Use RPA to Automate and Streamline Lead Generation Data - part 1

All of us have filled out those ubiquitous 2 to 4 field forms, indicating some interest in a product or service. As much as we dread the onslaught of emails that may ensue from the submission, these simple request for information (RFI) forms have become a mainstay for all digital marketing programs.

However, these sublime forms are really just a gateway to an evermore complicated ecosystem of modern martech. One form submission could easily carry the requisite burden of being transported into multiple systems, both internal and external partners, then triggering a slew of marketing events such as contact creation, welcome email, newsletter signups, etc.

A foundational tool in the martech stack to manage these incoming leads is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM). CRM’s come in all shapes and sizes, from the behemoth SalesForce to a homegrown Microsoft Access database. Regardless of the size, the capture, creation, and management of leads in a CRM is a mission-critical process in most organizations.

If you have a CRM, chances are you have data management headaches. Even with all the digital bells and whistles, a vendor might sell you, lead gen data flows tend to be a mess of data sources, coming in from an ever-growing array of channels and partners.

RPA is a perfect fit for marTech needs. As mentioned here at a recent conference, martech is all over RPA. And for good reason, RPA’s ability to take on the tedious, manual data plumbing tasks that almost every marketing group has to deal with on a daily basis, will be most welcome.

RPA’s sweet spot is transforming an existing, well-understood process that has repeatable steps for completion. One process that could be a great RPA proof of concept (POC) for a Martech team is lead generation data management.

Here are three typical CRM lead process flows that an RPA tool could help automate:

  • Manual data entry into CRM

  • Import of a formatted data file into a CRM (excel, csv)

  • Sending data to a CRM Application Interface (API)

I will keep the RPA tool agnostic for now, as the core functionality of almost any RPA tool would be able to handle these common use cases. Conceptually, the RPA bot would be configured to execute the following steps:

  • Examine identified locations for the new leads. This could be in a designated email box, file drop locations like DropBox, Google Drive, an FTP server, or in a database.

  • Once the new leads are located, the bot could then consolidate and transform the leads into a consistent file format. Any missing or inconsistent data could be flagged and logged for manual review.

  • Now the bot can get to work and begin executing either:

    • the data entry process directly into the existing CRM system.

    • replicating the steps to import/upload a file

    • calling APIs

Automate your MarTech processes with RPA

Automate your MarTech processes with RPA

Bots can be configured to run on a predetermined schedule, triggered by an event, or even based on the number of submissions. The typical value-add that is pitched with RPA is FTE time-savings. Rightfully so, potentially running 24 X 7 X 365, no sick or holiday time off, a bot will easily pay for itself in manual task hours saved. But the value-adds go much deeper.

The offloading of data management overhead frees up marketing staff for more strategic work, such as analyzing all these great leads your getting. RPA also provides improved data consistency, accuracy, and compliance. Your marketing business rules will be self-documented and executed in an auditable manner. Can you hear the shouts of joy from your IT and Auditing groups?

Now there is no question this use case could be solved with numerous technical solutions. In one organization I was at, our IT group developed a very slick process using Microsoft SQL Server tools to call the lead gen API and transfer data to and from various marketing systems. However it took dedicated IT resources, and an approved IT project schedule to get done. Tik Tok, Tik Tok ;)

I am not advocating for shadow IT. Going it alone, without IT partnership is a recipe for failure. You must partner with your technical leaders to be successful. In return for upfront, transparent communication, IT gets to meet its security and governance mandates, while enabling business groups, like marketing, the ability to move swiftly, be self-sufficient and scale to meet market demands.

RPA offers marketing staff and in particular the technical bent of Martech staff, a toolset for much-needed automation without the need of full-time programmers. As marketing groups try to balance frantic day-to-day operations while navigating an explosion of digital channels, RPA, and associated intelligent automation tools and services like machine learning, should be explored.

In part 2, I will walk thru an actual implementation of these use cases utilizing Blue Prism RPA and the HubSpot CRM.

Happy New Year!