Top Tip: Don’t Deploy Marketing Automation (yet)!

Top Tip: Don't Deploy Marketing Automation (yet)! Purple SalixI had a great day at the eConsultancy Funnel yesterday at the Emirates stadium.

There were some really good presentations (Michael Volpe from Hubspot and Bob Apollo from Inflexion Point were my personal favourites), a few rather repetitious and dull ones (I know having organised events myself that getting speakers to stick to a brief is always a significant challenge). But it was also a great forum to catch up with a whole bunch of colleagues from across the industry. The eConsultancy folks are to be congratulated on attracting a really strong audience and delivering a good day.

However as I talked to more and more people a few things seemed to become increasingly apparent:

  1. There are not as many companies in the UK that have actually deployed Marketing Automation as the software vendors would have us believe
  2. The vast majority who have deployed are typically using it for outbound email and perhaps a little nurturing. Consequently I would wager that the ROI is not yet what was committed to the board

But why is this? I think a typical Marketing Automation deployment seems to goes through a buyer’s journey  something like this:

  • A leader in the client recognises that marketing results are not what they could be. He/she visits a few events and hears lots of buzz around automation, nurturing, progressive profiling, content marketing etc
  • He gets excited and starts researching Automation vendors – the website says that you can deploy more effective campaigns within 90 days. So far so good.
  • He takes a case to the board for investment and gets approval
  • He begins training and deployment
  • With a lot of energy and effort the team gets the first “automated” campaigns out of the door. Perhaps even within 90 days – Success!!

Then the questions and challenges start:

  • The CFO asks for figures on ROI improvement
  • The first email campaigns do not get the anticipated results
  • There isn’t sufficient content to support more than a couple of nurture streams
  • The sales team still complain about the poor leads from marketing

Sound familiar? It’s a story I heard countless times yesterday…
I would argue that there is far better approach than this. In fact it’s the approach that I took when I was leading IBM’s UK marketing transformation. It’s not rocket science:

  • If your current marketing approach isn’t working, why on earth would you choose to automate it?
  • On its own, marketing automation software will not fix your marketing deficiencies – it will only expose them further
  • Prioritise and fix your biggest marketing shortcomings before going to the board to ask for new SW investments. In my experience there will be plenty to improve around data, content, process, skills  or alignment – or maybe all of these if you’re really lucky!
  • Dedicate some resource in the team to focus on identifying and closing these gaps. However, one of the greatest challenges in most marketing teams is that everyone is working so hard executing activity that nobody has the time to invest in proper thinking. So perhaps seek help from an external party (of course I’d be happy to explore this with you!)
  • If you can build an improvement plan around some of these fundamental areas BEFORE adding automation into the mix, your deployment will be much more successful and less stressful.
Do you agree?

4 thoughts on “Top Tip: Don’t Deploy Marketing Automation (yet)!

  1. Steve Watson

    Peter – completely agree. There is still too much hype around marketing automation and not enough substance and real case studies, especially in SMB companies. Most people I talk to are using “marketing automation” tools as simple email systems. I liked Stan Woods from Velocity Partners @velocitytweets presentation at #FUNNEL12 with a case study from Canonical. They started with a very simple lead nurturing campaign to get their Marketo solution started with impressive results. They did not try to automate the whole process, just started with a simpler one-off campaign to see what works. This also allows you to build out content to support the automation process over time – the message from Stan was that make-do with existing content to get started.

  2. Pete Jakob

    Thanks for the comment Steve. Don’t get me wrong there’s HUGE value in Automation, but there’s also huge value in proper planning around some of the fundamentals that will otherwise bite you.

    I also saw Stan’s presentation and thought it was a good pragmatic approach – but interestingly was based on a client who’d already bought MA but wasn’t using it for much (presumably cos of the issues I described)

  3. Lisa Hutt

    Agree it was a great event and with your comments on marketing automation. When investing in a solution, many companies underestimate the resource that will be required to plan effective programs, manage and make the most of the solution.

  4. Joby Blume

    Peter, yes, completely right.

    I was responsible for a failed marketing automation implementation at a previous employer. We didn’t have the right processes, the right content – and then we also weren’t putting enough leads into the top of the funnel. If sales people want to jump on every lead as soon as it comes in, automation doesn’t help either.

    Lots of comments from industry big-hitters on my article, here –


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