Fully automated: Vend’s Josh Pickles on choosing an automation partner, training staff and keeping tech in-house

With the marketing tech boom in recent years, there’s no shortage of companies offering drag-and-drop interfaces capable of managing campaigns across digital channels. And while choice isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Vend’s marketing automation specialist Josh Pickles explains that marketers need to identify precisely what they want from a tech partner before signing a service deal. 

“The reasons for choosing a software provider are going to be different from company to company,” says Pickles. “And even the reasons why we chose Marketo here at Vend will be different when compared to why we went for a different provider at one of my previous jobs.”

Having previously previously cut his teeth on the large-scale email marketing platform on GrabOne, Pickles says he’s come to learn that data management is one of the most important issues to consider when choosing a tech partner. 

“Some of the key things to look out for, especially if you’re a data-driven organisation, are how the software partner deals with your data and securely manages it, what their processes are around maintaining that data, and one of my key requirements is understanding how they manage email.”

With enough jargon-loaded words and acronyms to confuse even the fastest talking marketer, marketing automation has garnered a reputation for being complicated, which is part of the reason why it’s often left to media agencies. However, this isn’t the case with Vend, with the company deciding to run everything in-house.  

“Most of the [marketing] stuff we’re doing is in-house anyway, so it just made sense to bring the tech in-house as well,” Pickles says. “I think it’s mostly so that we have a lot more control over what’s happening. It makes a lot more sense to have me coming on and working internally. It gives the team a lot more control to track from a day-to-day to a monthly and quarterly point of view.”

And Pickles says that from the outset Vend was specifically looking for something that could be rolled out across all its international branches as easily as possible. 

“There aren’t just one or two people using it,” he says. “We’re a global organisation. We’ve got staff everywhere from Canada and San Francisco to London to here in Auckland, so it needed to be a tool that anybody could pick up and use relatively quickly and without much experience. We also needed a good training resource and support centre that they could go back to, particularly for our London team, which can’t always rely on me.”

Having previously worked in various training capacities at Jericho, Pickles was a natural fit for the responsibility of training the Vend team on how to use the platform.

“Half of the staff [working on the Marketo platform]are developers, so they don’t need much training; however, the other half required training, and this responsibility rested with me,” he says. “In the beginning, we worked with one of Marketo’s training agents, who we booked in for a fair number of hours to make sure that we were on the right path in terms of our setup, considering that we were starting from square one.”

Thereafter, Pickles and the team developed a range of in-house training guides as well as relying on the Marketo support community along the way. 

Since first partnering with Marketo in October 2014, Vend has seen a 61 percent increase in pre-trial leads and overall leads have grown 35 percent—results, which Pickles says, are largely driven by the ability to better track the customer journey.

“We’ve now got a lot more information on user journeys: how people are actually moving from our website to our app; what they’re actually doing; how they’re interacting with our content; and where they’re going to from that.”

Pickles also says that the Marketo interface has been very useful in terms of tracking campaign rollout across the different Vend locations.  

“We’ve got about 40 people currently using the Marketo platform at the moment, and everyone has a different role, so it’s been really good to have a central location where everything can be stored.”

Not only has the platform facilitated better monitoring, but it has also informed marketing decisions in terms of the type of content the team should be publishing.  

“A lot of marketing automation is reactive, which is great because it means we can be a little more proactive with things. We can pick up on trends, and develop content that will actually be consumed.”

This strength is sometimes also raised a concern in that it could dissuade marketers from taking creative risks. However, Pickles disagrees, saying that the time saved through marketing automation allows marketers to focus on developing creative projects.     

“If anything, it’s giving us more room to be more creative, especially with our regional marketing reps. It means that they can be a lot more creative in their markets. For example, our design studio recently got the opportunity to be a little more creative with the design landing page templates for our regional reps. The love the simplicity of being able to add some content rather than spending six or seven hours trying to build a landing page from scratch. They can now produce that within ten or 15 minutes.”

And the promise of this speed, he believes, is part of the reason why marketing tech is only set to become more prominent as the industry continues to evolve over the next few years.   

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