Marketing automation:  The promise of profits

On the heels of adopting customer relationship management (CRM) software, many of you raced to also implement marketing automation (MA). The promise is enticing—improving the ability to manage campaigns, drive faster lead conversions and better align with the sales process across all channels. But the reality is far less; oftentimes these tool-sets end up managing little more than emails, landing pages and lead scoring.

With the large investment and opportunity to drive business, shouldn’t we be seeing better adoption?

What does effective marketing automation look like?

The vast majority of marketing automation software is purchased to help manage the upper funnel of the sales process and guide contacts to a sales person (B2B) or purchase (B2C). Some use it to manage email communications and related landing pages. Others use it to segment users and align email contacts with the appropriate part of the customer lifecycle.

Given your organizational complexity, using MA for these areas helps simplify and align some go-to-market activity. But it also leaves many questions unanswered:

  • How do you move your engagement strategy from email-focused to one that involves omnichannel contact across mobile, social and physical venues?
  • How do you ensure that you’re aligning your contact strategy with the actual customer journey? Users do so much of their research before engaging with you directly and you need to account for that.
  • How do you influence the middle and lower parts of your sales funnel and work in concert with sales to help close business?
  • How do you track marketing ROI and your impact across the entire organization without slowing the pace of the business?

Here’s the real issue: When you miss the opportunity to meet the customer at the right point in their journey, lead quality, sell-through, MROI and the relationship with sales suffers. Only 8 percent of marketers say that they have the tools in place to do a good job building a complete, unified customer view. This shows that we need to address those of you in the remaining 92 percent.

Take the next step

Once you identify your unique challenges, the next step is to break down the problem into discrete areas. This is a critical since MA tools will impact your workflow and that alone can make it difficult to drive further adoption.

The next steps involve the following:

  • Ensure that you evolve your data and data management strategy for a unified view of a customer across the lifecycle. Building a comprehensive marketing database—with both first- and third-party data—is probably on the work plan or wish list for most of you. Our approach is to focus on the actionable data needed to inform the broader marketing efforts step-by-step. By taking a more deliberate—and pragmatic—view, you can demonstrate improvements and build broader momentum.
  • Focus on segmentation, customer journeys and contact strategies rather than list-pulls and email blasts. While email will remain a critical tool, its use will vary depending on the type of user, their preferences and their commitment to your company or products. Rather than revamp everything at once, identify your high priority segments and start the analysis and retooling around those journeys. Once you demonstrate your ability to understand and evolve your approach to customers within one subset, that progress can lead the way across the larger organization.
  • Recognize that marketing automation embodies both real-time interactive contact and more traditional campaign activity. Many teams have invested in content marketing to build on their social and other top-of-the-funnel capabilities. But to be most effective, you need to organize and execute around a segment model that crosses all communication and campaign channels. Marketing automation, once tied to the right KPI’s and analytics, can act as a control center to help orchestrate the right actions across teams, segments and your entire organization.