I'm often asked whether marketing automation technology is mature enough for one business environment or another. I hear a lot of excuses about why it won't work. My company is too small. My product is too transactional. My leads don't respond. My porridge is too cold.
My standard response to questions about the technology's maturity is to ask about the maturity of the marketing team. Technology is technology. Your success with technology still depends on the marketers who are mashing the buttons and pulling the levers.
Your company may be small or large. Your product may be transactional or pricey. Your buyer may be a business or a consumer. It doesn't matter to the technology. It matters only to the marketers applying the technology.
Here are a few guidelines.
My company is too small for marketing automation
No business is too small to take advantage of marketing automation. In fact, small companies are ideally suited to marketing automation because of their need to stretch resources, find efficiencies, and build repeatable business processes. Also, smaller companies often have an easier path to implementation than their larger rivals. Size adds complexity. More cooks in the kitchen means more cookbooks to buy and more ingredients to prep. Training and planning are paramount regardless of the size of the organization.
When you implement your marketing automation program, you'll be asking "why" a lot. Existing processes will be evaluated and streamlined. For large companies, that's going to be a massive undertaking that'll drive change across the enterprise. Change takes time. And the more complexity we add to that change, the more we need to reinforce the change with training, practice, and incentives. Smaller companies are nimble enough to absorb the impacts in stride.
In the end, it's less about the size of your company and more about the makeup of your marketing team. Whether you have five employees or 5,000, you have a product to sell.
Speaking of your product...
My product is too transactional for marketing automation
Historically, marketing automation has been viewed as a strategy for deals with long sales cycles and large price tags. Think automobiles or enterprise software. But that isn't really the case. Marketing automation is effective even if you're selling very transactional items, like toys or T-shirts in an e-commerce store. Of course, you'll need a unique approach to automation. If you benchmark the practices of IBM or Caterpillar, you probably won't be very successful.
Big deals tend to be about trust and education. Transactional sales are all about recency and emotion. Sports teams, for example, have really embraced marketing automation because it enables them to measure movement and proactively re-engage. A baseball fan will be riding high the day after a game. He's ready to go back to the park. Now is the time for the box office to strike with a relevant offer. With good customer data and a smart marketing automation program, he'll get that next offer at just the right moment.
With large-ticket items, recency is less important. There'll be more back-and-forth—more education and trust-building—before the purchase. However, regardless of the price tag, you're still measuring and responding to customer movements.
My audience is too B2C for marketing automation
Let me tell you a little secret. It doesn't matter whether the humans at the listening end of your communications are buying for their homes or for their businesses. It doesn't matter whether they're baby boomers or millennials. Race, gender, and pay grade are also irrelevant. Marketing automation simply does not care. Segments do not have an impact on the success of your program, but the marketer's knowledge of these segments certainly does.
Let's look at B2B versus B2C. Marketing automation has traditionally been the domain of B2B marketers because so many of them deal with big-ticket items with long sales cycles. Remember that at the end of the day—quite literally, at 5 PM, unless they're crazy workaholics like us marketers—your B2B buyers are still consumers. People are people even at work. I know. It's hard to believe. People no longer disassociate their personal identifications from their business selves. They are becoming one.
How has marketing automation turned so many B2B prospects into B2B buyers? Because well-designed marketing automation programs treat buyers like people. We predict their questions and provide answers. We appeal to their psyches. We overcome their objections. These are not necessarily B2B principles. It's just good marketing. Don't think such an approach won't work apply to B2C environments. The key in either case is to know your buyer.
Know your buyer and marketing automation will be just right
If you found yourself nodding yes like Goldilocks to any of these objections, you're not alone. These statements are incredibly common. They're also incredibly wrong. A lot of people are looking for reasons why marketing automation won't work for them, but the reasons for failure are always on the designer. Marketing automation doesn't fail. Marketers fail.
As with any other marketing program, it's not about the size of your company or the cost of your product. It doesn't matter whether you're selling tangible goods or consulting hours. It's all about knowing your buyer. And that takes good marketers.
If you have the right people in place, your environment will never be too this or too that for marketing automation. It'll be just right.
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