Marketing Automation: Table Stakes for Today’s Businesses

In Market Research by Shawn ElledgeLeave a Comment

Marketing automation is a rapidly growing field, with about 49 percent of companies currently adopting this technology. Usage grows to 55 percent with B2B companies—proof of its limitless potential for business-to-business brands. Marketing automation takes over repetitive business tasks such as posting on social media sites, sending emails, and generating fresh website content. The benefits of this technology are numerous—if your company can overcome the hurdles to adoption.

Take Down Barriers to Adoption

According to a recent Marketing Automation Trends Survey, the most significant barrier to marketing automation adoption is “lack of an effective strategy”—a reality for more than half (52 percent) of survey respondents. Adopting marketing automation does not mean your company can put in little to no effort and assume the technology will map return on investment on its own. Instead, it means strategizing in new ways. Other roadblocks for companies include:

  • System complexity (42 percent)
  • Inadequate contact data quality (38 percent)
  • Lack of employee skills (32 percent)
  • Not enough relevant content (31 percent)
  • Failure to align marketing and sales (30 percent)
  • No room in the budget (27 percent)

As is the case with the adoption of many new or disruptive technologies, companies tend to put less emphasis on process and lack the proper marketing campaign strategies to take advantage of the benefits of Marketing and increased sales. To improve the functionality of marketing automation, businesses must first focus on how adopting marketing automation will impact their existing processes. Sirius Decisions did a study years ago analyzing companies who adopted marketing automation with no processes vs. companies with few process against companies with well thought out processes and the results were startling. Companies with no process actual lost money on adopting marketing automation and companies with few processes while were profitable didn’t fare much better. Bottom-line, companies with extensive processes in place yielded the highest return on their marketing automation investment.

Start by defining what demographics an ideal lead possesses. Job title, industry, region, number of employees, company size, budget, and size of opportunity. (to name a few) Marketing automation platforms (MAP) allow companies to track and score prospect behavior so you will need to assign values for every possible interaction between that prospect and your brand. Example: you might assign 5 points for every web page visit, 15 points for signing up for your newsletter, 25 points for watching a recorded webinar or 30 points for downloading a whitepaper. Next determine how you will manage or route leads once flagged as a marketing qualified lead (MQL). When and how do you pass the lead over to sales? What does sales do with a lead that is deemed unqualified? In short you need to develop a service level agreement that defines everything from identifying ideal leads, lead scoring, lead routing, sales alerts, lead management to hopefully closed won opportunity. This is a task for both sales and marketing to agree upon. One department cannot develop this on their own. The good news if you do work on this process together, you just took one big step towards sales and marketing alignment.

Next up, marketing strategy.  Focus on what you want to say, why you want to say it, when you are going to say it and what format you are going to say it in. Put yourself in the mind of your ideal prospect and walk through each stage of the buyer’s journey. I like Lear – I think I have a problem, Solve- How do I solve that problem, compare – I’m I solving the problem the right way? Purchase – Help me make a purchase decision and Loyalty – show me you appreciate me as a customer. That’s right MA isn’t just for lead gen. These applications can help you you’re your existing customers as well.

Sounds easy, right? Wrong.

MAPs have a ton of capabilities from creating dynamic and personalized emails, automated nurturing campaigns; dynamic landing pages, sales alerts, CRM integrations, advanced reporting and some platforms even offer multi-channel capabilities like direct mail integration.  The survey estimates that about 60 percent of the companies that adopted marketing technologies do not fully implement the tools they have. The first step toward successful marketing automation adoption is to understand—truly understand—the system.

Unlock Marketing Automation’s Full Potential

The ideal marketing automation system will enable companies to touch more prospects, nurture leads with highly relevant, personalized content and convert them into happy customers. While I’ll admit it’s not easy to achieve this ideal, it is possible with the right process and strategy. Before you invest in the technology, take the time to map out the process, then you will be able to take advantage of the sophisticated tools at your disposal to automate your marketing efforts. Research the various features in your marketing automation tool and learn how to utilize them to their maximum potential. Keep in mind it will take a full-time employee 3 months or so to fully understand the technology. In some cases, it might be more effective to hire a firm with experience in adopting marketing automation. We did a study when I was at Eloqua that suggested companies who used an outside vendor familiar with MA used more of the technology and had a higher ROI.

Regardless, to create a strong, healthy, long-term relationship with new customers, you have to generate inbound leads. The crux of successful marketing automation is creating highly targeted messages that address each prospect’s current barriers to making a purchase. Creating an automated nurturing strategy is only as effective as its message. Strike a balance between technology and marketing.  Your goal will be to use marketing automation seamlessly to keep leads flowing over to sales. The ultimate goal, even if you’re working with an outsourced vendor, in the early stages, is that once you’ve got a proof of concept (and a greater budget allocation), you’ll ultimately want your entire team to know how to use the technology, and adopt it into daily business processes.

Once you get to that point, don’t be discouraged. It’s a process and teaching old dogs new tricks (no matter what the age of your team in actual years), takes time to unlearn old ways of doing things and adopt and embrace new ones. Your team needs to believe in the technology if they’re going to use it. That’s why considering outsourcing in the first stages of MA adoption can be so effective. You can deliver results more quickly, and in no time your team (sales and marketing!) will be clamoring to use it—which is a great problem to have.

Embrace the Benefits of Marketing Automation

Successful, efficient adoption of marketing automation has the potential to yield incredible returns. With automation, your marketers can dedicate their energies on new, more exciting projects. Automation can also target prospects and future customers more efficiently, improve the overall customer experience, enhance your brand’s email marketing campaigns, reduce human error, and enable better lead management.

According to the survey, 63 percent of companies enjoy benefits from their marketing automation systems within just six months of adoption. That statistic is enough to convince me of its worth. Marketers believe the greatest benefits to automation are saving time (74 percent), increasing customer engagement (68 percent), increasing opportunities to up sell (58 percent), and speeding up communications with customers to make them as timely as possible (58 percent). In using marketing automation properly, brands will generate more (qualified) leads, allocate company energy and time more efficiently, and ultimately increase customer engagement.

Nobody is contesting the incredible benefits of marketing automation. This technology is a buzzword for a reason—it has massive potential to make a company more efficient, productive, and successful. Do your research, get your team on the same page, and put in the work to make adoption complete. Once your marketing automation system is up and running, the returns will be well worth the effort, and marketing automation will do the work for you.

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