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Think all your marketing automation problems are solved with the right technology? Think again

As much as we’d all like to believe it, technology alone rarely solves business issues. Yes, it would be wonderful if we could simply “plug in” a new technology and watch the dollars flood our business. But we all know that isn’t reality. Technology is a powerful tool that can provide enormous benefit that otherwise could never be achieved easily—something that’s especially true with regard to front-end (office) systems like marketing automation. But much of its success is a function of how it’s applied to each business.

Of course, the application of technology is something that’s done by people. Most of the success with marketing automation comes down to the way people apply it to their business. Through the years, we’ve witnessed the following five mistakes that companies most often make, and have learned how to best avoid them: 

1. Using marketing automation as a glorified email blasting tool. You can certainly continue to send email blasts using marketing automation technology, but is it really worth the cost of the solution if that is all you are doing with it? Of course not. To garner the full benefits you should be deriving from marketing automation, you need to start using it to track your prospects’ digital behavior and better understand how to effectively nurture them. Nurturing is not about blasting; it’s about delivering the right content to the right person at the right time. Of course, you need to create the right content for the buyer and use it at each stage of their process to make nurturing relevant and therefore more successful.

2. Not providing the content “fuel” needed by the marketing automation “engine.” Having and delivering content your prospect finds valuable is what fuels the marketing automation engine. When we implement solutions for our customers, we go through an exercise we call the content map. This map provides an outline of the prospect’s buying cycle for each targeted group. Then, we analyze what content our client has for each phase of the cycle and each targeted group. Not surprisingly, most companies are flush with content at the very late stage of the buying cycle (product-related materials) but have very little at the early stage (thought leadership materials). If B2B buyers are going through 60 percent of their buying decisions before engaging the vendor (and according to a recent Corporate Executive Board Survey, this is the case), then to be successful at keeping your company top of mind, you need to engage prospects in the early stages electronically.

3. Not revising lead management processes. Sending inquiries and prospects to sales in a speedier fashion isn’t really the point of marketing automation. Instead, the emphasis shifts from the quantity to the quality of leads. Marketing and sales organizations need to agree on the definition of a “sales-ready” lead, and marketing should begin taking responsibility for moving leads into sales-ready status. That means marketing must effectively nurture the leads that don’t yet meet the agreed-upon criteria. Marketers should use scoring to help identify those leads that are engaging with content and showing interest. 

4. Not moving toward enhanced marketing metrics. Yes, opens and clicks are still valuable metrics for certain components of marketing. However, marketers must expand the metrics they gather to include additional digital behaviors so they can understand their prospects better and know when they’re “ready” to buy. Furthermore, if marketing is now responsible for nurturing leads until they are sales ready, then metrics that reveal the number of sales-ready leads being sent to sales are important for measuring success. Marketers must also work toward understanding the ROI of their campaigns to validate spending and refine activities. All these measurements become so much easier with marketing automation. 

5. Trying to re-create the entire lead management process before starting anything. This all sounds like there’s a lot to do to make marketing automation successful. And yes, you can spend a lot of time – months and months, in fact, defining and refining processes, gaining agreement between marketing and sales, developing your scoring schema, and more. However, the reality is that very few of us can stop what we’re doing to change everything at once. But you can get started implementing changes in phases, understanding the reality of where your organization is. Some organizations have limited resources and content and can only do the basics of lead nurturing. By using marketing automation, at the least these organizations can start identifying additional digital behaviors (beyond the traditional email platform), begin to use scoring, as well as apply triggers and rules, to maximize benefit. Over time, you can incrementally grow your content to better fuel your nurturing success.

When you look inside those organizations that are deriving real benefit from marketing automation, you actually see the people and processes behind the technology to make it work. Marketing automation success comes from the way you apply it to your business and the understanding of how appropriate content is required to nurture effectively.

Lisa Cramer is president and co-founder of LeadLife Solutions.

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