I see it happen to companies and people time and time again. Marketing automation technologies - like Marketo, Pardot, HubSpot, Eloqua, and more - constantly get trotted out to marketing folks near and far as a salvation. They are purported to be an answer to all their problems with email, lead generation, prospect tracking, and website reporting, as giving marketers a true way to prove ROI.
So the marketers buy it, with a gleam in their eye! And then ...
Nothing. For three months.
Then a sputter of an email or two, and possibly a form for a webinar or something. By the six-month mark, management is wondering why the company is paying for a marketing technology that doesn't actually do anything. The marketeer recalls the promise of salvation made when he was about to sign the marketing automation contract six months ago, and can't figure out why the technology isn't living up to his hopes and dreams. I was one of these marketeers years ago - sold on the wonderful allure of marketing automation, and then stopped dead in my tracks by a lack of ... everything needed to make it work.
I'll let you in on a secret. It's not the technology, it's a relationship problem, and you just weren't ready for the relationship. But don't feel bad. Marketing automation is a commitment, and lots of people think they can handle commitment, but they really can't. Fortunately, in this case, it's not your fault.
This marketing automation stuff is really cool and powerful. And when you have someone who knows what they're doing, like a sales engineer from one of these marketing automation companies showing you what it can do, they make it look really slick and easy. But they have the benefit of having a bunch of pre-built templates and content so they can just plug things in, hit some buttons, and make magic happen. In reality, it's not that easy.
So, understand your commitment issues. And then learn from my mistake. Buy marketing automation, but don't buy it "right now." Here's what you need to think about BEFORE you buy. If you say "no" to any of these questions, stop and find your answers before you commit.
Five questions to answer before you pull the trigger on marketing automation:
- Do you have GOALS?
Put another way, do you have a plan for what you ultimately want to accomplish with this new-fangled technology? Before you can build your first drip campaign, or stand up your first form, you need to create goals for what you plan to accomplish with marketing automation. Are you trying to generate more new leads? Are you trying to get existing prospects deeper into the sales funnel? Are you trying to re-market to cold leads? Are you trying to market to existing clients for up-sell/cross-sell? What is the purpose of the very first drip program you are going to build? Do you need to build multiple drip tracks for industries, products, services, etc.?
- Do you have CONTENT?
You can't even build your very first email with your new tool unless you have the words to go into that first email. Then you need words for at least five more emails. Who is going to write these words, and when? Who is going to edit/proof them? Who is going to decide on the strategy for each email and how all six fit together? Who is going to take the words and put them into a pretty HTML email design, or for that matter, who is going to decide if you NEED a pretty HTML design? Who is going to write the words on the landing pages or web pages you are linking to from these emails?
- Do you have MORE CONTENT?
You can't send out emails without a call to action, and many CTAs are driving people to download content like white papers, eBooks and case studies, to offer more resources and information about your subject or service. If you already have all of this content, you're ahead of the game. But does any of it need to be updated? If you don't have this content, who is going to write it? How long is it going to take to put any of these pieces together? If you have enough content for a general drip campaign, what are you going to do if you want to move into vertical or product specific campaigns? Then what will you offer to entice your audience to read more?
- Do you have PROCESSES?
You need processes in place to make this work like clockwork. This is something many companies forget. Marketing gets excited because they're going to be doing some really impactful lead generation activities. Sales gets excited because marketing is talking about new and better leads. But there's often broken processes connecting the two. Do you have a proper, well-defined marketing/sales funnel/flow/process? Do you have alignment between marketing and sales, and definitions of things like "prospects" and "leads," and marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads? What happens when someone fills out that website form? Do they go into a drip program, do they only get nurtured, or do they get synced to your CRM and assigned to a rep? What are your processes depending on the type of lead you are generating, or the type of form someone fills out? How are you going to score your prospects? How are your assignment rules set up in order to get the lead to the right rep?
- Do you have TIME (and TEAM)?
As you can probably tell by now, it takes time to do all of these things. A lot of time. Not only must you plan for how much time it will take once it's up and running, you also need to plan the roll-out of your new marketing automation tool for when you and/or your staff will actually have extra time, which is generally never. So, who on your team do you foresee having time? Mind you, it's probably not just one person - it can entail a marketing strategist, writer, editor, and designer, among others. Can you put all of this on your marketing department priority list to accomplish over a certain period of time this year? Likely not - so you'll have to figure out which pieces are going to be outsourced versus which ones will be handled in-house. And lest you forget, you need to decide who is going to be the main person running your marketing automation system on a daily basis. Are they technically savvy and strategic enough? Do they have time for training? Do they have time to learn as they go, even after training?
I would certainly never tell a company or marketing department NOT to buy marketing automation. Automation is great, and I'll stand on a soapbox any day and proclaim how badly many B2B-oriented companies need it. I've used it for so long, and with so many companies now, I have a hard time figuring out how to do things the "old" way when there is no marketing automation tool in place. However, you need to get about 185 things in order before you buy it, otherwise your automation tool becomes nothing more than an automated way to siphon money out of your marketing budget with no gain. So buy it, but don't buy it "right now" unless you can really answer all of those questions and you are ready for commitment.