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Use smart workflows to personalize customer experience

Smart workflows that automate certain decisions must become part of personalization strategies in order for CX teams to better guide customer journeys.

While there are many components to CRM campaigns -- targeting, messaging, timing, etc. -- there is one ultimate focus: following and enabling the customer journey through to purchase. In the end, that's what makes these campaigns personal.

This is no big news to anyone who has been doing campaigns for a while. Customer journey is a phrase nested right in the middle of CRM nomenclature. But there is now a new phrase -- marketing automation -- and it flies in the face of personal. How can marketing campaigns be automated without sacrificing the personalization of the customer journey?

There are many CRM tools for personalizing the customer journey, and there are an increasing number of options for automating marketing processes. What's the best way to combine the two?

It's a matter of planning ahead -- anticipating the variable outcomes of particular customer journeys and designing smart workflows accordingly.

Know the market segment

Conventional marketing analytics can simplify the number of possible customized customer journeys upfront, and this is the right place to start. Trying to build all possible variations of all possible customer journeys into a single workflow is overkill.

Most companies already do a breakdown of their market that segments out those who will never buy from those who would buy dirty socks if they were offered, in order to focus marketing dollars on those in between -- the ones likely to buy if they're given an incentive.

That is where new opportunities emerge. Using marketing analytics, this group of potential buyers can be broken down not only by demographic, but also by their social media footprint. And that's something you can turn over to smart workflows.

For example, if you're selling sportswear aimed at people ages 14 to 28, you'll have different general pitches for teens, college students and older 20-somethings. You'll also be marketing to these groups in different places. These three groups cluster in different social media -- teenagers in Snapchat, college students in Instagram and older 20-somethings in Twitter and, to a lesser degree, Facebook. These three types of social media are significantly different from one another, so this subsegmentation and the planning of content for the different media are important. But it's worthwhile because it saves effort when personalization really drills down: If worked out ahead of time, it's a go-to for smart workflows rather than an explicit customization mid-journey.

Know the options

The addition of social media input into the customer profile mix … opens a door into when and why members of [customer] subgroups change their minds.

Making a workflow smart involves setting up data wrangling, but it pays off. Once the audience is fully segmented, it's a matter of setting up a personalized template for each subsegment -- the text of targeted emails, the feel and flow of landing pages, and the specific incentives. This, in itself, is a formidable amount of work, but marketing automation software can handle it. It's a good idea to look into marketing automation software, over and above your CRM system.

This may already be more than some marketing teams do, but it's close enough to today's CRM standard that, if you're not already doing these things, you should be.

This is where it gets tricky, though. What happens when a member of a targeted subgroup isn't responding to the personalized journey? The answer: Make it more personal.

Graphic listing problems marketing automation can fix
In addition to personalizing customer experience, marketing automation can help solve many common problems.

Descriptive analytics have come a long way in the past few years. The addition of social media input into the customer profile mix not only enables users to tease out highly selective subgroups by any demographic wanted, but it also opens a door into when and why members of those subgroups change their minds.

Most people are used to browsing Amazon, then going over to Facebook and having an Amazon ad for just the thing they were looking at moments ago pop up in their face. This, too, is becoming standard practice, but while it's personal and precisely targeted, it's not particularly sophisticated. It's usually not part of a campaign or journey. The solution: Make it part of the journey.

Know the customer

How can you make this work? Start by having smart workflows in progress, and watch for changes in customer behavior.

For example, when a targeted customer is drawn to your site but not from the social media platform they have in the past and not from the one typical of their demographic -- say, a 28-year-old who has bought sportswear online in the past has returned, but from Pinterest, rather than Facebook -- have your workflow detect this difference, and modify the customer's profile to capture that change.

And let that event trigger another: adaptive content. Assume the customer visited but didn't buy. What would the workflow do about it? Pinterest is a more visual platform than narrative; that tells you something about the customer. In such a scenario, you learn about the customer and improve the profile. The workflow's response could be to select different content for that customer's next email -- content that is more visual, including an action photo rather than just a picture of new shoes.

This is just one of a near-infinite range of possibilities, and it's the work of a few minutes to come up with another and another and another. The take-home is this: There is marketing automation now, so by all means, start using it. There are smart workflows now, so by all means, use that, too. But plan carefully what the workflow will decide, identify what options are available to personalize and do the legwork to make the marketing automation software drill-down to the most effective presentations and channel selections as layered -- and, therefore, as simple -- as possible.

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