Marketing Automation

Starting from the time someone used Outlook to send out a bunch of emails to group of people simultaneously, marketing automation has come a long way. Studies show that its popularity and significance, especially in CRM-related functions, is showing a healthy and steady growth. Defined as the use of software to automate repetitive emailing tasks and to implement multichannel marketing effectively, marketing automation can be an invaluable investment for any online marketing company.

However, many modern marketers are finding that their investment is not really paying off as much as expected. We have come up with a list of probable reasons why marketing automation (MA) may not be working for you:

  1. You don’t need it: Yes, you read it right. You need to analyze your business from deep down and work out if marketing automation is indeed what you need. Very frequently, there are other aspects of marketing that need to be changed to make a transformation in your business. Check out this MarketingGrader report; if you score very high according to this, only then should you worry about automation. Otherwise, focus on transforming (rather than automating) your business to strengthen it.
  2. You are only doing email marketing: There is email marketing, and then there’s marketing automation. In the beginning, there was email marketing (v1.0), wherein companies started with one big list and sent one big email to each recipient; everyone got the same email. A lot of companies still stick to this age-old practice. Not surprisingly, they have low engagement and click-through rates.Then came email v2.0, with sub-lists based on different criteria, enabling programming of event-based multiple emails; people get different emails based on those criteria. Email 2.0 does work better than email 1.0. The engagement is great and the click-through rates improve a lot with better segmentation.

    Still, it is not marketing automation; it is just fancier email marketing.

  3. You Use Marketing Automation only for some stages: When looking at a buyer’s journey, I like to break the purchase funnel into the following stages:
  • Stranger to Visitor
  • Visitor to Lead
  • Lead to Qualified Lead
  • Qualified Lead to Customer
  • Customer to Delighted Customer

It is important to understand that marketing automation primarily works in the ‘Lead to Qualified Lead’ stage of the funnel. In fact, in this stage, it works a lot better than email v1.0. We have customers who just do this type of thing with our product and it improves the ratios in that section of the funnel significantly. However, the Internet presents enormous opportunities in the ‘Stranger to Visitor’ and ‘Visitor to Lead’ stages that you should maximize with the help of marketing automaton. Improving Lead to Qualified Lead has decent leverage to it, but getting those two layers above it right can make a huge difference to the ROI in your business by giving you terrific leverage over a large part of the buyer’s journey.

4. A playbook predicated on purchased lists: The marketing automation playbook for many companies is to buy a list and pump it through the marketing automation system. About two weeks ago, I spoke to a CMO at a VC-backed Silicon Valley security software startup. I asked him about his marketing strategy and playbook. He told me he was going to buy a list of every CIO and Chief Security Officer in the world and send them great emails through marketing automation and have their inside sales reps call them. Wow! They still do that sort of thing? My gut feeling is that this strategy not only won’t work, (CIO’s and Chief Security Officers are already inundated with vendor emails and cold calls), in this particular market, pounding into those folks will end up ruining your brand. Constantly spamming a CIO with unsolicited messages from marketers and sales reps is unlikely to convert her into a customer; in fact, it’s significantly more likely to annoy her.

5. Over-reliance on email as a channel: Email marketing still works, but far too many companies overestimate its power as a marketing channel. Over the last decade, humans have shown a great ability to get unwanted, unsolicited marketing out of their lives (DVR’s, Caller ID, Ad blocker software, etc.) On the email side, spam protection put a pretty big roadblock up. Gmail filters (i.e. Priority Inbox) are new roadblock. I suspect the folks at Google are going to continue working on the problem of unsolicited emails. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the government got behind this as well, giving the current legislation more teeth.

6. Below-potential utilization of MA software: Often marketers buy MA platforms but do not (or cannot) make the best use of them. There are two primary reasons for this: first, many platforms are unable to provide the desired training to subscribers (free of cost) and secondly, marketers do not make the time to learn to use the product in depth, ending up doing just the basic jobs with it.

Access and use the various tools provided by the MA vendor, even if it is not direct one-on-one training. Learn as much as possible from video tutorials, blogs, case studies, and more, from the provider’s website.

