How To Convince Your Boss to Buy Marketing Automation

by Kim Roman

Marketing Automation Consultant,

So, you want to bring marketing automation into your 2012 marketing toolbox? You’ve attended the demos, you’ve read the case studies and now you are about to schedule a meeting with your boss to propose implementing marketing automation (MA) software. How do you justify the benefits of MA to your boss when resources are tight? This article will provide you with some keys to making the conversation with your boss a successful one.

1. Approach convo with facts & numbers, not emotions.

In 2012, most marketers are faced with loftier goals and fewer resources. While you might feel overwhelmed, refrain from running into your boss’s office screaming, “I don’t know how we are going to get everything done this year without marketing automation!” Your boss won’t react well to your theatrics. Remain professional and level-headed, do your research, and present your boss with a rational proposal based on facts.

2. Present a solid business case.

Your boss will want to know why you should invest money in marketing automation when there are so many other proven places to spend that money. Be prepared to fire back some benchmarks and case studies showing the benefits of MA to support your decision. With such a large MA user base, it’s easy to pull these types of resources from online communities and user groups. Find a few good examples that mirror your business style and present them in your proposal.

You will also want to show return on investment (ROI). Run some quick time studies to see how many hours per day are spent on tasks that marketing automation will replace or reduce. If you don’t have the time or resources to research this yourself, MA vendors should be able to help you calculate ROI. Remember to be transparent with your boss, and address potential risks as well as rewards. Explain upfront the hours you anticipate you and your staff will spend on training, setup and deployment. Your boss will appreciate seeing the full picture.

3. Touch on how goals and KPIs will be affected.

If you’re like most marketers, your goals for 2012 were significantly broadened. Include those raised targets in your proposal to your boss and show how marketing automation will help you achieve them. If you’re feeling brave, throw in some stretch targets you will put in place after you onboard MA. If you can, forecast the effects of marketing automation 1-3 years out. If you don’t have the time or skill to do this, consider using an MBA intern, or bring in a consultant for a few hours. Perhaps there are new goals or KPIs you will be able to start tracking once marketing automation is enabled, such as website behavior or re-engaged leads. Again, lean on your MA vendor for help identifying new goals or changes to existing ones—they work with clients like you every day and understand how MA affects marketing departments.

4. Suggest what you can add to your arsenal.

You’ve probably been using the same tried and true marketing tricks for a while now and are eager to add some new strategies to your marketing plan. Show your boss what new activities you will unlock with MA. Many execs don’t know what lead nurturing or right-time marketing campaigns are, so take this opportunity to explain it and provide benchmarks from companies like yours. Spend some time in the online communities, join LinkedIn groups or browse user communities and find those stellar examples of what adding some new activities can do to your results. Highlight to your boss any significant shifts in your strategy after implementing marketing automation.

5. Be prepared for their objections.

The most common objections to marketing automation involve the costs and business distractions of implementation, training and ongoing support. Your boss will want to know:

  • How much time will be taken away from your other responsibilities as you prepare for and deploy the software;
  • Whether you will need resources from other departments;
  • How long will it take for your team to get trained and fully ramped up, and when will you start realizing those time-savings you mentioned; and
  • What level of ongoing support MA requires, and what hidden costs there might be, such as consulting hours or maintenance fees.

Make sure you are prepared to address all of these objections, again with facts and numbers.

6. Provide the tools to sell it to their boss.

Unless they report directly to the CEO or CMO, your boss will likely have to run a large purchase like this by them for approval. Give your boss tools to make that happen. Use whatever format dominates in your company culture, be it PowerPoint, a Word document or an email, and keep it short and to the point. Provide a clear and concise overview of what marketing automation is; most C-level execs have heard the term, but many don’t understand what it means. Write a short bulleted list of what your company will gain by implementing MA. Make sure to focus on the benefits to the company, not on your workload. Summarize the ROI and case studies you’ve found, and put that together with the overview and bulleted list of benefits and you have delivered a powerful package your boss can use to get MA approved.

Remember that while this is a big investment, if you plan ahead and prepare your communication right it will be much easier to have a successful conversation with your boss about implementing marketing automation. Lean on marketing automation vendors, online communities and user groups to pull data on how MA has positively affected companies like yours, and work to attach some real ROI numbers to the investment. Your boss will appreciate the time and effort you put into the proposal, and with all of your research you will be prepared to address any pushback they might have. Good luck, and happy marketing!



