Plan Now to Avoid These Four Marketing Automation Roadblocks
We are well past the point when anyone claims establishing a successful marketing automation program is either fast or easy. Done correctly, it takes time to plan and prepare for the implementation, put the structure in place, and finally begin executing. Post-launch, expect a learning curve to managing the program: getting scoring, campaigns, metrics and reporting dialed-in.
And all this is assuming everything goes as planned! Sustaining a marketing automation program is often complicated by the availability of good original content, competing priorities or internal politics.
Across 3forward’s engagements we see clients face a variety of challenges when integrating marketing automation into their demand generation programs. Some quickly adjust whereas others lose traction, costing them valuable time and momentum. Because we learn from observing struggles as well as achievements, it’s valuable seeing where organizations stumble and considering the approaches that will get them back on track.
Afraid of the Water
Current Situation: Still not sure what marketing automation really is, much less the need for it. Relying heavily on traditional marketing and also believe creating leads is sales’ job. Marketing is heads down working on brand, brochures and identity. Sales complains they do it all themselves and get no help on the pipeline.
This company’s marketing team spent big on a 90’s era website, trade journal display ads and putting their logo on tchotchkes at the annual convention. (Guess how many sales-ready leads that created?) They hired a pricey advertising agency to create their identity package (logo, style guides, brochures, etc.), then spent even more with another company to create their messaging platform.
Biggest Roadblock: Actually, two things are holding them back. First is their lack of knowledge about marketing automation and how it has forever changed marketing best practices. Second, they have a culture that wants everything perfect before it gets released. They spend hours and hours in ‘word-smithing’ sessions where everyone on the C-Team has an equal opportunity to change every word, phrase or comma.
Getting On Track: Before they begin thinking tactically about marketing automation, they need C-Team consensus on these three issues:
- Realize that marketing rules have changed and get their leadership up to speed on today’s best practices. The CMO should take this one on – after some personal education first – by hosting a working session for the rest of the C-Team. It will be even more successful if led by an outside expert the CMO brings to facilitate/teach.
- The CMO and the Chief Sales Officer must jointly set the goals and measurements for a demand creation program. They should consider metrics for new sales-ready leads, leads converted to qualified pipeline and closed new business. Both leaders should also establish a shared bonus for their teams when goals are achieved.
- Lastly, the CMO and CEO need commitment from the rest of the C-Team to stay out of the weeds. Marketing needs to be able to complete a tremendous amount of work (process, technology and content) and will never get there if every decision, tool and subject line must pass through committee.
Current Situation: Believe their ‘batch and blast’ program is awesome. They can count opens and see who clicks on their links. But they are unaware that technology has passed them by and features such as website visitor tracking, lead scoring, automated drips, etc. are today’s minimum requirements.
To their credit, they are longtime users of email marketing and regularly host very relevant webinars and live events. They are into social media and have a reasonable following on their groups. They boast of a sizeable database and that entire list receives every message they send.
Biggest Roadblock: Their blissful lack of awareness in current marketing technology and an old-school approach are this company’s biggest obstacles. Their top three challenges:
- Their dated MA technology does them few favors. They don’t purge hard-bounces, cannot track site visits or page views, they don’t practice any form of scoring or automated drip marketing, and can’t do any lead tracking. They leave money on the table, ignore low hanging fruit – use whatever cliché you prefer – but it’s hurting them and they don’t see it.
- Their database is one-size-fits-all. Although they target three very distinct customer groups, they have no list segmentation and therefore cannot send target-specific messages.
- While they do have really great content and many on- and off-line opportunities for prospects to engage, none of their marketing efforts connect in any way. Integrating their events, content libraries, social media, reference resources and newsletters into their website, and using landing pages and other opt-in strategies to build out a segmented database, would improve results greatly. Lead management technology based on all this new data would blow away their past conversions.
