For most businesses – both B2C and B2B – marketing automation isn’t a question of “why” but “when”. The model is highly seductive, not least as marketing, sales and finance departments can all see the benefits in terms of reduced costs, better qualified prospects and vastly reduced lead times from enquiry to sale.
What, as they say, is there not to like? So impressive do the figures often appear that the temptation to pick up the phone and order an off-the-peg software solution must be almost irresistible. But I urge you; resist that temptation.
Right now, far too many companies risk sleepwalking into an automation nightmare, one which is likely to be made worse by being of their own creation. Most have already embraced the digital revolution to one degree or another. They understand CRM, they have their digital platforms in place and operating. The next step seems to be so obvious – the adoption of an automation strategy which simply weaves these existing platforms together. Right, yes? No. Wrong.
You can’t – and shouldn’t – be tempted to retro fit an automation strategy onto your existing digital framework. To realise its full potential and minimise risks an automation strategy has to be central, indeed integral, to your total digital marketing approach. Just choosing a promising software package and bolting that on to your existing structure is courting failure.
Recent research shows that over 75% of US firms implementing marketing automation programmes wish they’d done it differently – and at the heart of that wish-list is getting the planning process right from the very start.
Successful automation strategies begin with careful planning and stakeholder engagement across the business. As ever, it’s a case of getting back to basics. That’s not as exciting as installing some software and getting on with it, but without it the risks are that you’ll end up with an unsatisfactory solution which simply doesn’t provide what anyone wants, let alone what everyone needs. Success requires a strategic commitment to a new, more efficient way of working. Unifying and integrating the prospect and customer journeys across all digital touchpoints to create one seamless process.
Planning and people – those are two of the most critical aspects of getting any automation strategy to deliver at its best. Yes, that takes time, but get the right person to lead it – and preferably someone with a business or marketing background, not IT – and the process will be far more likely to deliver a result that makes a real and lasting difference to your business.
And by that I mean significant – and there are plenty of figures around to support this. Delivering good content is also important, but until you have the basics right – any attempt to gain competitive edge by the introduction of a marketing automation system is likely to prove less of a dream ticket to success and more of a potential – and costly – nightmare.
Dom Chudleigh is an account director at the Purple Agency