An all too common reality for companies that adopt marketing automation is that they struggle to fully embrace core functionality in the tool, even after using marketing automation for over 24 months. In a January 2014 survey from Gleanster Research, about 47% of Top Performing companies reported that they had customized lead scoring algorithms in the tool. What? That’s probably one of the things that made the demo so compelling in the first place. A further 78% reported using CRM integration; that number should be 100%. But while valuable, marketing automation also comes with a fairly daunting learning curve.
In fact, the average company has a very challenging time moving from email marketing to marketing automation because there’s an innate desire to fall back on legacy practices. You want to send to that list immediately using the new tool. Why? Because it generates results. Furthermore, it’s a real mind warp to sit down and map out a customer journey, align content, and then configure a campaign that automates the process. It’s kind of like a bathroom remodel that you think you can do on the cheap by doing it yourself, and then three years later there’s still a hole in the floor where there should be a toilet.
We preach an awful lot about inbound marketing, and inbound does work in the long term. But the reality is that semi-segmented or large volume campaigns do contribute to conversion. Sure, it comes with a certain percentage of opt-outs, but for some marketers that’s a price they are willing to pay because they have short-term goals they need to reach. Marketing automation investments are made with the best intentions, but other obligations like lead generation and revenue targets don’t take a back seat while marketers fit all the pieces of the puzzle together – which means trying to configure new inbound campaigns is like trying to change the wheels on a car that’s moving 65mph.
I want to address a couple of common reasons marketers fail to embrace marketing automation, and more importantly what you can do about it.
We See the Value, Just Don’t Have the Time
Do you sound like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland? Configuring marketing automation campaigns can (1) require a more targeted communication strategy (like personas, content mapping, and channel decisions) and (2) require someone in marketing to own administration and get over the learning curve on the technology. The most robust marketing automation solutions on the market are unbelievably powerful in the hands of a more sophisticated marketer, but they may be too much for some organizations. So if you aren’t ready to “fly like a G6” maybe you just need a Prius.
What can you do?
- Consider an incremental approach to investing in marketing automation tools. You will lose some historical behavioral data if you switch marketing automation providers, but it’s actually very common and not a huge deal if it happens. Three out of five marketers that were using marketing automation in the January 2014 Gleanster surveys had used more than one solution in the last three years. You might consider planning to do this rather than letting it happen to you. There are countless case studies where companies invest tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing automation tools that never materialize in measurable benefits. Consider investing in a simple tool that may be a little limiting in features, but offers a great way for your team to learn the ropes and see some value in multi-channel nurture campaigns.
- Cut your losses early. If embracing the tool becomes a challenge, don’t let it drag on. Consider engaging third-party agencies or consultants as a temporary partner in getting some of your campaigns set up. Seriously, the cost of bringing in an expert for 6-9 months is significantly lower than trying to train new resources that have other objectives and goals to worry about as well. Also, consultants can bring templatized best practices to the table, so you don’t have to learn the hard way. There’s some interesting research to be done around the cost benefit of using consultants or vendor services in marketing automation adoption. You can bet it’s a lot cheaper than dragging on an investment for a few years, getting upset that you didn’t see a return, and then deciding it’s the vendor’s fault so you need to switch solutions.
- Involve Sales at all stages of the decision. Marketing and Sales share the same goals – revenue. A strong partnership will drive accountability from the lead to the sale. Set up lead alerts for sales reps and lead scoring with integration inside CRM. Every successful Top Performing organization drives pipeline accountability at the marketing level and tracks this through to sales conversion. It’s really the only way to put tangible metrics around the success of your efforts. The biggest mistake companies make (and the number one cause of failed implementations) is letting marketing chart their own destiny with marketing automation. Everything marketing does should optimize the path to conversion to the sale.
Data Quality Is a Concern
So here’s a little slice of reality for you. If you had issues with customer data before investing in marketing automation, those issues don’t magically go away after you invest in marketing automation. In fact, 67% of marketers invest in marketing automation to try to solve challenges with fragmented or disparate customer data. This can be a debilitating reality check for marketers. Crappy data leads to crappy segmentation and personalization in marketing automation campaigns, so it’s very common to be apprehensive about how you use the data in this powerful new tool that promises to deliver a more engaging and personalized experience to your customers and prospects.
What you can do:
- You should probably bake a little extra into the investment and scrub your house list with a third-party data provider. At the same time, you should consider augmenting your existing email records with purchased data on your customers. Depending on the size of your list, you’re talking about a $5-20k to do this right. But considering the fact that marketing automation providers are probably going to charge for active contacts in the system, it’s a good idea to really scrub these before you load them.
- Use marketing automation to clean your customer data. If you have prospects and lists that haven’t been communicated with in over 6 months, they may not remember the brand. Everyone says it’s SPAM to send to these individuals; it’s legally SPAM if you don’t give them a way to opt out in the United States. So you should develop a campaign that verifies their opt-in preference and maybe even captures a few pieces of information on them. People are generally less uptight about communications that say “Hey, we got a new system and we wanted to verify that you still want to hear from us.” By the way, I think it’s absolutely horse-plucky if a marketing automation provider won’t let you send a communication like this. They rightfully have challenges with deliverability, but this is a cost of doing business. If they want your monthly subscription they can figure out how to warm up URLs in a scalable way. Remind them that EVERY successful brand purchases lists and sends to them. If you send this opt-in verification engagement in a tactful way, you may be able to convert a few leads that would otherwise be ignored in a house list.
- Use marketing automation to add call-to-action banners on your website and blog. One of the best ways to get started with marketing automation is attempting to engage unknown leads on the website with a simple form – maybe all you ask for is an email. Entice new visitors to register and start capturing data about them. Most marketing automation tools have progressive profiling features built in where marketers can ask questions incrementally over time based on the prospect’s behavior.