In my previous post, I outlined what marketers need to provide a truly 1:1 email experience for their customers. We dissected dynamic content design systems to illustrate how easy it is to define meaningful personalization and provide a framework for implementation. Conceptually, marketers have the elements but too often existing technology limits the execution. In this post, we move from the “what” to the “how” with Content Automation.
Let’s explore what you can do with your current tech stack to help future-proof your email marketing roadmap for both triggered journeys and newsletters. With countless tools and platforms to consider, modernizing a complex marketing tech stack is a top priority for organizations looking to get the most value from their existing investments.
I started in digital in 1998, helping to build one of the first Email Service Providers (ESPs), Bigfoot Interactive (later acquired by Epsilon), then another, Boldfish, (acquired by Siebel, acquired by Oracle), and after two successful exits, went on to found ERGO. During this time, some of the largest F1000 brands have hired me to consult with them about their email marketing infrastructure. The one thing that I’ve learned along the way is that you can’t take anything at face value.
For context, it’s important to know that there are two approaches to building a tech stack: Best Suite and Best-in-Class.
Best Suite is the idea that huge technology companies have built an end-to-end suite of offerings. The attraction is that everything is supposed to be integrated under one roof. Once the initial buying decision is made, there are no more decisions to make.
Best-in-Class, on the other hand, allows companies the freedom to select the best-fitting technology for each component in the stack. It’s more work, but offers far more agility.
Regardless of which approach your company chooses, you must ultimately face and solve for a couple of realities:
First, personalization is not a single silver-bullet piece of software. It’s a marketing ethos that should be woven into every aspect of marketing: strategy, creative, data, governance, privacy—and yes, technology. The idea of a MarTech software company laying claim to the ability to drive omnichannel personalization is a complete myth (and worthy of a meme).
Each channel has such deep intricacies that it’s simply not possible for one tool to do it all. As just one of many examples, I’d love to see someone try to replace the personalization technology behind a chatbot with an omnichannel personalization system. We’d all be reading about it the next day.
The reality is that every system needs to have personalization functionality and interoperability with the other systems in the tech stack. With APIs and privacy frameworks, that’s where we’re headed to support the grander promise of personalization. Apoorv Durga, Vice-President, Research & Advisory at Real Story Group, sums it up quite well: “Your personalization strategies will require several adjacent capabilities beyond simple targeting logic.”
Second, regardless of which of the two tech approaches your company chooses, you’ll still need to supplement your tech stack anchors (ESPs, CRMs, CDPs, WCM, and Analytics) with boutique, enterprise-level vendors who fill critical gaps. Tony Byrne, Founder of MarTech Stack Leadership Council at Real Story Group, said very bluntly, “You should also identify anchor platforms and ensure that you’re performing well in [their] areas—giving you the freedom to experiment on all the intriguing sets of boutique services that could differentiate your customer engagement going forward.”
In the case of modern email marketing, the main challenge and opportunity is the ability to automate content that enables the marketer to both generate and individually target dynamic content. The only anchor that could conceivably support this needed functionality is your ESP. But, no matter how much you love your ESP, they will not scale to support your Dynamic Content Design System.
In the Forrester Wave™ of Email Marketing Service Providers, Shar VanBoskirk rated eight of the 13 biggest ESPs a score of three out of five in their ability to properly support dynamic content, which is the backbone of personalization. Speaking of the 800-pound gorilla in the ESP space, she said that they “lack the ability to scale dynamic content in the email channel.”
Proving our point even further, Chad White, Head of Research at Oracle Marketing Consulting and Author of “Email Marketing Rules,” smartly points out that “70% of email marketers supplement their ESP. They’re rarely meeting all your needs and you shouldn’t expect them to.”
So what do we do? Enter Email Content Automation. Content Automation seamlessly bridges the gap between modular content design and dynamic content. Automating content via AI/ML is the only way to scale personalization, but technology is required to achieve this.
AI and automation first eliminate manual, repeatable tasks and frees up teams to focus on higher level business and creative strategies. And, second, layer on predictive capabilities that provide customers with the most relevant recommendations and messages.
Content Automation in email not only has the power to increase efficiencies and contain costs but investing in this kind of tech can also play a key role in modernizing a marketing technology stack. This technology seamlessly integrates with existing platforms and can achieve all of the above, plus help eliminate data silos, streamline workflows, and reduce TCO (total cost of ownership) for marketing technology.
As such, there is a strong and compelling case for investments in Email Content Automation as marketers evaluate their tech stacks and how they’re related to email as a highly profitable channel. Automation is an essential component of any future-proof email marketing roadmap, especially as AI use cases become more sophisticated and accurate.
If your company is serious about omni-channel personalization, then you’ll need an HTML-friendly Email Content Automation tool. This will allow the lifeblood of personalization to flow into and out of your email channel and will let you scale way beyond delivering basic things like “Dear John” or “Your Account Number ending in 1234” populated into only a small handful of segmented content modules. It will also allow you to activate tons of user intent data for the greater good of enterprise-wide personalization that would otherwise sink into a black hole.
We are now nearing the end of our series and roadmap. We’ve tackled trends, newsletters vs. triggered journeys, dynamic content design systems, and automation tech as the linchpin of dynamic content and part of the modern MarTech stack. So what’s next? In the final post in this series, we’ll bring it all together with a crawl, walk, run approach to show how you can execute this roadmap in a way that makes sense for your individual company.
Stay tuned for the series finale and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!