Getting On Track: This group will be naturals once they get with the times! They are a lean shop like most these days, so having an expert guide them through the launch and development stages of marketing automation will save them a lot of time trying to figure it out on their own. From there, they will do fine. Six months after they upgrade to the new standard in marketing technology and current best practices they will wonder how they ever managed without it.
Current Situation: They followed all the right steps to a successful launch of MA. From there, they thought a couple blog posts a month, an occasional newsletter, one webinar and some random Tweets were more than enough new content to make it successful. Now losing confidence in the program as metrics worsen and qualified leads are nowhere to be seen.
Biggest Roadblock: Mechanically speaking, this firm has done everything right; they have the process, technology and marketing infrastructure engine in place. What is killing them is fuel. Content fuel! And they have precious little of the right kind.
Their two biggest challenges:
- Frequency – Their irregular and limited content updates teach their prospects it’s not worth their time to come back often. It also kills their SEO efforts since their pages so rarely update.
- Relevancy – Far too much of what they do publish either sells too hard or is too folksy. Hyping your latest offering on every blog post, drip message or Tweet is bad practice. So is posting New Year’s diet tips and pitching social causes on a B2B blog.
Getting On Track: Current best practices for B2B companies are to blog at least three to four times a week, host monthly webinars or on-line events, and produce quarterly whitepapers or e-books. Several times a day B2B companies should Tweet to promote new content and to share links to relevant external material. Throughout the week get out and comment on other relevant blogs and forums and occasionally include links back to your own material when it adds to the discussion.
Realize this level of content generation and sharing is an on-going practice that must be sustained. Stops and starts kill momentum and keep success rates in the ditch.
Buried in Bureaucracy
Current Situation: Big companies face different challenges. This firm has tons of excellent content but can’t get out of its own way to put it to use. ‘Siloed’ marketing teams compete with one another on timing, frequency, lists, and schedules. Datacrats bog down efforts by demanding everything follow their procedure. Sales units bicker over ‘whose lead it is’. Marketing leadership is not setting strategy. And the C-Team isn’t even aware there is a program in the first place.
Biggest Roadblock: The knee-jerk assessment of this situation is politics, the frequent scapegoat for everything wrong at big companies. However, in this case it is actually executive leadership. As big as this company is (right around 100,000 employees worldwide), they need coordination from only two people to be hugely successful – the chief marketing officer and the senior sales executive. While it is possible these two are unaware of what they could gain by setting shared demand generation priorities, that is doubtful considering how much is now published about this area. The problem here is neither leader has made it a priority to the other – then worked together to ‘make it happen’ for the good of the company.
Getting On Track: Either the chief marketing officer or the sales leader can take the first step to get this going. Sales will never say no to the offer for help creating and qualifying leads – it’s not what sales reps do well anyhow. And, today’s marketing leaders know very well the huge impact they can have on the sales pipeline by implementing lead management technology, content marketing and lead nurturing.
When shared priorities like this make sense and top executives set them together, even big company teams will rally together. Sharing compensation tied to the success of the program will make it even more meaningful. Nothing says priority like the company putting it’s money where its mouth is!
Sales and Marketing Alignment Made Simple
We believe there are four shared metrics for marketing and sales to follow in order to truly align their efforts. They are outlined in the table below.
|1||Mutually define a sales-ready lead|
|2||Decide how many sales-ready leads must be created each month|
|3||Set a shared target % for how many sales-ready leads convert to qualified pipeline opportunities|
|4||Agree on the target % for how many qualified opportunities become new wins|
Start measuring the effort and begin looking for opportunities to improve results over time. How long lead generation and sales cycles last suggests how quickly to evaluate results.
Did this help?
As we said at the beginning, getting marketing automation right is challenging and we can learn much by understanding the struggles someone else has experienced. What’s most important is getting started, having a plan and preparing for those inevitable setbacks. When they happen, you can be ready to adjust and keep right on going!
All the best with your efforts! Let us know if this helps.
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