EXPERT ADVICE

Debunking the Myths of Marketing Automation

There is a lot of hype around marketing automation, and it’s for good reason. An effective marketing automation strategy and implementation can help drive more qualified leads, and therefore increase revenues and decrease sales cycle times. But many organizations fall into the trap of believing all the myths around marketing automation. In this article, we’ll present the realities of marketing automation, as well as tips to ensure you’re successful.

So what are some of the myths that continue to circulate about marketing automation?

  • It’s a silver bullet for your marketing and sales woes
  • Leads will be flowing — there will be too many to handle
  • Conversions will quadruple within a week
  • Sales teams all of a sudden will love their marketing counterparts and work hand-in-hand with each other
  • Revenue will increase 1,000 percent
  • All campaigns will immediately give a return on their investment
  • Marketing will be heroes within their organization
  • CEOs will all the sudden start spending gobs of money in marketing

Reality Check

Hmm … well, as a vendor that sells a lead management solution, including marketing automation technology, we’d love to espouse those myths as real-life events, but the reality is there are no silver bullets, and although some of these myths can become reality, it doesn’t happen with a turn of the switch.

It takes a bit more thought than that. However, don’t fear. It is manageable, and it is worth the extra work up front for the outcome over time. It’s all about having reasonable expectations. There are many realities that can be achieved with marketing automation. Some realities are as basic as increasing visibility and gaining more intelligence about your prospect base, understanding more about how prospects engage with your website and email blasts over time.

Other realities of marketing automation include:

  • Marketing and sales woes can get better with incremental changes
  • You can increase the volume of quality leads sent to sales
  • If more quality leads are generated, then conversions will increase
  • Over time, sales will see value in the leads and sales intelligence that marketing is providing
  • If quality leads increase and sales are focused on selling the quality leads, revenue should increase
  • You will now be able to effectively track campaign ROI and therefore appropriately adjust spending
  • Marketing will now have a measurable impact on sales opportunities
  • CEOs will be able to see the direct tie between money spent in lead generation and revenue generated.

The key to discovering and uncovering what marketing automation can do is to assess where your company currently is as far as lead management is concerned, and where you can realistically evolve over time. There needs to be an understanding of the legacy process that has grown over time between lead generation and revenue — between marketing and sales. Often the reality of what can be done comes down to the reality of available resources, time and expertise to focus on an effective strategy.

Regardless, there are things all companies can do to start down the path of successful marketing automation usage. And there are plenty of experienced resources available to help companies to get to where they need to go more quickly.

One Step at a Time

  • Start small: Although we would all like to build out the full plan and strategy for how to boil the ocean (or in this case to ensure lead generation to revenue success), the reality is that we need to take small steps to start the process, understand what can be done, measure, iterate and build on what we’ve learned.

    This small step is different for each company. It’s really based on an assessment of where you are. It could be something as basic as understanding what segmentation you currently have and what you are trying to achieve and devising a strategy to accumulate that. It might be as simple as taking a monthly newsletter and making it more effective. This could include everything from utilizing dynamic content to deliver more relevant messaging per lead, revising the layout for better conversion, integrating landing pages, or adding a drip component based on behaviors from the newsletter.

  • Set realistic objectives: This goes along with the “start small” concept. As we discussed, marketing automation is not a silver bullet, but you can gain near-term value from implementing it. It’s important to again assess where you are and then build the next step. If you want to increase engagement (click rate), work toward that goal as a starting point understanding that that’s one small step in the process. Setting realistic objectives also helps prove some near-term value and continue to get buy-in with sales and senior management without stretching your resources too thin.
  • Measure: How do you determine success but to measure it? Marketers need to start measuring everything along the process. There should also be a cause and effect for what happens. The great thing with marketing automation systems is the in-depth visibility it gives users as to what happened and why. Now, marketers can get a better sense of when something is successful or what combination of things are successful and tie that back to marketing messages, target audience, assets used, content, landing pages design and copy, nurturing approach, etc.
  • Iterate: When implementing a marketing automation system, you need to stay flexible and nimble. Iterating through scoring and other new concepts is important. What you thought might be “buying signs” or those things that make for a “sales ready” lead might indeed not be one. The proof of whether a lead is “sales ready” or not is whether it ends up moving through the pipeline and eventually generating revenue. And when you see enough proof, then it’s time to change the score, rules, nurturing or whatever other component that you are measuring to match that.
  • Gain confidence of sales team: This is often a longer-term process. But marketing can immediately start laying the ground work to build incremental confidence. For instance, initially you might want to continue to send all leads to sales. Yes, you know that you can hold inquiries and suspects and only send “sales ready” leads, but maybe the sales team doesn’t believe you and they want the number of “leads” to continue being sent.

    However, with marketing automation systems, you could start sending additional sales intelligence (digital behavior) for each lead. Additionally, you could use the lead’s accumulated score to help prioritize the leads called by sales. Over time, hopefully sales will start seeing the value of what is provided.

As with any new, hot technology market, buzz starts driving the myths of pushbutton success. “It will make you taller, skinnier, better looking all within 1 week, buy now.” But when the technology gets purchased and you’re left holding the bag, it’s important to understand what’s myth and what’s reality. The reality is, marketing automation has great potential to help a lot of companies. The difference between success and failure is in understanding it takes a bit more than simply pushing the button.

Lisa Cramer is president and cofounder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of an on-demand lead management solution.

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