5 Mistakes Companies Make When Automating Their Marketing

*This article first ran in VentureBeat on April 2, 2014

According to Raab Associates, Inc. the marketing automation space is due to grow by 60% this year and reach overall revenues of $1.2 billion. The continued rise in revenue is indicative of the increased sophistication of the B2B market and the need for marketers to be more strategic in driving demand for their organizations.

vb image mainHowever, there are some additional numbers that reveal that the growth in automation does not equal success. According to Sirius Decisions, 75 percent of those that own marketing automation state they are not getting the full value from it.

So where is the disconnect?

While more and more organizations make the investment in marketing automation, there are still many mistakes being made that limit the success they are having with it. Here are five common mistakes organizations make when automation their marketing and how they can fix them to get more value from their technology investment, as well as a better return on their demand generation.

1. Taking a tactical versus strategic approach

A recent Forrester study showed that of 25 different tactics listed, B2B organizations are using on average 15 different tactics in their demand generation mix. A similar question posed to respondents by Content Marketing Institute showed 13 was the average.

VB asked 1,000+ marketers about marketing automation. Here’s what they said.

This tactical approach presents several problems, the first being that the tactic becomes the focal point. A white paper is developed and marketing decides to launch a “campaign” around the white paper. Emails are created, sent out to a list of potential buyers and those who respond are deemed leads and those that do not are targeted for the next campaign which may be a webinar, event, video, etc.   With this approach, marketers are busy operating from one tactic to the next with very little to show for it.

A tactical approach is often the reason why marketing organizations themselves operate in silos. There is the events team, a content team, field marketing, email team, etc. Each of these often operates independently of each other or at the bequest of various sales teams eliminating the continuity in dialogue with their buyer.

Taking a strategic approach reverses this and puts the buyers squarely as the focus and causes organizations to align around their buying process. This quickly changes everything about the approach and makes automation a very valuable tool.

2. Tight control with little governance

Organizations that are getting the most from their CRM systems view their systems as a business application versus an IT solution. Those who own marketing automation can learn a lot from those on the sales side, but it is a continual issue for many in that they look to tightly control the use of automation throughout the organization. The real issue is not, “who will use automation”, but rather the governance that is put in place to ensure there is a best practice methodology that is adhered to across the organization.

However, what many organizations do when adopting the solution is develop a group of power users who are then responsible for the operation and execution of all programs from the system. This model cannot scale, especially in a global organization and limits the ability to maximize demand generation only adding frustration to those whose job it is to run demand generation.

Organizations who want to improve the value of their automation investment need to apply governance standard, train those who are in a demand generation roles and understand that the best results come when automation is viewed as a business application that drives revenue.

3. The need for piles of content

In a discussion recently with a marketing executive about their automation system I was told that the reason they were struggling with the system was they simply did not have enough content to “feed the beast”. However, in looking at their website and content they had syndicated, and hearing his team talk about their content library, it was quite the contrary.

Many organizations have more than enough content – consider that multiple studies reference that 70-80 percent of content that is created does not get used. It is not the quantity of the content that is the issue, it is the quality of the content and where this content is used in the buying cycle.

Good content that will help drive demand and can be automated, is content that is relevant to your buyer at each stage of their buying process. Most marketers do not have a deep understanding of their buyers pain points, buying triggers, market conditions and buying process and as a result, are not generating the right kind of content.

At a high level, B2B marketers need to be looking to develop content that Engages, Nurtures and Converts a buyer. These are the macro stages a buyer walks through (with many sub-stages depending on the buyer targets) when making a purchase. Putting product content in at the Engage stage of the buying process means nothing to a buyer. They need to be educated, build trust with a vendor and believe the vendor understands their issues before they move on.

Before organizations begin using marketing automation as a reason to invest in more content, they need to get a better grasp at understanding the kind of content they need to produce.

4. Workshops will do it

The scenarios goes like this: Company A buys marketing automation and decides in order to get the most value from their investment they need to set-up their lead scoring model, some lead nurture campaigns and develop buyer personas. In an effort to do all this and make sure it is done quickly, a series of workshops are arranged which involve marketing, sales, product marketing and others who decide their lead scores, the various nurture campaigns and build buyer personas that fit the ideal buyer that Company A sells.

This approach may provide some incremental improvement, but by and large, does not drive any sustainable change and is not even close to being able to create a perpetual demand generation engine.

In an effort to get more from their solutions, many organizations make the mistake of trying to rush through implementation only to get to the end and have a lot of critical elements missing. Organizations and their people, especially those in upper management, need to understand that aligning people, process, content and technology to that of your buyer cannot be done in a series of insular workshops. It takes time and it takes effort, but the results will be exponential.

5. Not involving IT

I have often heard many marketers say that one of the great things about automation being a SaaS application is there is no need for IT to be involved. This is a red flag. If the goal is for marketing to operate in isolation, and in doing so, deliver no strategic value to the company, they would be right. However, this is not the role of marketing. And IT must be involved for an integrated process

Given the complexity of global organizations, plus the drive to gain better insights and understanding from the many different data sources including marketing, it is imperative that CMOs look to align with their CIOs and ensure their solutions are part of the strategic technology vision of the organization. This will ensure better overall support and that marketing is doing their part to drive operational effectiveness.

There is no doubt that marketing automation will continue to adopted across enterprises in an effort to improve marketing effectiveness and enable marketers to drive greater demand. However, it requires a strategic, long-term vision in order for the value to be realized and marketing to take a step forward.

The biggest thing that marketers need to understand is that marketing automation is an enabler of a Demand Generation Strategy. However, it is not a strategy in and of itself.

Carlos Hidalgo is CEO of ANNUITAS and has been named to the Top 50 Most Influential in sales lead management.


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