Three Reasons Executives Should Invest in Customer Strategy Before Marketing Automation

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The temptation is enormous.  Each staff meeting is accompanied by a cacophony of demands.  Demands for sales force automation, marketing automation, social media platforms, content marketing platforms, lead generation programs, and much more presented with business case studies that appeal to the analytical side of business logic.  The rising pressure to grow top line revenues is on the agenda for the next board meeting – making the impulsive need to act hard to resist.  Yet there is a palpable sense of discomfort that makes it difficult to decide on which of these demands might be the right thing to do.

For a CEO and senior executives, there are three reasons why it pays to act on your intuitive sense to slow down the train as a conductor would when approaching a sharp curve:

Gain Customer Insight

“Who do we talk to?”  This seems like an obvious question that should result in an obvious answer – right?  Part of the discomfort you’ve been having is a result of watching your staff struggle to answer this question.  You witness the discourse and arguments that is happening during a contentious staff meeting.  This begs the question: “how well do we know our customers?”  The reality is that most companies may not know them very well if they have not invested in customer insight.  Choosing tactical initiatives becomes something of a blind date.  You really don’t know who you are reaching until you actually reach them.  And sometimes, you know you definitely reached the wrong person.  Do you know your customers well enough to define your target buyer personas – an archetypal representation of the customers you want to market to?  Not just made up stuff or profiles but real buyer personas based on qualitative insight from real buyers.  If your organization struggles in this area, then investing in customer insight and buyer personas is probably one of the single most important “decisions” you can make. 

Adapt Strategies to Your Market

Pick up any business magazine, newspaper, or go to any business information web site right now and the rage is social media, demand generation, marketing automation, email marketing, and a gluttony of other hot topics.  You set up your Google Reader and know it is information overload.  You wonder how I can possibly keep up!  And – you ask if you should be doing any or all of these.  Any one or combination of these tactical approaches can make up the components of an overall marketing strategy.  Informed by insight and buyer personas, your organization can adapt market strategies that map to buyer goals and behaviors.  For example, you discover that your buyer personas do not respond well to email campaigns but require in-depth content. Such a discovery helps you and your team to adapt market strategies and become more relevant to your customers.    Assessing and adapting market strategies are critical elements to making the right choices on tactical initiatives – especially new evolving tactics of marketing automation – which can be elements of a cohesive well thought out digital marketing strategy. 

Avoid Implementation Woes and Poor ROI

Decisions to implement a form of automation whether it is sales force, marketing, demand generation, and etc. can be an expensive proposition fraught with risk.  For some senior executives, there may be that queasy feeling in their stomach about the CRM or SFA project that went south – as in way south of the border past Mexico.  While the urgency to grow top line revenues is ever present, the last thing needed right now is to see a chunk of dollars dripping out of the bottom line with nothing to show for it.  Investing in customer insights, buyer personas, and building teams who understand customers and buyers at the deepest levels significantly reduces the risk of implementation woes.  Automating bad strategy, bad tactics, and creating a “spinning wheel” of continuous changes only accelerates failure like a runaway train.  Helping to create a perpetual black cloud over the organization that may be difficult to recover from let alone restore sustainability. 

While it may seem that markets are dynamically changing at warp speed, it pays to pull back the throttle a bit and invest in gaining the requisite insight into customer strategy via customer insight and buyer persona development.  This may be a good time to go get a cup of coffee and ask if your organization is truly informed about customers, strategically, before taking the leap into one of the many evolving forms of marketing automation tools.  This just might be the best couple of dollars you’ve spent in a while. 

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