I had the good fortune of spending most of my childhood in a rural area. One day, when I was 13, my dad asked me to get on our old Farmall red tractor, drive down to the barn and get a few bales of hay. My father gave me a crash course in how to start it, shift gears and steer. And then I was off---feeling like I was king of the world.
But I neared the barn, I suddenly realized I didn’t know how to stop. The barn kept getting closer, and I kept getting more concerned. Desperately, I pressed the brake as hard as I could! The tractor was still in gear. It lurched and choked then crashed into the side of the barn as it stopped. I went from king to court jester in just minutes.
Rather than rely on a crash course and jump into action, I should have been more prepared. That would have prevented my crash. Likewise, many companies leap into marketing automation without being completely ready.
If you are thinking of automating your marketing, here are 5 thing to know before buying marketing automation. If you have already purchased it, don’t worry, it’s not too late. These 5 tips can help you too.
1. Technology alone is not the answer.
Many companies have made or are looking to make the major investment into marketing automation because they believe that, once they get it implemented, their marketing issues and challenges will be solved. Nothing could be further from the truth, yet still many companies are buying into the “technology as savior” myth. We all watched this same dynamic unfold in the 90s during the early stages of the CRM market. Sales management believed that CRM would improve the performance of their sales teams. What happened, however, was that sales teams failed to adopt the technology. They became frustrated, and instead of improvement, many sales teams experience a decline in their performance.
Though marketing automation can be a valuable asset to a marketing organization, the technology alone will not provide a cure-all to an organization’s ills. Before making the purchase, make sure you have the right foundation in place for automation to be a success.
2. It’s so easy a caveman could do it.
While this may be true for some insurance companies, it’s one of many myths that several of the marketing automation vendors are claiming. Promises of 5-day installations and even giving the software away as a way to show “ease of use” are all gimmicks that have arisen as of late. If you are looking to simply use marketing automation as a place to house your database and fire off some emails, then I would agree that the “5-day, easy-to-install” message would apply. However, automation is used for much more than just email. Marketing automation helps to streamline data segmentation, dynamic content delivery, metrics, etc. Rushing to set up those processes with a new software platform can actually be reckless. There is a difference between doing it right and doing it right now. Marketing automation done right will take time. This is evidenced by the 75% of marketing automation owners who claim they are still not getting the full value from it.
3. Process is key.
Along with the idea that the technology alone is not the answer, companies that have taken the time to develop a defined lead management process often get the most value from their automation investment.
Aberdeen concluded that process is key when it said, “Nothing is more important than process when it comes to building a best-in-class lead management engine.” Notice Aberdeen did not state technology, but process. Companies that adopt automation with no forethought to process will in all likelihood automate chaos. To reverse this effect and get the most out of an automation investment, companies should develop a Lead Management Framework consisting of the following processes:
- Lead Planning
- Lead Routing
- Lead Qualification (includes Lead Scoring)
- Lead Nurturing
Once this framework is defined among marketing, sales and other key groups, the implementation of automation will be the next logical step.
4. You need people.
Any kind of new technology requires people to run it. Whether it’s your own internal team, or an outsourced team, you’ll need to have someone (or more than one person) responsible for the day-to-day management of the tool. I’m not just talking about a junior marketing coordinator, or simply training your interns on the speeds and feeds of the software. To have marketing automation work, you need the right people, people who are process minded, who understand sales’ importance, and who measure effectiveness. Without them, you won’t get the desired return from your automation investment.
5. It’s all about the customer.
Often times when discussions turn to why marketing automation makes sense, the reasons are focused internally . . . making marketing more efficient, doing more with less, automating the every day tasks. While these certainly are all benefits that can be derived with automation, it should be noted that the drive behind marketing automation should be focused outwardly... to improve communications with your prospects and customers. Specifically, the goal of automation should be to have an ongoing 1-1 dialogue with your buyers, allowing you to develop and grow a business relationship. Automation allows you to deliver the right content at the right time, which can often be the difference between developing a relationship and losing a potential customer. If automation isn’t being used to grow the customer base, then what’s the point?
Acquiring marketing automation without being prepared can have a profound negative effect for your organization. However, if you take the time to prepare yourself and your company, then maybe you can avoid crashing the tractor into the barn.