In the current era of rapid technological advancements, marketing automation has become a fundamental asset to any business. It has the potential to not only streamline operations, but to significantly boost team efficiencies. To explore its various applications, we’re asking CMOs, VPs and other marketing executives how it can transform day-to-day tasks, foster innovation, and enhance performance. As a part of this series, we're interviewing Vibhu Satpaul.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! To begin, can you share a bit of your personal backstory and how you got started?
I am the CEO and founder of Saffron Edge. I am entrepreneurial in nature with experience and understanding of different businesses in the domains of tech product development and marketing services. I come from a tech background with my formal studies in information systems.
With Saffron, we started 15 years ago and saw that there was a constant demand for product development and marketing. We enabled many businesses with tech products and then grew them with our marketing skills. Our core competencies are organic growth and performance marketing in DTC and SaaS companies.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you’re grateful for?
Yes absolutely. That would be my parents, but I would like to talk about my father in particular. I was fortunate enough to have good schooling and parenting to help me get to where I am. He has been there to guide me enough that I could try new and different things in life, without much control. Thanks to this level of freedom, I was able to explore and become more adventurous.
While saying this, he was quite good at pulling back his support or withdrawing further directions on purpose so that I could grow with difficult circumstances and learn to face challenges on my own. I am sure he had conviction for me to end up in some form of business. If he wasn't there in the beginning, I would not have started Saffron 15 years back!
What are some strengths, skills, or characteristics that helped you to reach this place in your career? How can others actively build these areas within themselves?
I have always viewed myself as an entrepreneur who welcomes challenges in the competitive market. Without the yearning to learn more, one cannot grow. You should always aim to become better and not the best.
Always finding new approaches to solve a problem has helped me to gain new skills as well. Always seek opportunities to grow and never stop.
Being a good listener is not only for my teams but also for the other stakeholders. This skill helps in solving major issues in the corporate world.
Which skills are you still trying to grow now?
The toughest skill to hone these days, and one in which I am also currently working on, is how to achieve sustainable scalability for my business. I want to make financially strong decisions for long term growth and sustainability.
What impact has marketing automation had on streamlining and enhancing your team's operations, KPIs, and overall efficiency?
Marketing automation has revolutionized our operations and elevated our efficiency significantly over the past five years or so. Our toolbox now includes specialized tools tailored to our clients' industries, such as Klaviyo for D2C and Ecommerce, and SEMRUSH for SaaS. We also use Mailchimp as our email marketing software, known for being cost-effective and efficient. This has helped us evaluate hiring and people who have capabilities in Marketing automation.
Through marketing automation, we've not only streamlined our processes but also fostered a collaborative approach with clients. From day one, we set clear KPIs and objectives, and these are continuously monitored and reported on, ensuring alignment between our team and our clients. This synergy has greatly improved our overall performance and client satisfaction.
At most, it also brings transparency which helps to align our team and our clients and ensure that we're on the same page all the time.
What’s your favorite marketing automation tool and way to use it?
We don't have a single favorite marketing automation tool; instead, we rely on a suite of tools that cater to the unique needs of our clients in the SaaS and DTC/Ecommerce industries. We also believe that the team that knows how to use them correctly can utilize its value with true potential.
If I had to recommend one, though, I'd say Klaviyo for DTC clients of ours. We have been able to reduce our time to create customized workflows, segment audiences, SMS and email marketing. Its one tool to control a lot of areas of our work. It also supports multiple ecommerce DTC platforms which makes us reach out to all kinds of platforms for our clients. Advanced personalization enables us to provide tailored messages to our clients end users. This is the strongest area that we look for in marketing automation tools.
Ensuring a personalized customer experience is crucial in today's marketing landscape. How do you balance automation while maintaining a human touch?
Great question. I was just referring to personalization from the marketing tools on how powerful it is. Today personal experience is crucial. The way the world is moving, advancement of AI in every sphere of life, the dichotomy between technology and human insight can be bridged. We achieve this balance by taking personalization to an advanced level.
Rather than relying solely on automation, we encourage our clients to create experiences that foster direct interaction with their audience using data derived from these tools.
We segment users extensively, going beyond basic automation. This allows us to recommend actions that engage users on a more personal level. From suggesting meetups based on user preferences to orchestrating the delivery of hand-written notes through trusted partners, we blend technology with traditional marketing techniques to ensure a holistic and personalized customer experience. This approach keeps the human touch intact while harnessing the power of technology to drive engagement and satisfaction. While saying this we still need to do more, as it distinguishes one brand from another. Small things like real human interventions and gestures do matter.
