Two trends are forcing organizations to approach sales and marketing differently.

1. Today, customers sit in the driver seat in the discovery and buying stages, and they have more channels available to them as entry points. As a result, identifying and managing qualified opportunities can be more confusing and complex for marketers, and the pipeline bottleneck has shifted further upstream. With buyers driving the purchasing process, it's critical that Sales and Marketing be aligned and that processes be integrated to effectively manage the customer buying process.

2. Organizations are trying to take a more scientific, data-centric approach to marketing, especially in segmentation, customer engagement, lead nurturing, and lead scoring. Companies are focused on improving targeting and profiling, response rates, cross-channel coordination, and campaign effectiveness and efficiency.

Those two trends are motivating many firms to invest in marketing automation platforms (MAPs). Why? Because companies count on MAPs to help address Sales and Marketing alignment and integration. Also, MAPs enable organizations to effectively address the new buyer behaviors. Marketing organizations rely on those platforms to automate repetitive tasks, optimize the marketing-sales opportunity pipeline, increase efficiency, and reduce human error. At a minimum, organizations expect MAPs to be able to quickly and efficiently capture, score, and route leads appropriately.

The selection and implementation of a MAP is often viewed as software technology purchase and deployment, but that view can create problems. When the purchase is perceived from a technology perspective, the entire marketing workflow may not be taken into consideration. Overlooking those aspects could result in slow, and sometimes painful, adoption and usage. You can alleviate or avoid that problem if you establish selection criteria, map the marketing and sales workflow, and focus on some pre-implementation and post-implementation processes.

MAP Selection and Evaluation

The number of MAP solutions has mushroomed in the past few years. Nearly every MAP supplier delivers on the basic category promise. Therefore, you need to drill down to what you specifically want to improve and do differently—in campaign and lead management, cost reduction, process efficiencies, etc.—by implementing a MAP solution.

If you don't establish your requirements beyond the basic batch-and-blast campaign management before exploring all your options, you may find yourself like a kid in a candy store: overwhelmed by myriad choices and options.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM