Article written by SeniorVu CEO, Tim Donnelly
Innovation is defined as a process to create a new method, idea, product or service. In today’s tech world, it can be the driver for growth and disruption. The typical examples of Amazon, the iPhone, Facebook and Uber are commonly used to illustrate the most successful innovations in the past 20 years. Yes, there are thousands of other examples that may not be as glamorous, but each businessperson or entrepreneur, based on their occupation or industry, can likely create their own short-list of favorites. For me, a marketing geek, it was ‘marketing automation’. In fact, I loved the idea so much I created a company called SoftVu 20 years ago to help business deliver a more impactful message in an automated way. It later became the leading marketing automation platform used by mortgage banks in the US.
Tim Donnelly, SeniorVu CEO on what makes SeniorVu’s marketing automation truly “auto.”
When Marketing Automation Became a Really Big Deal
The business didn’t scale until a certain event took place in September of 2004 when the Founder and CEO of Lending Tree honored one of our clients (a mortgage lender in Kansas City) for their innovations. Before Doug Lebda, the CEO of Lending Tree, handed the award to Lance Melber, the CEO of eSmartLoan.com, he played a video contained within an email of a loan officer speaking to a new LendingTree lead, and he said “that’s how you deliver a great experience to a new lead that you will likely never meet face-to-face, yet you’re asking to be their mortgage provider.” SoftVu had created the video and marketing automation capabilities.
The following week our phones began to ring and by the end of the next year we had tripled the size of our company. Our value proposition focused on helping banks automate the process of sending a video welcome message from a loan officer to a new internet lead generated by LendingTree. We added something really addictive for the loan officers. We sent an immediate notification to them when the lead was looking at the email and watching their video. This simple value proposition expanded into a full-blown campaign strategy designed to send the right message to the right person at the right time.
The SoftVu Marketing Automation Platform became widely known throughout the mortgage lending industry and a majority of the banks/lenders buying internet leads from LendingTree became a SoftVu client. After the financial crisis we were constantly challenged by our clients to continually prove our value to them. From 2010 to 2015 the competition was circling the wagons through the likes of Eloqua (acquired by Oracle in December 2012), ExactTarget (acquired by Salesforce.com in June 2013), Marketo (acquired by Adobe in November 2018) and HubSpot. In addition, many of the CRM and Lead Management Systems began introducing basic marketing automation functionality, typically for free. We had our work cut out for us.
Our Marketing Automation 2.0
Our strategy to defend our market-leading position focused on “continual optimization.” This required us to do three things: create tracking tools that provide full visibility of campaign results, enable streamlined split and multivariate testing procedures and scale our content creation capabilities. All of these initiatives were created for the strict natures of the post-crisis mortgage industry, which were incredibly onerous and regulated. In the end, we fended off most of the competitors due to our vertically enhanced marketing automation platform that was coupled with specialized services the competition could not match. The culmination of our tenured value was also evident in our annual “Mortgage Innovation Summit” which embodied the ‘who’s who’ of the mortgage industry ecosystem since 2008. Today, I’m not sure marketing automation would be considered innovation for the mortgage industry, but this brings me to my next point.
Billy Daniels, SeniorVu’s VP of Digital Marketing, compares the various marketing automation platforms.
Marketing Automation Tailored to Senior Living
Even though an innovation has been brought to the world doesn’t mean it has lost its luster. Yes, the mortgage industry matured the use of marketing automation, but that is not true for all industries, especially Senior Living. Here’s a few questions or challenges operators and communities will be dealing with as they attempt to extract as much value out of the concept:
How important will it be to deliver the very best message to a new lead or prospect?
What should you include in the first iteration and when the solution is fully baked?
How will you know if that message is working (i.e. measuring performance)?
How important will it be to automate the process of sending the right message to the right person at the right time throughout the journey of the prospect/family?
How will you know how much to budget?
How will you know how to manage this initiative short and long term (internally or externally)?
How do I know if I’m picking the right partners?
Based on what we’ve experienced over the past 20 years for helping the very fast-paced mortgage industry – that’s highly regulated – realize value from marketing automation we have some very important suggestions for the Senior Living industry to consider:
- The efficacy of the solution should provide complete transparency of results to the move-in level and beyond (no manual steps to get the data you need and want).
- Records in the database should be seamlessly tied to campaign workflow (don’t manage the ongoing distribution of the campaigns through a list, but yet through the status in the CRM or Lead Management Platform).
- Campaigns should continually be tested (split and multivariate for approximately 25% of active campaigns).
- Your resource pool to create content should be extensive. If you are using a large ad agency to manage this task, you’re at risk of overspending on this. Rather, find providers that can be a part of a crowdsourcing model connected to the platform.
- Continually monitor the trending of your efforts from engagement to ROI calculations.
If you need help defining your plan, I’m dedicating the entire month of January to client visits regarding this matter. Feel free to book a complimentary strategy session with me.
When you’re ready for a marketing automation strategy session with CEO Tim Donnelly, here’s what you can expect:
Campaign Strategy (define expectations, assumptions and deliverables)
Campaign Content (outline options and considerations)
Integration (workflow diagram)
Distribution & Deliverability (mediums and sources)
Workflow & Event Notifications (automate alerts to the right people)
Campaign Reporting (trending, industry benchmarking, ROI analysis)
Project Management (what needs to be managed and who will do it)