One of the benefits of consulting is exposure to a broad array of businesses and challenges. We recently dealt with a small high tech B2B company where it became apparent how crucial Marketing Automation has become in today’s fast-paced and hyper-competitive marketspace.
The company was in the middle of creating a marketing plan for 2012. One of the Line of Business (LOB) leaders came forward with a detailed and somewhat aggressive marketing plan that included a number of email campaigns with multiple touchpoints in each. The VP of Marketing almost immediately shot holes in the plan, reasoning that sending multiple emails in a single campaign is counterproductive – if the receipient is not interested in the first email they will likely unsubscribe when they receive a second email on the same topic.
Putting aside the basics of advertising (you need to hit people at least three times before they get a message), the first question on my mind was – why not evaluate their response and only send them the second email in that particular campaign if they’ve interacted with the material. For example, after the first email people who did not open or clickthrough that email would not receive any further emails from that campaign. After the second email people who did not clickthrough would not receive the third email. This approach would focus the campaign to 3-4 touches and would ensure that the LOB can send increasingly specific and detailed messaging for a specific product/service, but only to the people showing interest.
Furthermore, this same content could then be re-purposed into a perpetual nurturing campaign for any new prospects showing interest in this particular product/service. And if you have multiple nurturing programs of this type for new prospects you could route them through these programs based on which products they examined on your website.
Unfortunately, this particular company did not have a Marketing Automation system and so this particular LOB leader was left with a much weaker campaign and no ongoing nurture program.
In our experience, the companies that leverage Marketing Automation effectively are the ones that take the time to build a business case for automation, test their assumptions with live campaigns, and continually improve their processes and programs as they become more sophisticated with the tools. We’ve worked with companies in all phases of this maturity cycle and strongly believe that there are no short cuts.
Several of us on the Accelent team attended a great webinar the other day – MOCCA’s “Marketing Automation: Lessons from the Front” presented by Shelley West and Tony Anticole of the Corporate Executive Board. (View recording here). MOCCA is the largest group of Marketing Operations professionals in the country and a great resource for education and thought leadership, if you haven’t yet discovered them. (see more) The Corporate Executive Board offers comprehensive data analysis, research and advisory services that align to executive leadership roles and key recurring decisions. (see more)
Shelly and Tony provided some very interesting insights. For instance, the Marketing Automation vision for many organizations is often better than their execution reality. This really shouldn’t be too surprising since this is how nearly all new technologies emerge in markets – and as my colleague Andy Sayare notes, it is why the Gartner Hype Cycle was created many years ago. This vision/execution mismatch was validated by a recent Corporate Executive Board survey. We learned that approximately 2/3 of the companies surveyed that have invested in MA have not realized their overall vision. As a direct result, many companies currently are or will soon be looking outside of their organization for help with connecting their MA vision to their execution potential.
The survey results validate our own experience in the market. Most of our marketing automation projects could be described as aligning marketing automation strategy and execution with the overall business strategy and goals.
It is also interesting to note that the disconnect between vision and execution is almost never about technology. It is almost always about the people and processes first – technology later. In some ways, it doesn’t make much difference which MA system a company chooses. All of the basics will most likely be available in whatever credible tool is chosen. More important is the need to engage with an experienced team who can guide your organization’s people, processes, and technology in a way that supports your business objectives.
The savvy marketer has come to understand the value of marketing automation. Leads that have been nurtured and have demonstrated interest and engagement (so-called digital body language) with marketing assets over time are more valuable to Sales than purchased names. Using marketing automation, Marketing can play an active role in the development of leads through the entire sales funnel. This is well understood. However, some forward-looking companies have taken marketing automation beyond lead generation and have found a role for it with existing customers.
Since marketing automation is essentially a rules-based system that guides communications with a target audience, it is a natural fit for companies that want to increase customer engagement with their product, upsell/cross-sell, or renew subscriptions. Both on-premise and SaaS-based offerings can be a good fit for customer-centric marketing automation. As customers interact with your software or platform, usage information is gathered in the form of logs or through analytics. It then becomes a simple matter of grouping individuals with similar usage patterns and targeting them with messages that align with your business goals.
