Achieving success with Marketing Automation requires much more than selecting the right software product. We spoke with several leading marketing consultants to better understand the key success factors for any Marketing Automation project, and a few key themes emerged:
Define Your Marketing Strategy First
Companies are frequently too focused on picking technology. Before selecting a Marketing Automation platform, it's important to have a clear strategy in place as to how you will use it. Companies that fail to do this frequently get low mileage out of their Marketing Automation systems.
“All too often, people are doing it backwards. They're buying the technology then asking what's next. Technology is not a silver bullet without a strategy and plan.”
“By far the 1 issue we see with companies who invest in marketing automation is the lack of an overall plan or strategy. Too often companies make the assumption that simply the act of deploying a marketing automation platform will result in marketing efficiencies. Without at least the semblance of a plan or strategy for how the company plans to use the system, marketing automation is doomed to be little more than email software.”
“The most successful companies with marketing automation have put in place a demand generation strategy. They have people that will actually own the success of not just the marketing automation, but the demand generation program — someone is on the line to deliver the metrics (MQLs, leads), and there's someone who will own the tool. In many small companies it's the same person. In larger companies, it's not.”
“It's critical to have a clear definition of your target customers, and understand what's interesting to them and how you can best reach them. Email is incredibly important in B2B — however, social is becoming much more important. Determine the cycle that your buyers go through to evaluate, consider and make a purchase decision. Then determine what the best content assets/stories are to share with them. It's also important to define the hand-off to sales. There's also a huge opportunity to continue to engage customers post-sale. It's not supposed to be easy, but you can break it into a crawl, walk and run approach.”
Align People to Processes
Marketing Automation is not just about the automation of existing marketing processes - it represents a new way to engage with prospective customers and align marketing activities much more closely to revenue generation. Engaging in Marketing Automation frequently does necessitate adding more resources, though there is generally a clearly achievable return on investment.
“There's a lot of strategic dialogue that needs to happen — ensuring sales and marketing are aligned on the definition of a MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) and ensuring that the content team produces content aligned to a buyer's journey. If their marketing organization is not aligned and ready for the change to be a more modern marketing organization, then buying a tool is a real waste of money.”
“I advise clients not to underestimate the amount of resources required to make the most of a marketing automation system. Again, this has less to do with managing the software per se, and much more to do with developing the campaigns, programs, strategies and content that are the fuel for a successful deployment. At a bare minimum, expect to dedicate one-half of a full-time employee (or the equivalent services from an outside firm) in order to get the most from your investment.”
Marketing Automation systems cannot operate in a silo. At minimum they need to tie in to your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. All too frequently there is no clear plan for how the integration should proceed, what data should be exchanged, etc.
“One of the big misses is internal alignment for data integration and reporting. Your marketing automation solution is only as a good as the data you put into it. Often when we're brought in, there's not been any conversation about integration or what will be the master database — the marketing automation system, another marketing database, or Salesforce.com.”
An effective demand generation strategy enabled through Marketing Automation usually requires a good volume of content. However, the content needs to be systematically designed based upon an assessment of the target buyer and aligned to the buyer's journey (how they buy). Content needs to be educational and not overly self-serving or promotional. Content production is a non-trivial problem but there are efficiency opportunities through atomization - breaking up existing content and repackaging it.
“The ability to produce content is tough — most companies don't have writers, or if they do, they have technical writers which is not the same skill set.”
“Content is often a roadblock to being successful. People buy marketing automation systems and they don't have anything to deliver. An enlightened company getting ready to embark on this journey will be preparing content well in advance. Many companies realize too late and they use marketing automation in a crude way, offering the same thing in the same way, or think about product-centric offers. You're in a battle for the mind of the customer.”
“The type of content that works best in the context of a lead nurturing or e-marketing program is usually informational ‘thought leadership’-type content that speaks to best practices, strategies or techniques for solving the type of business problem that the marketer's product or service addresses. It's this type of content that will drive a higher level of engagement, build credibility and ultimately drive a dialogue with sales. Conversely (and counter-intuitively), content that overtly ‘sells’ a product or service, particularly early in the sales cycle, has a greater chance of alienating the reader. Not every piece of content has to be a new 12-page white paper, however. We advise clients to look at recycling or repurposing existing content. Perhaps an old white paper can see new life as a checklist, a Webinar/Slidecast, a series of short videos or an infographic.”
“You need to define buyer personas in a deep way — not just who they are, but what the journey looks like for them. That helps you define what the questions need to be at each of those stages, and hence, what types of content should be developed. Volume of content is important, however quality and relevancy is most important. There are solutions for volume, e.g., content management tools like Kapost or content developed by agencies, including the ‘atomization of content’. We look at how to do things in an efficient way, i.e., breaking one great asset into smaller snackable chunks.”
“Mapping content to the stages of the buyer's journey is difficult — many companies get stuck in the white paper rut. There's not a lot of credibility with some B2B marketing orgs. They're looked at as an activity center versus one that supports the generation of revenue. This creates a challenge when motivating the rest of the organization to help with content strategy.”
Marketing organizations are often stuck in the past, concentrating on metrics like open and click rates for emails, but not tying their campaigns back to revenue. Beyond agreeing on the right metrics to track, it's also important to ensure there's consensus on their definition.
“Today, best-in-class organizations focus on MQLs and SALs, and look at velocity of movement and conversion rate in the funnel. It's all tied back to revenue.”
“They have a hard time proving value, as they cannot tie to revenue. Many only can do last-touch attribution. They lose visibility once a lead moves into the sales realm. Marketing is often removed once it goes into sales, which is a mistake. There's no continuous thread.”
“The big thing is defining what a qualified lead is — MQLs and SQLs - if using the Sirius Decisions framework. These things are critical to success.”
“Because 67% of the purchase process happens before the buyer talks to a person, marketing needs to be able to measure and score leads, and understand attribution. Understanding what metrics to measure and data to track is important.”