By Matthieu Vermeulen, Editor of AdAsia

NEW_Dmas-LogoThe latest sound bite by the Direct Marketing Association of Singapore, featured a presentation by Joanna Rachwal on marketing automation at LinkedIn. Joanna is Global Marketing Operations Lead and she delivered a fast-paced look into LinkedIn’s marketing kitchen. Here is what you can learn from this.

Joanna Rachwal, Global Marketing Operations Lead at LinkedIn.
Joanna Rachwal, Global Marketing Operations Lead at LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has solutions on offer for sales, marketing and talent management. To support the sales and marketing process around these products they use, amongst other tactics, EDM to communicate with leads, prospects and customers. Joanna explained how LinkedIn runs and optimises this, using Salesforce as a CRM system in combination with Eloqua.



Joanna started off with a colourful story on how she recently bought a kitesurf kit, or actually 3. Like most people these days she started her research on the web and she got quickly confused as there were so many brands and tons of recommendations and reviews around. In the end she started to explore the kites from Cabrinha. One of the key points that converted her was the way Cabrinha consistently and adequately communicated with her throughout the decision making and buying process.

For starters she got messages that were appropriate for where she was in the acquisition process, the first ones were not even focused on selling but on creating trust. Secondly the messages were highly personalised right up to the last one, a special offer. This one made her decide to attend a sales event organised for her. This got her so into the topic that she ended up buying 3 instead of just 1 kite as a result.

The process illustrates how important it is for companies to correctly follow the path of a potential customer throughout his interaction with the brand, starting all the way back from the first clicks on the site, to the actual acquisition and even beyond that point.

Her biggest concern now is the wind, because even the best brands in the world and travelling to the greatest locations will not guarantee you that there’s wind so you can use your gear.


How LinkedIn does it

First and foremost Joanna explained what marketing automation is and what the benefits are. She defines marketing automation as an environment that:

Nurtures prospects + Has personalised content + Deliveres this at the right time.

Among the 5 benefits the first one is actually about generating better leads, which in turn result in better alignment with sales.

Then she pointed out that getting marketing automation right takes time. It takes months to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The only way to find out what works is testing. She explained how emails go through rigorous A/B testing. The emails differ in content, e.g. the subject lines vary but they also vary in timing. By varying and comparing results by changing one variable at a time, they figured out the best times to send out emails in the various countries in APAC.

According to Joanna one should never approach APAC as one region. The differences between countries is huge and with that the effectiveness of content, timing and design of emails too. One of the conclusions around the A/B testing of an email for their eBook campaign was that emails sent on Monday get an open rate of 19%, while on Tuesday this is 16% in ANZ.


Structure &data

At LinkedIn there is a clear distinction between business line marketing and the operations. This helps ensuring that the operations team does what it does best, finding the most efficient way to deliver the message and then measuring and reporting back results. It will come as no surprise that LinkedIn will base itself on data, most of which they’re literally sitting on. A number of KPIs are tracked among which open rates and click-through rates are of course of paramount importance. Interesting enough they seem to have EDM campaigns with an open rate of 30%, a rate that most marketing managers can only dream of.



One take away from the lead nurturing programme they have in place, is that planning is a key component in the process. It is important to keep you focused on the objectives and guide you while e.g. developing content for the various stages in the lead nurturing process.

In a conversation after the presentation she admitted that creating adequate content is a challenge. This is understandable as they have 50 different types of email to send out during to contacts in the talent acquisition funnel.

They manage this by creating a marketing content plan to ensure that you know what you want to deliver for each step in the process. Content creation happens in the marketing team and this is also one of the steps in any campaign that cannot be automated.

Getting the content part right is important. These days tons of things are possible with marketing automation, including 1:1 personalisation and real-time email content delivery. But without content these features are meaningless.


The future

Joanna indicated that at LinkedIn they are very serious about improving the marketing automation part through testing and the use of data. She said that nothing is worse than sending irrelevant content out. Although she focused a lot on EDM she stated that also other channels are part of the mix. Still EDM is a the larger part of the marketing efforts LinkedIn currently deploys.

In the end she said that 3 things are really important to keep in mind when implementing marketing automation:

  Plan well upfront and define clear campaign goals.

  Do testing. And test again. And then re-test.

  Patience. Results are not immediate.

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