Category Archives: Marketing automation

Are You Mature Enough for Marketing Automation?

The adoption of a marketing automation platform (MAP) is a serious commitment for any company. How does the head of marketing know for sure that the time is right, and more importantly what disciplines and processes need to be in place well before one even starts shopping for a MAP. This recorded webinar gives good advice and it’s vendor neutral.

    1. How to know you’re ready
    2. How to know you’re not ready
    3. The processes that have to be in-place
    4. Be sure you have enough fuel – contacts and content
    5. Creating  the blueprint for marketing automation
    6. Using your blueprint to compare vendors

Preparing for Marketing Automation? Watch your Step.

“You want the truth; you can’t handle the truth!”  This was a line in Jack Nicholson’s famous court room rant in A Few Good Men (1992). Today for many companies the quote might be, “You want marketing automation; you can’t handle marketing automation!”

A Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) does for marketing  departments what Customer Relationship Management (CRM) does for sales organizations. If you’re unfamiliar with the term or technology check out Wikipedia or Marketing Automation Times.

There is a lot of buzz surrounding MAP. Some is hype. Much is factual. Marketers and their bosses are inspired by the encouraging results many companies are experiencing with the platform. However, most companies who have adopted a MAP struggle to use morBesondy marketing automation prepe than 25% of the application’s functionality, even after a year or so.

So, are you ready for marketing automation? It’s an important question because, frankly, a lot of companies don’t have “their act together” sufficiently enough to utilize MAP.  I asked Joseph Zuccaro and Steve Gershik, two savvy B2B marketers each with long pedigrees in marketing automation, to suggest how a company can tell if it’s ready for a MAP, or not.

You’re ready for marketing automation if most of these situations exist in your company.

  1.  When Sales and Marketing have agreed upon what constitutes a “qualified lead” and when marketing should relinquish it to sales for opportunity follow up.
  2. Your company has a repeatable process of creating and managing leads that can be automated.
  3. When the organization understands that “throwing another salesperson” in the mix won’t move the revenue needle enough.
  4. When the C-Suite understands that this is a platform implementation critical to success.
  5. You have senior management buy in with the understanding that marketing automation is a practice, not a one-off initiative.
  6. You have enough content produced for each of the segments you want to reach that automation can be an efficient way to publish and measure.

You’re not ready for marketing automation if any of these situations exist and cannot be changed before the MAP is licensed:

  1.  A majority of the marketing staff is dominated by creative/event planning/social media types.
  2. Marketing is viewed in a silo rather than integrated with sales.
  3. The IT department is very protective of its fiefdom and not forward thinking.
  4. You have no idea who your customer is, and your database proves it.
  5. There’s little ability or willingness to establish a process for managing the life cycle of a lead.
  6. Your company has a culture that prefers flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants rather than measuring what’s working and increasing the budget for those programs.

If you want more tips on the topic, check out my newest webinar, “Preparing for Marketing Automation: Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse,” on BrightTalk.

There is a growing ecosystem of marketing automation consultants and service providers that can help companies assess their MAP-readiness, and if ready, take the plunge. Many interim marketing executives have the background necessary to set up the processes and best practices, which form a solid foundation for a MAP implementation.

No Robots for Marketing Automation – People Power Please

In the field of Marketing, especially in a relatively new area like Marketing Automation, how can you tell the difference between the real pro and the wannabe? I suggest using a Hype Meter. The higher the level of excitement and hyperbole used the lower the level of experience and professionalism.

The real pros — the ones with the battle scars — are a confident bunch, but they speak and write with wisdom.

For example, I recently read an excellent post by Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD  and  Software Advice  Advisory Board member. His article, The 4th Ingredient to Marketing Automation — People, exhibits level-headed professionalism even though he has a dog or two in the hunt.

Justin made a clear and compelling case for why people power provide the tipping point for marketing automation success. People are responsible for the following critical aspects of marketing automation; technology is not.

  1. Vision
  2. Content Creation
  3. Targeting
  4. Definition
  5. Initiative
  6. Results

If you are looking to implement marketing automation, be sure you have the  necessary people power.

Align to Buyer’s Journey then Flip the Switch for Marketing Automation

I recently read another great post on the Marketing Automation Software Guide.  The article entitled, Close the Gaps to Close More Sales with Marketing Automation, was written by Sharon Drew Morgan who has written and spoken passionately about the need for new sales models and processes. The central theme to Sharon Drew’s article is that marketing automation systems (when used properly) enable companies to align their marketing and sales efforts to the buyer’s journey. This in turn improves conversion rates and sales effectiveness. Ms. Morgan made another insightful point that I want to comment on later.

