The Butterfly Effect

As the owner of a small yet carefully tended raised bed, containing a mixture of edibles including carrots and lettuce, the term ‘butterfly effect’ conjures up a number of mental images. They may look pretty, but Butterflies are just as much of a pest as any of the ugly insects. I guess it goes to prove that aesthetics are only skin deep and that we should be mindful to look objectively before drawing conclusions.

Those caterpillars may have decimated my lettuce crop, but for the purposes of this article the term ‘butterfly effect’ has very little to do with the destruction of otherwise beautiful and succulent foliage.

In this article I really want to talk about ‘Marketing Automation’, which to the uninitiated might otherwise conjure up images of BMWs and disturbing maneuvers on the motorway. So, sit back and let me replace that image with a less troubling image of a red admiral butterfly majestically emerging from its chrysalis.

Marketing Automation isn’t something to be feared. You should be doing it.

What is Marketing Automation?

The simplest way I can think of explaining Marketing Automation is with carrots. Maybe there exists some clever technique, passed down from gardener-to-gardener, but as far as I can tell, working out when your carrots are ready for picking is an act of blind faith. After all, most of the carrot is out of sight, so how can you possibly know which carrots in your carefully tended rows are ready to be harvested?

What you really need is a system that provides some clues as to what lies beneath the surface. Maybe there are other factors that I can look to in order to better understand the right carrot for picking – the direction of the slug trails maybe?

Marketing Automation is like having a pair of x-ray specs to look through the earth to see which carrots are ready for eating, or rather which members of your audience are ready for harvesting. What Marketing Automation does is apply a score to the digital interactions you have with your customers.

The more a person interacts with you, whether on your website, in your emails, on your Facebook page or at an event, the greater the likelihood that they will buy from you. Marketing Automation joins up these events into a something that you can track and score.

If you have a CRM system, a web site and an email marketing system, the question you should be asking yourself is: are they working together as well as they should?

There is no reason why these systems should be disparate. They should talk to one-another, to draw a holistic picture of your audience and their behaviour.

Marketing Automation is just like the butterfly effect. Just as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can cause a hurricane on the other side of the world, seemingly small interactions with your audience can amount to a big deal, as long as you are paying attention.

Most systems attribute a score to the different activities carried out by your audience. Once a person’s score reaches a milestone you can target that individual with different types of activity. For example, if somebody looks at a product on your website a couple of times, why not personalise their visit next time so that it is better orientated around that product? Or, why not send them an email with a timely offer on the product that you know they are interested in?

Marketing Automation captures all of these small ‘flutters’ such that the cumulative effect can be seen. It’s about understanding the behaviour of your audience and responding actively. Of course, you need to be careful. You don’t want to be too pushy or intrusive as with everything there is a balance.

Marketing Automation Options

If you are still reading, then you might be thinking ‘sounds great, but show me the carrots’. If you’ve jumped straight to this bit of the article then you are probably a little worried about the carrot metaphor – serves you right for skipping!

There are a lot of options out there, each with wildly different feature sets and prices. Our approach with clients is to try to ascertain the critical path your sales model requires and work out from there, rather than providing you with a system and then trying to make you bend your sales flow to fit the system.

At its simplest any Marketing Automation system requires three parts: a website, a crm system and an email marketing system. We specialise in open-source systems, but we are equally happy to integrate our work with whatever legacy systems you own.

The trick is to understand how your audience is interacting with your communications. It really is a case of adopting a user orientation (UX) strategy and responding as best as you can to how your audience behaves.

We use the intelligence of your Marketing Automation system to make your website or email system deliver the right message, at the right time, to your audience. Typically we will build a website using a CMS system such as WordPress or Drupal and there are countless integration modules for both that work with Marketing Automation systems.

We will get all of the systems talking to each other, and we work with you to ensure that your sales machine is set up so that it only identifies the right carrots for picking. Trust me when I say that there is nothing worse than pulling up a carrot that’s not ready to be picked. All that effort, avoiding voracious caterpillars and you dig-up the carrot prematurely – very disappointing.

We can help you understand what your audiences are doing with your communications and we can help you to respond to their interactions more appropriately. Sadly, despite all this savy, we still haven’t got the foggiest about when to dig up a carrot… answers and ideas appreciated!

Some Marketing Automation Systems to look at:


Lead Forensics

Low-cost / free