Marketing automation provides an exciting way to generate more leads and turn them into willing buyers that ultimately become customers. Every marketer should understand the value of this concept. Let’s look at it from a realistic and practical standpoint.
When a business decides to invest in marketing automation, a whole host of questions emerge about how it actually works. Is it like magic? Once you sync up with some powerful software, you snap your fingers and the revenue comes flying out like a pigeon from underneath a top hat?
If only the path to predictable revenue growth were that simple. Yes, it takes some work, but the good news is that by following solid marketing principles (and giving your investment the proper attention), you can reap the benefits.
In the beginning, one of the biggest challenges in the marketing automation process is evaluating a platform. This post is not intended to help you select a platform; for that, please read Search Engine Land’s “Marketing Automation Tools 2013: A Marketer’s Guide.” Once you know what machine is running the operation, you need to make the platform compatible with your website and set up all the proper tracking and editing controls.
Conclusion 1: If you don’t have the right platform for your business needs, you’re going to have a problem.
Conclusion 2: If you don’t properly integrate the system and implement all the tracking, your data will be incomplete, which means you can’t measure the return on your marketing dollars.
Now you’re ready to crank it up. What makes everything run? Let’s distill marketing automation to its essence: Trigger-based messaging and customized campaigns based on user actions that ultimately increase interest and help determine which prospects/current customers are ready to buy (and when). What increases users’ interest and causes them to consider buying? Your great content!
Consider that in the B2B tech industry, for example, the average buyer of high-consideration solutions consumes about 3 pieces of content for each phase of the buying process. Or that in longer sales cycles across industries, maturing a lead to sales-qualified status requires 4 or more nurturing interactions.
If you don’t have this content, marketing automation doesn’t work! The fact that the software investment is only part of the total work/cost of marketing automation is not only well documented, it is advised by the software providers themselves.
Conclusion 3: If you invest in marketing automation without investing in a content strategy, you will have the major problem of underfunding your initiative.
You wouldn’t start a new company without paying rent, right? Can you imagine how this lack of readily available (and highly valuable) content can destroy your chances of success (and waste the subscription fees)? Make sure your company is ready to produce the content that will attract those sales-ready leads to your website or salespeople.
Another potential problem is that of your knowledge base. Marketing automation is a relatively new (and highly technical) discipline. Do you have the human resources with the necessary skills to carry it out, from copywriters to tech specialists? Sure, you might be able to get by without an email designer, but what happens when you want to boost branding by going outside of any standard pre-issued message templates? If these people are currently on your staff, can you afford to train them? If you don’t have these people currently on staff, can you afford to hire them?
Conclusion 4: Asking your marketing automation machine to always run itself is a problem.
Don’t be misled by the word automation. Marketing automation still requires skilled professionals to successfully ‘operate the machine.’ If you don’t have the right people and integrated sales/marketing processes, your machine will sit in the corner looking all shiny, but it won’t produce the conversions and new revenue you were hoping for. Make sure you train, hire or outsource the right people to make marketing automation dreams come true.
As the practice becomes increasingly popular (Sirius Decisions: 50% adoption rate predicted by 2015), make sure you have a plan. By doing it earlier and properly, you stand to gain over your competitors.
Check out our helpful 14-pg. marketing automation primer.
Photo courtesy of Nicolas Nova via Flickr.