Most software and platforms directed at the enterprise were built with a set of core capabilities that have been augmented and enhanced over time. Very few were built with marketing-to-customers as a core capability. At best, some systems have automated system messages based on triggered events. Rather than spend precious development cycles building rules-based messaging into your product, why not leverage one of the many marketing automation platforms available today and develop simple integration between your product and a marketing automation platform. The integration doesn’t need to be real-time in most cases, nor does it need to be bi-directional. Simple file transfer using FTP can often suffice. Let’s look at a couple of real-world examples from our clients.
Let’s say that you have a Social platform targeted at the enterprise. You know that everything begins with a robust profile or graph – and without one, the engagement with your product will be minimal, at best. Why not build a campaign that targets those individuals who have only partially completed their profile? To accomplish this, you will first need to get the “qualified” individuals into your marketing automation system. Once the list of names that meets your criteria is in the marketing automation system, it then becomes a simple matter of developing a campaign that encourages individuals to complete their profile. It could be an award of some type, or simply a series of reminders sent over time. Once they have completed the profile, you would remove them from the campaign by updating the “qualified” list. Maybe you then target them with another campaign as they move along your product’s “maturity” cycle.
In another case, let’s say you have a SaaS-based offering that requires an annual renewal for an enhanced level of service. Why not use marketing automation to target those companies that are coming up for renewal in the next 60 days. You could message them with actual usage statistics that demonstrate the value they have been receiving from the service over the past year, and offer special deals for customers that meet certain criteria. Most marketing automation systems allow you to store a number of data fields in the contact record that can be used to drive content in communications. You can use those fields to store data from your product and deliver custom, fine-tuned messages that drive conversions.
These are just two ways that Accelent clients are currently using marketing automation to target existing customers to drive revenues – beyond lead generation. How are you using marketing automation to drive revenue?
If you are a fan of baseball, like most people, you likely saw “Moneyball” a few months ago. What struck me about the film is that it had A LOT more to do with business than it did with baseball.
The Oakland A’s were facing a problem known to many companies – how do you effectively compete against better funded competitors. The answer proved simple – by thinking outside the box and approaching the problem from a different angle than everyone else (i.e. not following the herd).
The GM of the team, Billy Beane, abandons “intuition” and “gut feel” of his scouts and instead decides to rely on radical ideas of Peter Brand (Paul DePodesta influenced by Bill James’ theories) who wanted to find and apply objective knowledge to baseball.
What Billy and Paul did was study and then apply statistical analysis of player attributes and performance in order to locate the most undervalued players in the marketplace and assemble an A-team out of what was perceived to be “duct tape and bailing wire”. As you can imagine they proved the naysayers wrong when this method resulted in an unprecedented 20 game winning streak.
Sound familiar yet? If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard a salesperson argue that their experience allows them to know who the best prospects are and how to approach them. Or a marketer who knows the most effective strategy for generating inquiries and conversions.
There will always be room for those approaches, but in our modern, hyper-competitive world it is imperative that they be used as an adjunct to a more scientific, data-driven, statistical approach. At the end of the day, your data is your primary competitive differentiator – if you are not using it exhaustively, you are not competing effectively.
It is undeniable that any B2B company stands to benefit from a Marketing Automation system and many companies already have. This fact is well illustrated by the literal arms race that has erupted in the space driving down prices and increasing provider options. In this post I will bring up some points to consider as you start thinking about whether you are ready to make the leap and acquire a system.
1) Vision. Without it, you will end up with another expensive system that is not used enough or is misused. I’ve seen so many companies acquire a Marketing Automation system and use it to just batch-and-blast emails. Or, some parts of the process are automated and others are not. Or, automation is setup once and never revisited – over time causing great damage to the business. Have a clear vision what you are trying to accomplish and make sure you can execute it against other items on this list. It’s OK to start small, but know where you’re going.
2) Time. Any automation system is a multiplier of efforts – you generally invest the time up front to configure the system so it can then perform the same action a dozen or hundred or hundred thousand times. Make no mistake about it – you will need to invest the time to configure the system each time you want the system to do something. This time investment will generally be greater than the cost to perform that thing once or twice the way you’re currently doing it.
3) Budget. Remember, when you purchase an automation system you are not just paying for the system itself. You are paying for the configuration of the system, integration with your other systems, as well as ongoing operation. These systems can and do pay for themselves many times over, but you do need to make that initial as well as ongoing investment.
