Marketing automation – the antidote to GDPR?

John Onion, Managing Director of digital marketing agency upriseUp, explains the role of marketing automation for charities – how it can help them solve their GDPR woes and encourage supporter action with more personalised engagement.

Guest Writer | 5th Jul 18
Graphic representing marketing automation.

GDPR has highlighted the need for communications to be sent to an engaged (and opted-in), audience. It needs to be specific to the needs of that audience, legally – but also, it needs to understand the context of the organisation’s relationship with the individual. It needs to enhance that relationship – or the individual is just going to let their mouse roll-over the dreaded ‘opt-out’ button.

Organisations should prioritise quality communication with interested individuals anyway. The problem is the time and cost it takes to communicate with people on such an individual basis.

Certainly, within the charity sector, marketing communications often need a heightened level of sophistication as there are many potential touch points with the same individual. Except in the rare instance of a major donor, the income received from individual communications with an entire database of people does not justify continued personal communication.

One person may be the family member of a direct beneficiary, an occasional supporter, and also now training for a Marathon to support the charity. How do charities (who must focus on efficiencies) scale thousands of such relationships?

The answer is in marketing automation. While this has been around for a few years now, with the increased need on the charity sector to improve its communication we can expect it to play a significant part in future strategy.


What is marketing automation?

Marking automation adapts communication to the individual, depending on the various touch-points with that charity. From seeing what email links they have clicked, which web pages they visited and spent time on and also what causes they have supported, it can detect the types of communication the user might like to receive.

For example, if the individual is focused on preventing cruelty to dogs, the next time there is dog-based communication that person should receive it. Or, in the next e-newsletter move the dog story to the top. As well as what to say, Marketing automation can also detail how to speak to the individual.

It can go further than that. Automated conversations can be had (by email) with replies adapted based on answers it’s been given. For example:

  • Email 1: “If you were interested in ‘x’ would you appreciate receiving an eBook on ‘y’? Click ‘here’ if so.”
  • Email 2: “Did you find this piece of communication interesting/ how useful was it out of 5?”
  • Email 3: “Last year you said that our eBook didn’t provide enough information, we’ve just updated it, would you like a copy?”

The point is that marketing automation enhances engagement with the audience significantly above a standard email. Once it is set up it takes very little in terms of resource, but the benefit might be improved relationships with thousands of connections.


How does it work?

More information on the processes of automation can be found in the upriseUp blog, but to highlight the top line details:

Landing pages and forms

The first step in marketing automation is gathering information from interested users – this can be as simple as an email sign up form, pdf download or registering their interest for an event. All of this information is then fed into a dedicated Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) where you can build up detailed user profiles.

More data is gathered

As the user spends more and more time on the site and interacts with different pages, the CRM will record this information and build a better picture of them – possibly starting to match them with personas.

Targeted emails and workflows

With all of this data at hand it’s possible to identify and build detailed customised journeys for the user based on their previous experiences and preferences. Similar to a flow chart, this journey or workflow will have a series of branches forking out at every possible decision or behavioural stage. This means that each user gets a tailored experience that is specific only to them and how they’ve interacted with the site in the past.


How it can be used?

All this presents as a fantastic opportunity for charities and non-profits with a large number of email subscribers. Once workflows are in place, you can provide a personalised journey for each of your users with minimal effort; one that will change and develop with the user’s on-site behaviour.


What systems are available?

There are many suppliers, each with varying features and prices depending on organisation size, budget and the level of sophistication required.

What is clear is that it isn’t the tool that is the most important thing – it is the initial thought and strategy. There is great potential for Marketing Automation to give charities the edge in their communications.

Click here to go to an infographic comparing the differences between four of the leading marketing automation providers.