But first, the best-practice of aligning marketing and sales to the buyer’s journey isn’t new. It was creatively exposed  in 2003 in  Hugh Macfarlane’s book, The Leaky Funnel. Yet the majority of B2B companies still don’t get it, which Sharon Drew clearly points out in her post. I come face to face with this reality when I coach companies on how to align sales and marketing. Oddly enough the concept of aligning one’s revenue-generation engine to the buyer is  foreign to most companies, but slowly smart sales and marketing executives are “getting it”.

Once sales and marketing processes are aligned to the buyer’s journey then it’s time to turn on the marketing automation system, integrate it with CRM, develop the content strategy, and go into action.

Sharon Drew emphasized that sales and marketing managers must work together to identify the real buyer and get the entire decision-making team on board at the prospect company .

I was reminded when reading her article that marketing automation systems make it possible to offer and efficiently deliver role-specific content to everyone on the decision-making team. Marketing automation systems can even aid the sales team in identifying buyer roles by tracking what type of content they consume.

A check list.

  1. Identify the buyer’s journey.
  2. Align marketing and sales processes to it.
  3. Intelligently use marketing automation integrated with CRM to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time with the right frequency.
  4. Identify and bring to the “table” all of the buyer’s team.
  5. Leverage the marketing automation system to drive a lead scoring process that turns over leads that are ready to engage with you.
  6. Measure. Measure. Measure.

Avoiding Four Common Roadblocks to Successful Marketing Automation

Companies considering the adoption of a marketing automation system are advised to read this excellent post by Matt Smith of 3forward, and then look in the mirror. Matt’s article on the Marketing Automation Software Guide blog identifies four company characteristics that pretty much sum up the types of hurdles one can expect when moving to a marketing automation platform.

  1. Afraid of the water
  2. Blissfully ignorant
  3. Content challenged
  4. Buried in bureaucracy

Matt also suggests a “simple” solution for sales and marketing alignment, which I recommend that companies view as a starting point only. Companies who are developing and following best practices in this area are tackling the stubborn issue on more fronts, as I outlined in a previous post here, The Top-10 Processes that Align Sales and Marketing.

Funnel Plan, The Perfect Precursor to Marketing Automation

I read an excellent post on Marketing Automation by Mac MacConnel of BlueBird Strategies that gave savvy advice for companies that have just inked a deal for a marketing automation (MA) system.

His article highlighted the speed bumps that can hinder ROI for marketing automation right from the start.

The three speed bumps are, according to MacConnel:

  1. Lack of fresh inquiries
  2. Lack of good content to offer leads
  3. A weak  lead scoring model

MacConnel’s article reminded me of how important an aligned sales and marketing plan is to the full and rapid realization of a MA system’s benefits.

In companies where Sales and Marketing aren’t properly aligned around the funnel the process of adopting a MA system will be more painful and take more time. Ask anyone who has been there.

In companies where Sales and Marketing are already ‘on the same page’, the adoption of a powerful MA system will turbo charge the revenue engine quickly because the biggest speed bumps will have already been removed.

I’m a proponent of aligning Sales and Marketing through a rigorous funnel planning process BEFORE adopting marketing automation. Just like learning to drive is a smart precursor before buying a car, so is aligning Sales and Marketing a smart precursor to a marketing automation investment.

How does an aligned revenue plan (funnel plan) prevent or minimize the speed bumps MacConnel warns us about?

  1. A continual source of fresh inquiries.  Teams that are wedded to an aligned funnel plan know exactly how many fresh names need to be drawn into the funnel and nurtured through the funnel stages. Through modeling and testing they will already have a good idea of what tactics should be employed and with what rhythm to ensure a continual flow.
  2. Good content relevant to the buyer. Teams that are aligned around the buyer’s journey and are clear about the buyer’s problem they are solving are in a better position to know what content should be provided at different stages in the funnel. The right funnel planning process for Marketing and Sales aids the team in achieving higher levels of buyer insight, which leads to better content development.
  3. Smart lead scoring. Teams that have defined the stages of a revenue funnel with complete empathy for the buyer’s journey are going to create better lead scoring rules. They will be more aware of the buyer’s behaviors that signal different levels of interest.  This knowledge of ‘interest’, when added to demographic  and firmographic  information for ‘fit’ results in sophisticated lead scoring.

Companies can adopt MA the hard way or the easy way. The easy way is to first get Marketing and Sales aligned via a funnel planning (revenue planning) process.