4) Systems. Your Marketing Automation system will become your marketing database and a powerful tool in executing your strategy effectively. It is important to remember that it does not exist on its own. Generally, you will want to integrate it with your CRM system, as well as other systems potentially. Here are some of the questions to ask yourself and start thinking about your strategy for dealing with them. How clean is my current CRM/marketing data? Who will own this system?Who will maintain it? What systems will I need to integrate? Which system will be the data master? How will the data flow between multiple systems?
These are just some of the things to consider prior to acquiring a Marketing Automation system (or any automation system for that matter). Mind you, in my experience 75% of companies who acquire these systems fail in at least one (if not all four) categories. They end up paying for a Ferrari and driving it like a Fiat. An alternative is to start thinking about your strategy for rolling out a system like this and be one of the 25% that will drive the Ferrari effectively and win with it.
Welcome to the Accelent Consulting Blog. We have been providing marketing and sales consulting services for over 12 years, and have been doing more work with marketing automation and process alignment during the past three. Here is a reprint of an article that I wrote a few years ago for Sandhill.com. It represents the opportunity we saw for our clients to leverage these systems to add value throughout the organization. Please let us know if we can help your business with strategic marketing, sales or process alignment to better predict and manage revenue performance from offer to order.
Cloud computing continues to generate new and innovative business opportunities – not to mention, a great deal of enthusiasm. I was amazed that more than 19,000 people attended Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference last month, packing the aisles of the event floor. One of the topics drawing the most attendees was marketing automation with system Integrators demonstrating one-click synchronization of marketing and sales processes and lead data.
As a business consultant who has worked with several of these solutions, I have been excited about the benefits they deliver when integrated with CRM systems.
The buzz at Dreamforce validated my beliefs that marketing automation, as a cloud-based solution, will deliver significant business value throughout the organization. In particular, it will allow executives to better manage the business from “offer to order.” Here are several ways in which marketing automation solutions, with analytics, can improve business efficiencies for CEOs, Sales VPs, CMOs, CFOs, and CIOs.
Most CEOs would agree that the main focus in the organization is sales. They may be somewhat aware that marketing automation solutions can help generate higher conversion rates, more qualified leads, and shorten sales cycles.
This is all good.
Yet, they are more likely interested in whether the company is going to hit its quarterly targets and in keeping operating costs in line. They want to improve efficiencies and need better ways to manage, track and analyze how the business is doing and how it will grow.
By integrating sales and marketing systems, with advanced analytics capabilities, they can now monitor end-to-end process flows from Offer to Order. This means CEOs (and COOs) can track the business from when marketing defines a strategy, creates a campaign, captures a name, qualifies it as a prospect, turns it over to sales as a lead, and then how sales moves it through the pipeline to the quote stage and then to an order and new customer (as well as afterwards through service and support). The benefit of this visibility is that business is more predictable, cost versus revenue is more measurable, departments are more accountable, and customer data is richer than ever before.
Traditionally, lead management in the CRM system starts when a sales rep is assigned a lead. There is an age-old dialog between sales and marketing about how well qualified the lead is – and sales often will reject (read: won’t call) the leads they don’t think are good, and instead, ask for more. Based on the lack of marketing’s ability to really target and pre-qualify a prospect this is understandable; in order to meet their numbers, sales reps have to focus on the leads with the highest probability to move to a sale. There is also the question of who gets the mildly warm leads to qualify – telemarketing, inside sales, direct reps or channel partners?
Now, with one-click integration of marketing automation with the CRM systems, sales can have up- to-the-minute information about the prospect as well as richer lead data. Marketing teams gather, pre-qualify and nurture leads and provide sales with vital updates on the behavior, interests, and intent of prospects, in real-time.
Now, processes can be tracked from the beginning including the campaign strategy and prospect profile. And these systems can automate, based on the level of pre-qualification, where the lead gets routed for follow up.
How does this help sales management? Everyone understands how sales opportunities are qualified, distributed and cultivated. The process flows much easier.
Better qualified leads mean fewer leads go untouched. Sales reps are more productive because they focused on the most highly-qualified prospects. Sales funnels and pipeline analysis is much easier and revenue forecasting is more predictable, which makes executive staff and board meetings run smoother as well.
Communication with the CMO and the product management team is enhanced as more data about preferences, requirements, and behavior can be shared by all.
