According to SiriusDecisions, 85 percent of marketing automation users are not using the technology to its fullest potential.* I’ve read blog posts in which people point to this and call it “failure.”

There are at least two ways to think about this. One is to put it in the context of a system’s capabilities.

The Swiss Army Knife

If the system can do 12 things but you only make use of five, is that failure? I’d argue not necessarily. If your marketing automation system is saving your team time and resources, and your results are going up, sales is happier, and you can point to a nice positive ROI from the system, you are not failing.

If you have a small team and you have to choose between doing 12 things haphazardly and five things well, is executing well on those five “failure?” Perhaps the system was built with capabilities for a wide variety of companies with a wide variety of marketing modes, and your particular company just doesn’t need all of them. Most of us who use Microsoft Word don’t make full use of every feature, but many still prefer Word over similar programs. So from this one marketer’s point of view, if your marketing automation system is a Swiss Army knife and you don’t use all the tools – but you’re enjoying success – so what?

The Potential of Customer Lifecycle Marketing

That said, in a recent SiriusDecisions blog post, Matt Senatore points out where marketers, even those using every facets of their marketing automation systems fall down:

“Marketing automation platforms aren’t just for generating and nurturing new leads,” says Matt. He says it twice, the second time in ALL CApS, just to make the point.

SiriusDecisions research also indicates that only 8 percent of organizations surveyed were using marketing automation for existing customer marketing. This is a far greater untapped opportunity for the marketer using automation technology; the technology’s capability to address all stages of the customer lifecycle is a huge plus.

Matt goes into some depth on four ways to get beyond “net-new” thinking; we’ll just hit the highlights, and encourage you to read his original post.

  • Onboard new accounts. The first 30 to 60 days of a new customer’s lifecycle is critical. You’ve got a relationship to cement, and using an automated program to stay in communication, offering welcome messaging, getting-started tips, FAQs, education, or help can go a long way. You can reinforce the customer’s decision to choose your company, and ease starting pains. You can also identify the people who are not engaging (read: “at risk”).
  • Account renewals: Matt points out how similar this is to onboarding. They are the same kind of automated process; the main difference is the messaging and the timing. In both cases you’re using the automated system to keep the customer informed and aware that you are paying attention. Matt didn’t mention trials, but there too you can use aspects of both the onboarding (education) and renewal (time-triggered actions) to enhance results.
  • Satisfaction profiling and follow-up: Here you use surveys and other tools to gather information tells you how you’re doing, which in turn will help you plan how to do better. You might also identify more advocates.
  • Cross-sell/upsell campaign nurturing: Here you take the very effective tactics of segmentation and lead nurturing and apply them to your established customer base. As an example, if you have one segment of your base that purchases left-handed gloves every three months, perhaps you have a new type of glove (Longer lasting? More comfortable? Better grip?) that you can offer them, which the rest of your customers won’t care about.

The ultimate point is, marketing automation is above all a communication tool. And you might miss the biggest bet of all if you use it only for lead generation and nurturing: According to the Gartner Group, 80 percent of your future profits will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers.

The link between loyalty and growth and profits is strong. You can, and should, use marketing automation to forge it.

*Here’s another interesting 85% statistic from SiriusDecisions: 85% percent of people currently in B2B marketing positions were not professionally trained in marketing prior to stepping into their roles. And 75% learned on-the-job through trial and error.