Additionally, find ways to devote time and gain knowledge about the automation platform; with a thorough understanding of its capabilities, you can extract the best performance from it, and gain a lasting competitive advantage.

Getting out of the comfort zone might be scary initially, but it can be terrific in terms of output quality and long-term gains.

7. Shortage of content: Content is the fuel for marketing automation. If you do not have quality and customized content, what do you expect to send people? What will generate revenue by engaging people? What will you use for leads or prospect nurturing?

Content, the king of digital marketing, revolves around two key things — persona and needs. Write meaningful posts, send few but quality emails with people-specific content. Apart from hiring qualified bloggers and content creators, marketers themselves should grasp writing skills to improve their ability to pick up the right quantity and quality of content. While using my marketing automation platform, I address this challenge with a monthly editorial calendar. This small planning exercise can help meet your monthly content needs and achieve goals.

8. Complexities of process integration: Marketing and sales are integrated processes that work side by side. In many cases, marketers find themselves unable to integrate their campaigns with the sales efforts. With a marketing automation tool, you might have the key to funnel leads to the sales team, but you also need an intermeshed sales-and-marketing process. The Sirius Decisions study has found that companies with marketing automation adoption without any process in place have negative return on their investment.

9. Budget constraints: Keeping to your business’s budget is a necessary fiscal responsibility, but it shouldn’t keep your company from progressing. The Marketing Automation Report of 2014 states that 56% of B2B companies evaluate marketing automation software based on cost, while 37% say the biggest challenge to implementing marketing automation is budget constraints. While budget and cost are valid concerns, marketing automation has become increasingly cost-effective. Affordable marketing automation software that can be laid on top of an existing website (e.g. SharpSpring) or one that has a holistic approach and includes ecommerce (e.g. Infusionsoft) is now available.

Customized implementation is another way to reduce costs. Marketing automation can be implemented in segmented stages as the budget allows. For instance, maybe you could replace just your general email campaign. The sooner your business can replace your general email campaign with marketing automation, the sooner you can get quantifiable data about your leads. Once the data is received, you can create customized automatic emails for potential customers, which will ultimately translate to a higher conversion rate and ROI.

The vital thing is to get started with marketing automation in baby steps, rather than delay it to encompass the entire process.

10. Lack of trained staff: While marketers agree that marketing automation increases a business’ growth and profit, in order to obtain that increase, a company must have the labor and knowledge to implement and use it. According to the Marketing Automation Report of 2014, 36% of B2B marketers lack informed employees to manage marketing automation, while 23.2% attribute their challenges to the complexity of marketing automation software.

This is not surprising (marketing automation is a fairly new product), and many digital, technical, and Internet marketing firms have noticed the lack of skilled labor in marketing automation and have started filling the gap. They offer services such as implementation, development, training and management. These consulting firms make it their business to know the ins and outs of marketing automation technology. Not understanding the full realm of marketing automation is no longer a reason not to be at the cutting edge of marketing technology.

11. Poor contact database quality: Bad contact database quality can end up costing your company time, and therefore money, by reducing the reliability and efficiency of your email marketing plan. Expectedly, the Marketing Automation Report of 2014 cites that 33% of B2B marketers quote having poor contact database quality as one of their top marketing automation challenges.

The solution to this challenge lies within your understanding of marketing automation and depends on how well you have constructed your buyer personas. If your business hasn’t established what a qualified lead looks like, then your database will have poor quality leads and contacts. To combat this issue, your company might consider hiring a marketing automation consulting firm to help you optimize your software use.

Often, bad contact database quality is due to the quality of lists your business bought or acquired. This, along with data decay, contributes to poor contact quality. (Business records decay at a rate of 2% per month (NetProspex)). Therefore, it is critical to take about fifteen minutes every month to cleanse your contact database list in order to avoid this issue.

To create a truly remarkable business, by definition, your approach to interacting with prospects, customers and leads should be personalized and pleasant, not automated.

That’s how I see marketing automation. As a marketer or a consumer, what’s your experience with marketing automation?

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