As a former CMO, and VP of Marketing, I understand how hard it is to justify marketing spend and track program effectiveness, as well as where the inherent disconnects are between marketing and sales. Historically, most tech companies were engineering driven. They soon understood the importance of investing in sales.
Marketing – or what little there was of it in the early days – was viewed primarily as a cost center whose goal was to collect names for sales people to call.
Lead generation is critical of course, but there are many other strategic components to the marketing function, such as branding, messaging, and market segmentation, and target market analysis that require longer-term vision and execution.
Conversely, sales management and CEOs are understandably focused on hitting monthly and quarterly targets.
It is with this short-term mindset that marketing was evaluated.
And, with very little real data about marketing it was, in fact, challenging to justify exactly what marketing was really contributing.
Now, with integrated sales and marketing systems, businesses can capture data for both tactical and strategic initiatives. CMOs can better analyze program effectiveness, gain operational efficiencies, and target offers to prospects and customers more easily. As a result, marketing is turning over more highly-qualified leads that convert to sales faster.
Marketing can now be viewed as a revenue generator rather than as a cost center, as it is directly impacting revenue and higher close rates.
One note of caution here is that there is a lot of system and process work that is required for these solutions to deliver the full value they are capable of returning. For example, simply getting a centralized contact database created that includes both prospects and customers across the regions is a monumental task and is often bypassed in favor of expediency. Marketing automation can dramatically increase the ability to up sell to the current installed base, and unless these systems and processes are more integrated, this will still be a difficult challenge.
CFOs, of course, have traditionally been chartered with managing the P&L for the business, as well as preparing all of the financial statements for the organization. They rely on the data from the CRM systems to predict revenue and to capture many business metrics.
Today, more and more CFOs are being asked to drive operational efficiencies and improve process flows. Based on conversations I have had, they are very bullish on the promise of integrated sales and marketing information in the CRM system.
They also want to find ways to ensure that these systems are, in fact, being used and that the data is reliable.
A big complaint from CFOs is the lack of visibility into how marketing spend is translated into actual revenue. They want to be able to track how long it takes for a lead to get into the pipeline and to convert to an order.
Predictability and accountability is what CFOs need, and integrated marketing and sales systems can give them valuable, granular information to better run the business. Now, if marketing budgets are being cut or if sales staff are hired or fired, the data in the system will help them evaluate the impact of these decisions and they can adjust plans accordingly.
CIOs are not only responsible for all of the systems in the organization but are frequently tasked with improving business and system alignment. They often create panels or process teams that function as the go-between between the business units and the IT department to ensure the applications are delivering what the business needs.
CIOs are under pressure to keep costs in line. They have historically focused the CRM system roadmap based on what the sales teams need and have been less concerned with marketing’s needs. This is understandable, particularly when the on-premise marketing systems were expensive to purchase and maintain and integration with other systems was difficult. Now, with more and more SaaS options and the ability to more easily integrate sales and marketing solutions with each other as well as with the backend ERP systems, CIOs have more options to turn to with less risk. If these systems don’t deliver the desired results, they simply discontinue the monthly service and try another option.
To be realistic, there are still many process and system challenges to work through which will require communication and negotiation with the business units – and the global regional offices.
For example, getting consensus on terminology is a great first step at the tactical level – agreeing on what a “name” is, a “lead”, a “suspect”, a “prospect”, a “customer”,
and which data fields to track, etc. But, the ability to have one central source for all prospects, contacts and customers – with their behavior, preferences and purchases – is easier than it has been ever before.
Process Alignment Required
The good news is the technology is available to do some pretty amazing things with marketing automations systems. Cloud computing has made it much more accessible.
However, there is a caveat: Marketing and sales goals, processes and systems are frequently misaligned. We all know the challenges are more likely to lie in organizational structure, process disconnects and inefficiencies, and the difficulties in changing the way we do things: “We have always done it this way” Therefore, the successful adoption of marketing automation requires not only a feature-rich solution and a good systems integrator, but system and process evaluation between the departments, regions, and with IT. And most importantly, executive-level sponsorship is essential to the success of these initiatives.
The tremendous benefits of marketing automation to executives at all levels of the organization support my belief that marketing automation is going to be the “next big thing.” For successful implementations, communication is the key at both the executive level and in the trenches. I truly believe that if people take a “team” approach and everyone understands their role in the process of building the business, and systems are put in place to automate this, we will, in fact, be able to track the business from “Offer to Order.”