For BtoB marketers that are realizing the potential benefits of implementing a marketing automation system, rolling out and utilizing the technology can be an intimidating venture. Due to the complexity of automating marketing programs, there are various components to consider.
According to MarketingSherpa’s 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, 54% of CMOs have either begun or completed their implementation of marketing automation software, and another 17% intend to begin implementation. The report also found that 79% of CMOs have established some kind of automation process.
“Many companies rush to make an automation purchase before taking the time to define their internal requirements, such as what will they need from the automation solution,” said Carlos Hidalgo, President, The Annuitas Group. “It is best to approach the purchase of automation in a cross-functional manner that includes groups beyond marketing including sales, operations, customer service and finance as these decisions will have an impact on each of these functional areas.”
While the features and functionalities of automation are helping marketers reach prospects and move them through the sales funnel more efficiently, experts emphasize the need for a clearly defined approach to get the most out of this game changing technology. Hidalgo said that companies are realizing the need for an engagement model that can “deliver dynamic content in a one-to-one, yet mass context.” The only way to achieve this, he said, is through a process-enabled automated system.
Walk Before You Run
BtoB organizations in the early stages of implementation are challenged to build a plan for effectiveness from the ground up, which starts with “working out the kinks.” One expert advises to start slowly with core programs that can be expanded over time. “Try several things that you can measure fairly quickly; monitor the results and expand the winners,” advised David Raab, Principal, Raab Associates. “But be sure to track long-term results as well, since often the initial results are misleading or not reproducible.” Raab said that once successful programs are established, organizations should allocate time to “refining those further and trying new ideas in other areas. Remember that the market itself is always evolving, so you have to watch carefully to see how results are changing so you can take advantage of new opportunities.”
One of the bigger components of the automation process is determining the responsibilities and roles that sales teams will take on as a result of the new intelligence.
“If sales people perceive that there are problems (leads being misrouted or passed incorrectly, for example) they will say it doesn’t work and lose faith in the project,” said Cari Baldwin, Partner at Bluebird Strategies. “Manage the process in bite-size chunks. Get the email marketing humming before you build out more complex lead scoring. Make sure that leads are being passed correctly before you introduce nurturing. The biggest problem in failed implementations is trying to do too much, too fast.”
Automate Your Expectations: The Early Stages of Implementation
Once an organization-wide plan is mapped out and Marketing, Sales and other teams involved are all clear on the automation strategy, experts recommend a phased approach for execution of new processes. “That way you catch any problems as soon as possible with minimal disruption,” Raab said. “ Be sure to publicize the changes and your successes as they happen: a stream of good news is better than a single big bang.”
Other recommendations include focusing on the staffing, roles and requirements required for ongoing success. “We always recommend a cross functional team be put in place from the beginning – an ‘automation council’ that owns decisions that affect the CRM and marketing automation,” Baldwin said. “This usually includes members from sales, sales operations, IT and marketing.”
Baldwin added that it’s always best to have buy-in and agreement from executives of these departments and support for the time and effort needed to implement correctly. “We plan on 6 months to full implement and use 100% of the marketing automation functionality. It’s important to map out the journey – “here’s where we are and here’s where we are going” so that everyone shares the same vision.”