustafson, highlights another Sitecore 9 feature that we’re excited about: Marketing Automation.

Let’s start with the basics, what is marketing automation?

Similar to Sitecore forms, the new marketing automation suite is a rebuilt, enhanced version of Sitecore engagement plans. The new marketing suite makes it easier for marketers to set up campaigns and to put the right message in front of the right user at the right time.

What is different from previous version of Sitecore engagement plans?

Everything. Just like Sitecore forms, the marketing automation suite has been completely rewritten and we would deem it more marketing friendly. For those familiar with Sitecore engagement plans, they tend to be more suited to “developer speak” and have a higher learning curve for marketers to implement. Also, there are several improvements to the new version including: there is no more need for Microsoft Silver Light (hold for applause) and new visually appealing drag and drop User Interface.

What do you need to know before you start using marketing automation?

To start, you need a strategy surrounding your customers’ journey, their touch-points and the content strategy that maps to those touchpoints. Once you have that mapped out you can set up campaigns in Sitecore to activate these journeys.

Before starting, you need to know the touch points and activities that you’ll be triggering in Sitecore.  Along with the new redesigned UI, Sitecore has changed the terminology to be more intuitive to a marketer. Instead of setting up triggers and conditions, the marketers can set up listeners and marketing actions based on their campaign goals

One other key feature of the tool is its seamless integration with Sitecore Email Experience Manager (EXM). If you aren’t using another platform for your email marketing automation efforts, this could be a great opportunity to explore EXM to further your automation efforts.

So, how do you use this tool?

The key is moving users across campaigns, while creating campaign lists that correspond to the user’s state in their customer journey.

Here are the following elements you should use to set up your marketing automation campaign, taken from Sitecore Documentation:

  • Default Elements – The Start and End elements that indicate where contacts are enrolled in the automation campaign and where the campaign ends.
  • Marketing Automation – the elements that you can use to make changes to a contact in the system, for example, to add or subtract points from a contact’s engagement value.
  • Listeners – the elements that you can use to listen for specific actions made by a contact in a specific period, to identify how the contact should proceed through the automation campaign.
  • Decision Points – the elements where you can specify a rule to identify how a contact should proceed through the automation campaign. You can use this element to filter contacts without delay because they are evaluated against the specified rule immediately.
  • Other Elements – the elements that you can use either to delay a contact’s movement through the campaign or to move a contact to the beginning of the campaign or to another campaign.

What are the challenges with using the marketing automation suite?

Similar to Sitecore forms, if you had a previous robust engagement plan strategy and set up, there is not an automated migration path from the engagement plans to marketing automation plans in 9. In short, you will need to manually create any and all plans created in previous Sitecore versions.

Another area to explore is ensuring the out of the box conditions meet your needs and use cases. If not, your development team can add custom conditions before you start. Finally, if you are using another marketing automation tool or email campaign manager, you may want to consider an integration with that tool before utilizing Sitecore’s.

Need help getting started? Contact us!