Marketing Automation is one of the most talked about technology in the B2B market. Estimates of automation adoption is projected to hit 50% by the year 2015, meaning that over the coming years, plenty of companies will be sifting through the various vendors to determine what solution fits best.
As more and more companies are looking to adopt automation to manage their leads and prospects, they are quickly realizing there is more to making the move to automation than just a technology purchase.
For many marketers, purchasing this type of technology is unchartered territory. So, it’s vital that they understand what they’ll need in order to make their technology investment successful.
Here are five things every organization should consider before investing in a marketing automation service.
1. Consider: Your Lead Management Process (is there one?)
Even with staggering statistics of the adoption and benefits of marketing automation, other research shows that many organizations have not achieved a level of process maturity and therefore are not getting the full value from their automation investments.
I’ve personally talked with numerous marketers that are currently paying for automation services, yet using the technology at a low capacity. It’s like having a smartphone yet only using it to make calls.
Organizations need to consider analyzing and developing a Lead Management Process. This alone will help you to get the maximum return from your investment. I encourage you to whiteboard your process out and then formally document it for all involved departments to review.
You should consider:
- Identifying your leads. Develop your personas and what their buying questions are.
- Creating a scoring/grading structure for your leads. What would make a prospect an “A” lead?
- Mapping out a nurture campaign for your different personas. (start small then grow it.)
- Identifying when marketing will pass leads to sales. A good place to start is if a prospect hits a certain score/grade.
Once these process areas are developed, automation will be easier to set up (and less overwhelming once you go live) Conversely, not having these processes in place before purchase leaves you to automate very little.
2. Consider: Your Team’s Skills
I’ve used numerous marketing automation platforms and let me be the first to tell you that many vendors will market their “ease of use.” While you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to learn them, it cannot be assumed that applying automation to the new way of B2B marketing is easy.
A study conducted in 2010 by Frost & Sullivan and Bulldog Solutions showed that of 250 respondents, 109 (44%) said that not having the right people was a roadblock to their automation success. Before you purchase automation, look to ensure your people have a strong understanding of your buyers, a willingness to collaborate with sales, a focus on revenue as an outcome, and that they know the place technology will play in reaching the buyer. In order to get the most from the technology, it takes people with the right skills.
3. Consider: Your Content Strategy
You can’t automate marketing if you don’t have anything to send to your leads, so it is imperative that you have relevant content that will foster dialogue along each stage of the buying cycle.
In a recent conversation with a fellow marketer I asked what type of content he was sending to his leads. His reply was “a quarterly newsletter is our biggest send.” The other extreme are companies are sending lots of emails but have no content strategy or framework. Consequently, their results are falling quite flat.
Developing your buyer personas (or ideal customer profiles), and documenting the typical buyer’s journey will help you develop a content map that corresponds to the journey and the personas.
4. Consider: Your Overall Goals & Objectives
One change that has occurred in this new era of B2B Marketing, that I love, has been a shift from art to science. Marketers are no longer looked to as the team that only provides fancy brochures, trade show swag, and powerpoint presentations, but organizations are looking to their marketing teams to help drive revenue. Yet, many marketing departments have not yet adopted this frame of mind when looking into marketing automation.
Before you purchase automation, be sure to determine the goals and objectives of marketing from a revenue perspective. Once the implementation occurs, use the solution along with your CRM reporting to track, benchmark and report on these metrics.
5. Consider: All of the Above
There are 100’s marketing automation solutions available on the market today. There’s an automation platform for every size organization.
As you consider an automation platform, take a look at the maturity of your marketing efforts. Buying an automation platform is only as good as the people, content, and processes you’ve put in place. Otherwise you’ll be paying for a service that you’re not using—but you should be! “Bells and whistles” do not mean much if they are not being used.
There are a lot of considerations when it comes to selecting the right marketing automation solution. However if you know your target leads, are collaborating with sales, producing content to educate your audience, and have a team that sees revenue generation as a key aspect of their job, you’re on the right track for successfully automating your marketing efforts.