I want to thank Lauren Carlson for leading me to this article. It addresses the reality most marketers face today: fewer resources; reduced budgets; having to convince your boss that marketing automation is worthwhile. The article does not, however, reflect the new reality of marketing automation, namely that Customer State Marketing is a game changer for marketers who wish to begin a marketing automation program.

This article speaks in terms of:
• The hours spent on set up and training for a marketing automation solution
• The cost and business distraction of implementing, training and ongoing support
• The delays in realizing the anticipated time savings
• The big investment required to implement marketing automation

Customer State Marketing delivers simple and rapid implementation of gradual marketing automation. What this means for the marketer is:
• Implementation is quick and requires minimal training
• Business continues to work as usual with the exception that only selected tasks are automated when and as required
• The benefits and time savings from automating “low-hanging fruit” can be realized almost immediately
• The cost investment is minimal, gradual and makes marketing automation essentially self-financing. The benefits realized from automating the first set of tasks are used to finance the second wave of automation, and so on.

The best way to convince your boss to buy marketing automation is to start small, deliver quick wins, and make the marketing automation initiative self-financing. Start by automating a campaign, a reactivation campaign for example, and use the results to turn the campaign into an ongoing automated reactivation program. Next move to a sales stimulation campaign, automate the reminder process (e.g. if the customer does not buy for 2 weeks then send them a drive-to-store promotion) and turn it into a sales stimulation program. You could then move to automate cross-channel nurturing and stimulation.

The benefit of this approach for marketers is that there is no need for a large up-front investment in technology, infrastructure and costly consultants. In addition the benefits are immediate. I guess what I am saying is that it is no longer necessary to learn “How To Convince Your Boss to Buy Marketing Automation” because Customer State Marketing is no more costly than running a campaign without automation. For more information see my blog entry – Customer State Marketing: The Agile Marketer’s automation tool!

Comment by Jacques Spilka

Great advice. Also remember to include the cost of content, which can be a very substantial portion of the total expense. This will depend on the scope of your initial programs, how much content you have already, and what you pay per piece (in time, if you write it in-house, or money). As Jacques suggests, you can roll out new programs incrementally, which reduces the initial content cost. But you’ll need to add that other content eventually as you deploy more programs.

Comment by David Raab

Excellent point, David. For those who don’t use external agencies, the upfront time in preparing content (if you don’t have enough to use already) should be discussed with your boss. Same for any additional costs you would incur from an agency if you outsource your content. Depending on what program(s) you run once you onboard marketing automation, you could need quite a bit of content.

Jacques, you make a great point in rolling out new programs incrementally, but for those who want full control of their marketing automation system I don’t recommend outsourcing. I do see two benefits to your solution:

1. Let it serve as a “test” of marketing automation for those who are serious about implementing, to not only see the power of what welcome, re-engagement or nurturing programs can do, but also have some solid numbers to add to their presentation to their boss.

2. A way for marketers who are not in a position to purchase marketing automation software to reap the benefits of a MA platform.

For those who want to fully utilize everything that marketing automation has to offer, I don’t recommend outsourcing to a third party vendor. There are so many programs that can be built and run, from nurturing to lead scoring to data cleansing, that it would not be cost effective to outsource everything marketing automation can do. If you have the budget to implement, and are serious about taking control of your marketing strategy, then bringing MA software in-house is the best option.

Comment by Kim Roman

Good advice for anyone. Kind of like the new windows commercial with the .ppt for getting a dog – can’t go wrong. Some times the simplest things need to be taken to heart. God knows I forget it much too often!

Comment by Tewksbum

Kim, thanks for a good article. Some points are par for the course with persuading anyone to invest in anything (they still need to be said), but I really liked your point about incorporating MA into goals/KPIs. Marketers can be reticent to hold themselves to quantifiable goals due to fear of failure, but that is exactly what we all should all be doing. I would just even start with the goal of “we will now track X, Y, Z” and then you can add in specific targets after you have had a chance to build a baseline. Marketologists want clear, quant-based goals to track towards because it allows them to focus on the activities that are most likely to drive those numbers.

Comment by Baxter

Really like the discussion. I am a marketing consultant for small business and I can quickly see how the changing landscape of lead generation and marketing automation is now a consideration of small business. Getting quick wins, using the technology to see how it can benefit is a great starting point.

Comment by Danielle

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