Monday, April 29, 2013

Marketing Automation - Is it just too complex?

Let's be perfectly clear, marketing automation is not a strategy and it is not a tactic.  It's a tool.  Saying marketing automation is a tactic is like saying your business strategy is to achieve double digit growth.  For either statement to matter, you must have some thought and action behind the desire.

Regardless of what the MA vendors say, these marketing systems are highly complex.  They are akin to powerful image processing programs like Adobe Photoshop or complex accounting programs like Peachtree.  These programs require hundreds of hours of use and training before a user is able to be proficient.

Quarry mindmap
This mindmap from Quarry tells the story quite well.  The leading MA systems boast about 26 different functions under the four categories of managing the database, managing campaigns, managing leads and measuring results.  Within the 26 functions there are myriad tactics to accomplish the functions.  Sending emails is one of the 26 functions.  Does it make sense to pay for a MA system just to send and measure emails?  I would say no.  Does it make sense to buy a system just to manage your database?  I would say no.  How about just to manage an event? Again, no.  Each of the tactics and activities under each of the 4 major areas can be accomplished on its own with a much less expensive and less complex tool.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Marketing Automation - Is it spying?

Those of us who are able to utilize the more advanced features of monitoring web activity with a marketing automation platform are probably familiar with this reaction.  Many times when I talk about watching someone's digital behavior or monitoring their digital body language, I see shock and surprise in their expression.  When we use marketing automation (MA) to place the cookie on a computer and subsequently monitor their click-stream on our website, isn't that the same thing as placing a secret recording device at their office or home?  I suppose one could make that argument.

Or is it a case where we, as Modern Marketers, have to justify it in our own minds as being OK because we only want to help them make a decision (to buy our product)? The definitive guide, in my opinion, was written by Steve Woods, co-founder of Eloqua in his book, "Digital Body Language".  This is a must read book for all modern marketers.

We're all subject to this type of monitoring in this day and age of digital everything.  The European Union has passed laws about disclosing the cookie policy and allowing an opt-out option.  Microsoft fueled the discussion when it announced a 'Do Not Track' option which it would default to 'on' with the Internet Explorer 10 release.

As advanced users of MA know, the tracking feature is one of the most powerful features a savvy modern marketer can exploit.  I've set up triggered email campaigns using the tracking feature to deliver timely and relevant content with great results.  The tracking option allows a salesperson to monitor activity of key accounts or competitive proposals.  What better way to improve your timing if you know when a certain solution or purchase is on top of your ideal prospect's mind.  These are powerful sales and marketing tactics guaranteed to give you a leg up on the competition not aware of the possibility to track web behavior.

Is monitoring web behavior any different than networking where information is passed from person to person?  Or is it more like sneaking up to someone's house and peeking in the window?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Marketing Automation - Is it worth the investment?

When a Modern Marketer contemplates purchasing, implementing and integrating marketing automation (MA) to their modern marketing tool kit, the concept is usually proposed to management with a supporting business case.   It's fairly easy to show how MA should improve efficiency of the marketing team and increase sales, but it is very difficult to execute a plan that achieves these results.

Read this related blog post
from Lead Views
My premise begs the question, "is MA worth it?" and, of course the answer is "it depends".  Your initial investment in MA will likely cost at least $40k per year and could be as high as $200k per year depending on many factors.  It's not a one time purchase price, but an ongoing subscription and therein lies the financial beauty of the MA business model.  Your typical NPV (net present value) calculation is more attuned to a capital purchase, so it won't help with justifying an MA purchase.  The danger in determining if MA is worth the investment is there are many hidden costs that don't show up in the fancy statistics and slick brochures offered by the MA vendors. 

Hidden costs may include:
  • Staff man-hours spent on learning how to use the tool
  • Complexity = hidden cost
  • Vendor cost for set-up and training
  • Opportunity cost (could your time and money be better spent on something else?)
  • Internal selling cost
Suppose you submit to the annual expense and agree to absorb the hidden costs, what is the payback and are you capable of utilizing the tool to realize a payback?  I liken MA to Adobe's Photoshop software.  Most common marketers have the ability to use Photoshop, but we only use about 10% of it's total capacity.  According to the Marketing Sherpa 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, only 24% of B2B marketers are using MA.  Of those 24%, at best, 53% have implemented core functions.  Only 30% have fully implemented advanced functions such as report dashboards, lead management, nurturing or lead scoring.  In order to see a good ROI, you need to utilize at least 85% of the functions available in a full blown MA system.

One must wonder, how many of those MA systems out there are only being used as glorified email platforms?

Is MA worth it?  Yes, definitely if you are able to leverage the power and implement all the core functions to your marketing plan.  No, if you're strapped for resources and won't be able to invest in the time and absorb the hidden costs that are incurred to optimize the MA system.