Monday, April 28, 2014

5 Key Factors to Ensure Marketing Automation Success

Achieving success with Marketing Automation requires much more than selecting the right software product. In fact, there are many examples of companies who make sound product selection decisions but fail to realize results because of poor planning or execution.

For our Buyer’s Guide to Marketing Automation Software, we've talked to several marketing thought leaders to better understand the key success factors for any marketing automation project. A few key themes emerged:

1. Define Your Marketing Strategy First
Before selecting a Marketing Automation platform, it’s important to have a clear strategy in place as to how you will use it. Companies that fail to do this frequently get low mileage out of their Marketing Automation systems.

 “All too often, people are doing it backwards. They’re buying the technology then asking what’s next. Technology is not a silver bullet without a strategy and plan.”  Ardath Albee – CEO, Marketing Interactions

2. Align People to Processes
Marketing Automation is not just about the automation of existing marketing processes - it frequently does necessitate adding more resources

“I advise clients not to underestimate the amount of resources required to make the most of a marketing automation system. This has less to do with managing the software, and much more to do with developing the campaigns, programs, strategies & content that are the fuel for a successful deployment.  At a minimum expect to dedicate one-half of a full-time employee (or the equivalent services from an outside firm) in order to get the most from your investment.” Howard Sewell – President, Spear Marketing Group

3. Integrate Systems
Marketing Automation systems cannot operate in a silo. At minimum they need to tie in to your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. All too frequently there is no clear plan for how the integration should proceed, what data should be exchanged, etc.

“One of the big misses is internal alignment for data integration and reporting. Your marketing automation solution is only as a good as the data you put into it. Often when we’re brought in, there’s not been any conversation about integration or what will be the master database – the marketing automation system, another marketing database, or Salesforce.com.” Lauren Goldstein – VP Strategy & Partnerships, Babcock & Jenkins

4. Develop a Content Strategy
An effective demand generation strategy enabled through Marketing Automation usually requires a good volume of content. The content, however, needs to be systematically designed based upon an assessment of the target buyer and aligned to the buyer’s journey (how they buy). Content needs to be educational and not overly self-serving or promotional. Content production is a non-trivial problem but there is efficiency opportunities through “atomization,” i.e., breaking up existing content and repackaging it.

“Mapping content to the stages of the buyer’s journey is difficult – many companies get stuck in the white paper rut. There’s not a lot of credibility with some B2B marketing orgs. They’re looked at as an activity center versus one that supports the generation of revenue. This creates a challenge when motivating the rest of the organization to help with content strategy.”  Brian Hansford – Director of Client Services, Heinz Marketing

5. Re-Think Your Metrics
Marketing organizations are often stuck in the past, concentrating on metrics like open and click rates for emails, but not tying their campaigns back to revenue. Beyond agreeing on the right metrics to track, it’s also important to ensure there’s consensus on their definition

“The big thing is defining what a qualified lead is — MQLs and SQLs - if using the Sirius Decisions framework. These things are critical to success.”

For more insights from these leading marketing automation consultants, or if you are shopping for new Marketing Automation software, check this free resource. Our new buyer's guide also includes a visual depiction of the best Marketing Automation software products, as rated by users in each market segment - Small Businesses, Mid-size companies and Enterprises.

What other recommendations and tips would you like to share with your peers?  

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