Marketing automation is an indispensible tool these days, from email campaigns through to lead nurturing and customer manager. Web analytics is nearly universal with 83.9% of respondents in DataIQ research using it, but this falls to 51.8% deploying online behavioural tracking. One of the biggest obstacles to adopting more sophisticated technology is a lack of skills - our same research found 52.3% of companies intend to upskill their existing staff.
The question is how to do this in an effective way, ensuring the right capabilities are developed in line with the company’s marketing goals. Exactly that issue has informed the launch of Act-On’s University 2.0 today during its #Iheartmktg event and was recognised by chief marketing officer, Michelle Huff, during an interview with DataIQ. “Everything is focused on what the CMO is chartered to do,” she said.
At the heart of the new online learning platform is a recognition that, “the customer journey has been changing dramatically. The adaptive marketing journey is all about right message, right channel, right time, getting customers to engage with the brand and helping to extend the relationship by turning them into advocates. It is also about being able to tie that back to revenue to show the impact.”
This has become progressively harder as the number of channels has expanded, from the maturing social media to the emerging wearables, all of which impact on how customers buy. Each of these has its own processes, data formats, customer expectations and best practices, with many gaps between each channel.
“It is hard to stay on top of everything, from measuring the impact of email or social through to compliance and training. We have all found ourselves getting stuck at the last minute as a campaign is going out. The person who designs an email campaign is not an expert in data protecton law,” said Huff.
While Act-On already had an online University which offered courses as part of its product support, the vendor decided to take a different and more dramatic approach to solving its customers’ challenges. “We wanted to present the whole learning experience in a different way and give people a way to learn from each other, as well as from experts. Our online university is live, not just recordings, so it is interactive with online collaboration. It is not just about reading a book, but the whole educational journey,” she said.
For the first 90 days, new customers were already benefitting from an onboarding manager who helped them identify their goals and a pathway towards realising. But Matt Zelen, chief operating officer, said the company wanted to go further: “One-to-one support is valuable, but it has limited scope. So we challenged ourselves - what if we could give our customers access to all the experts in Act-On? We have people who know all about best practice and industry requirements. How could we make sure customers who onboard at the same time learn from our experts?”
Act-On’s University 2.0 relaunch is making all of its experts available for interactive support to those in each cohort of customers who are doing the same things. Users can go through the same content multiple times or they can do it in one week. Said Zelen: “We have had some customers go through it in five days and others who took one month.”
That reflects the differential between skills levels not just across layers of marketers, but also between different areas of their practice. Senior marketers may be skilled at laying out strategy, which a beginner may struggle with, but a new hire could be expert at behavioural scoring in a way their boss does not understand. As Huff noted, “a lot of marketers don’t understand how to do SEO or social. So we have built out the course in three levels - beginner, intermediate, advanced - and have tutorials in all three.”
Developing the 40-plus courses within the University meant reviewing not just existing materials, but also identifying experts within the company itself. This was the breakout revelation for Act-On - instead of limiting support from its own practitioners to one-to-one calls, it could make them available for live interaction to whole customer groups at the same time, using its international spread to cover different time zones.
“We needed a matrix of courses for each discipline, with a thorough grounding for beginners defining what each element means and how to leverage it, how strategy translates into funnel marketing. We spent time on the expert tracks at all levels to ensure we had deep coverage of marketing techniques that drive best practice. Each track has robust course work for beginners, intermediates who have certified, but are still learning, and advanced,” explained Zelen.
Customers get certification - and badges - after testing at the end of each course, giving them career development support and tracking. In beta testing, some users have built tailored marketing programmes for their teams within the courses available, while others have sat the entire syllabus. Developing University 2.0 has been no easy task - its launch was twice delayed to allow for fine-tuning - but with its announcement today in New York City, that effort will start to pay off and be fruitful. As Zelen said, “it is exciting to bring this to our whole customer base.”