Data is also a cornerstone of effective marketing automation. How do you utilize data-driven insights to continuously refine and optimize your automated campaigns?
We utilize Customer Data Platforms (CDP), specifically Segment, to seamlessly integrate and manage data within most of our campaigns. To extract actionable insights, we have dedicated teams that meticulously segment and analyze this data. These insights form the bedrock of our campaign optimization efforts. By continuously refining our targeting, messaging, and timing based on these data-driven insights, we ensure that our automated campaigns remain highly effective and responsive.
As AI and machine learning become more prominent, how have you integrated these technologies to not only automate tasks but also to provide predictive insights?
AI, while incredibly powerful, is not a magic solution that automatically provides predictive insights. At least, not right now. We do have some really good tools which are AI based and some essential tools which are not AI tools yet. Most of these AI tools are good to begin with.
As the data gets bigger, you have to rely on a team of expert curators who utilize this type of data and tools. That is what we do. We bring together a team of seasoned experts who understand deep knowledge of capabilities of these tools. They also understand specific industries to create insights. They stay attuned to the latest trends, emerging technologies, and market dynamics.
Using existing KPIs and formulas there is some level or predictive modeling that can be done. For example there are some good tools which essentially could let you know the cross sell- upsell products, they can predict churns that are likely to happen, pattern recognition and customer lifetime value predictions. Some of this is not readily available with full support in one tool.
What strategies have you found most effective in integrating marketing automation with other departments to create a cohesive and efficient end-to-end customer experience?
For customer experience we review, train and collaborate with each department. We measure touch points through these tools. Then from our analysis we enhance the customer experience digitally.
We first make sure we have unified customer data that is accessed by the marketing, sales, and customer services teams. Having one centralized hub of customer data is extremely important. Products like Salesforce Cloud Commerce, Shopify Plus, Microsoft Dynamics Commerce 356, and SAP Commerce Cloud are some of these which allow integrations quite easily. This is the first battle that needs to be won as the campaigns that we run or create allows everyone to review customer data easily.
We also have marketing collaboration tools like Slack and Discord to keep everyone informed. These platforms are helpful in collaborating effectively with the employees and also with the clients. Defining KPIs for each team and aligning to these helps in keeping all the managers in the loop with their team.
Implementing marketing automation can come with a certain degree of change management. What tips do you have for introducing a new tool or process to a pre-existing team?
AI is integral today for everyone. Since Open AI has allowed everyone to use AI in personal lives also, people are adapting to it in the corporate world as well. To avail this to all employees, we have different sessions and courses to let them use and integrate it in their processes. We also Listen to concerns, acknowledge them, and work collaboratively to find solutions. We highlight how it has improved outcomes, reduced workload, or enhanced results. A dedicated support system can reduce frustration and resistance as well.
Based on your experience and success, what are five ways to use marketing automation to improve team efficiencies?
1 . Personalization - When we use our CDP tool to garner insights, we are able to target that specific user or potential user with an emailer to perhaps target on that particular product or service he wanted to pursue.
2 . Segmentation with emails - If a user is in a “buying” phase of his journey, he/she will be targeted with specific content in his/her email to find reasons as to why he should definitely buy that particular product.
3 . Workflow - For example for our SaaS brand for OKRs, we provide emails after the sign up and guide the users through the post sign up journey. The content varies as per the kind of sign up it is.
4 . Social media scheduling and reporting - Saves time in scheduling the pre decided content and shares a customised report and we utilise that to provide insights as per the reports.
5 . Customised campaign for retargeting - We use customised campaigns specific for the current users to keep them still interested by providing discounts and delights using our CDP tool.
Can you share a story about a challenge you faced with marketing automation, and how you overcame it?
For a healthcare DTC client of ours, we were unable to get good engagement and there was only 9% of click rate for opening the newsletters and emails. So we used Mailchimp to get segmentation and personalization in our audience sets according to our ICPs that we created. For content, we did A/B testing and made it more informative and less generic. Timing of the emailers was changed according to the analytics. This helped us in better click rates to 14% and less people unsubscribed to it.
Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
Today we can automate our life. We have technology to ease our chores and reduce human efforts. With that in mind, I would like quality education for all, which is easy and accessible. This should be based on what is needed in the future, not only what is being taught currently. Keeping in mind not to forget our history and culture as that has paved the way for us. While we have new tech to ease our work we need to establish a cohesive education system.
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