The word is out- marketing automation is the “holy grail” of marketing. This is partially accurate, but it is not as easy as just pressing a button and seeing the leads and conversions roll in. It requires organizational alignment, domain expertise and the right tech resources. If done so, the upside potential to drive qualified client acquisition and retention is huge.
So, what is marketing automation? It is the use of internet-based software to automate marketing deliverables such as customer segmentation, data integration, and campaign management. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would have otherwise been performed manually much more efficient.
Looking to achieve marketing automation bliss? Below are some of the key obstacles to marketing automation and methods to overcome them.
Obstacles to Marketing Automation
- Budget constraints: While marketing automation promises to make marketing more efficient and provide end-to-end consumers with a better engagement experience, implementing an effective marketing automation program requires some steep upfront investments. Moreover, many large B-to-B companies are dealing with entrenched, legacy technologies tied to multi-year contracts. In some cases, these companies would either have to wait for the contracts to expire before implementing new marketing technology or alternatively “double-dip” and pay for both services at the same time. This can be cost prohibitive for many companies.
- Lack of knowledge and skilled employees: Marketing automation software vendors position their solutions as easy to implement and manage; however, a great deal of marketing, organizational, procedural, and technical knowledge is required to effectuate an effective, seamless, end-to-end solution. Companies must conduct very thorough needs assessments, make key decisions, define specific processes and protocols, and lastly, configure their new marketing automation services to deliver on the end result. Ultimately, entry level and mid-level marketing executives are not equipped to define and develop successful migration plans. Companies need to identify the right internal and/or external experts to guide this process.
- Poor contacts database quality: Often marketing automation programs do not succeed due to poor information hygiene and database quality. The old adage “dirt-in, dirt-out” applies here, and even if the internal processes and software are configured properly, the programs do not deliver the expected results due to poor, erroneous and insufficient data. As such, once the programs get underway, the return of investment does not meet expectations because the database lacks enough contacts to measurably move the needle, has poor segmentation which results in opt-outs, and has a lack of engagement due to bounces and low open rates, etc.
While challenges like budget constraints, lack of knowledge and poor database quality are common among organizations of all sizes, their impacts vary greatly according to the size of the company. For example, smaller companies struggle more with lack of experience and knowledge (steep learning curves) while larger ones struggle with organizational complexities (integration and communication between sales, marketing and operations).
Keys to Marketing Automation Success
Here are some tips based on strategies and tactics that have proved to work for companies that are doing it well:
- Clean up your CRM: Since your marketing automation software will synch with and pull data from the CRM platform, it is critical that you are running with a clean database. Information hygiene is the key. Consider removing duplicate records, verifying and validating email addresses, associating contacts with accounts, and converting leads to prospects. The last one is particularly important but often overlooked. For instance, imagine the downside scenario whereby you convert a lead into a prospect, but don’t move them over and classify them as a prospect. In this case, you will most likely remarket to them with the same initial hook when they are in fact having already advanced in the sales funnel. The end result could be that they just drop out of the funnel altogether.
- Empower and educate your stakeholders (sales, marketing and operations). Remember, marketing is a means to an end. To maximize the return of your marketing automation efforts, make sure to incorporate feedback and input from your key sales, marketing and operations stakeholders as you define and build your program. By doing so, you will ensure their buy-in and ultimately their commitment to the program. This will also pay dividends further down the road when you go to implement the program, as there will be a lot less training and education needed to get them up to speed and using the system on an everyday basis.
- Ensure that you have the right resources in place. No matter how great a given marketing automation system is, it will NEVER fully automate the process on the back-end. As such, it is critical that you assign subject-matter experts to configure, manage, and maintain the system. Likely personnel include a webmaster/web developer, IT, sales operations, CRM admin, and marketing and creative teams. Collectively, they will work together to implement tracking codes, authenticate emails, manage unsubscribes/opt-out lists, create lead capture forms, conceptualize and create content, assign leads, convert leads to prospects, etc.
Following these recommendations will get you one step closer to automating your marketing processes.