Developing an effective marketing automation program is fraught with risks.
Forrester Research Analyst Jeff Ernst compares it to competing in the Boston Marathon.
"You need to be prepared for how to pace, hydrate, and fuel yourself. You need to spend the time to condition your muscles for the abuse of several hours of rigorous use. And you want to have people along the route to support you," he wrote in a blog post, "Marketing Automation And Marathons: The Will To Win Means Nothing Without The Will To Prepare."
Marketing automation typically requires integration of software applications, such as connecting customer resource management (CRM) tools with an email marketing, e-commerce, or content management system. And just about every information technology initiative has hiccups or pain points.
What are major issues that businesses encounter when they attempt to automate their marketing initiatives? Executives at ad technology companies shared these recommendations:
Accept Organizational Change
From Stephanie Miller, vice president, digital messaging, Aprimo:
No company implements IMM [integrated marketing management] without some organizational changes.
Some of the largest barriers organizations face are between marketing and sales and marketing and IT. Get all the key stakeholders in these functions together ASAP. The IT handshake is critical because all the latest digital marketing innovation and customer intelligence tools require special expertise that only your IT partners have."
Technology plays a pivotal role in marketing today. And both the CMO and CIO must have a voice in how data is aggregated and used, where it should be integrated, etc. IT helps shape the customer experience and drives marketing efficiency and effectiveness, so the sooner everyone starts speaking the same language - the language of driving business growth - the better.
Embrace Upfront Planning
From Jay Henderson, strategy program director, IBM enterprise marketing management group:
Marketing automation requires good upfront planning and bringing together a balance of the right people and skills, putting the right process in place, and of course enabling this with the right technology.
Businesses should make sure that they define the requirements upfront, establish success criteria, align their strategy with their execution, and of course establish a measurement and feedback loop.
In Other Words, Don't Pave a Cow Path
From Jon Miller, vice president, marketing, Marketo:
One of the biggest challenges organizations face is a cultural one. Unless organizations agree on the right processes and common definitions for a lead, they will just end up 'paving a cowpath' - and automate a bad process faster. Also, it's important to not try to boil the ocean from the get go. My advice is to think big but start small - get some quick wins, and then evolve and iterate from there.
Establish a Campaign Strategy
From Adam Blitzer, chief operating officer, Pardot:
The biggest challenge is establishing a campaign strategy. When a business implements a marketing automation system without the proper processes in place, things just can't go smoothly. Because marketing automation is a fairly new technology, many companies have never thought about which content to use for lead nurturing campaigns, which metrics are important or which internal processes can be set to run automatically.
Hammer out Definitions, Set Expectations
From Brian Kardon, chief marketing officer, Eloqua:
What is a lead? What is a sales-ready lead? What is the ideal customer profile? These important (and often difficult) questions need to be addressed and definitions need to be agreed upon.
The organization needs to understand what are 'reasonable' milestones at 90, 180 and 360 days. Expectations need to be set. A hiccup can happen when a company is too ambitious and aggressive about goals.
Marketing Is Still all About People
Unfortunately, marketing automation is often used to automate bad or ineffective marketing. As a result, in order for marketing automation to work, it requires humans to create a good and thoughtful marketing strategy, continuously monitoring the results, experimenting with new ideas to see if something else works better, and fine tune the results.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.
March 19, 2014