By Adam Benson, Outsource Director
The rush to adopt marketing automation technology by B2B firms has delivered mixed results for many companies taking the plunge.
It’s not that the technology is necessarily lacking, it’s the additional knowledge and competencies required of marketers to make them perform at their peak.
What are the key ingredients to make your marketing automation platform work?
Marketing automation systems by design require us to think more deeply about buyer personas, messaging, timing, data management, and to take a much longer-term view of new business acquisition.
Marketers also need to fully appreciate the architecture of the platform they’re using to ensure they extract maximum value from it. These platforms are not simple, no matter what the company website seems to imply.
The user interface for these programs usually look very clickable and friendly. The challenge is that you need to understand the assumptions built into them and the context in which you apply them to make them work.
Marketing automation systems, by their very nature, aim to automate a number of processes and workflows when it comes to interacting with prospects and customers. Ideally, that leads to scalable, repeatable, intelligent prospecting, which builds a bigger, more predictable pipeline sooner in the sales cycle (and locks competitors out along the way). You also learn about your prospects, leverage cost-effective digital channels, and can get a lot more done with fewer people in the marketing team.
Why do marketing automation platforms not work well for all companies?
The key point to keep in mind is that these are systems-based programs. That implies the potential for complexity and interdependencies between each component part in the marketing automation platform.
The thing about systems is that they are designed, tested, built, executed, and then modified based on results, continuously. That means they can fall over very quickly if linkages between campaign components are broken, data hygiene is not maintained, and there is no clear focus on what the whole thing is supposed to be doing. They also fall over quickly politically if the work hasn’t been done up front to get sales management and sales influencers convinced the leads produced, while fewer, will be of a higher quality, and therefore faster and cheaper to close.
Without political support, sales and sales-driven execs will throw spanners left, right, and centre because they haven’t been sold on the end-game; and complex systems don’t handle spanners very well.
The other fall-over point that comes up all the time is when the marketing person who was responsible for introducing, embedding, and running the marketing automation system leaves the organisation.
In many cases, a less technical person is hired as a replacement (not surprising given this technology is still pretty new for many industries) and they simply don’t understand the platform and what it can do. In other instances, the new replacement can’t follow the program logic used to build the original campaigns and has to start from scratch, if they can get the breathing space to do it. Lastly, the new person may have few relationships with other stakeholders inside the organisation to ensure continuing support for the platform, so everyone reverts to previous methods of lead generation very quickly.
If you are thinking of investing in marketing automation software, or you want to get to grips with a platform you already have, register for our complimentary breakfast seminar in Sydney, which is an introduction to using marketing automation.