Implementing marketing automation. What to keep in mind so you don't regret it?
If we think about what are the most common reasons for implementing marketing automation and various MarTech solutions in organizations, we will probably find that there are two main drivers for investing in this class of software. It will come as no surprise to anyone that both reasons revolve around the topic of leads and increased sales. What conditions should be met for the use of MarTech and marketing automation tools to make sense? Is marketing automation a "magic solution" that is able to provide an organization with new customers? When and which tools are worth investing in? How to build an organization's ecosystem of tools that will work well with the company's CRM? Find the answers to these and other questions in this article.
What can marketing automation be used for?
The idea of implementing MarTech and MA tools is most often born because of "too few leads." This situation is usually faced by organizations that have grown and developed over the years mainly due to the power of momentum and favorable market conditions. However, there comes a point when the network of personal contacts of the management and sales begins to run out. When the market situation is unstable, and more and more people in the organization realize that sales based on a private network, referrals, and the market "feel" of individual salespeople is definitely not enough to ensure long-term stable growth for the company - the search for a remedy begins. The need for so-called "quick wins" and looking for ways of winning them becomes a necessity. At first glance, MarTech tools appear to us as the ideal way out of the problem.
The examples mentioned above are two of the most common, but not the only possible scenarios leading to a decision to improve marketing efforts through automation. The sequence of events that led to the decision of MA implementation is of relatively minor importance. If the implementation is to be successful, what matters most is the extent to which the organization shows maturity in several key areas. After all, only processes can be automated, and their existence and proper functioning is possible only in mature organizations.
Marketing and sales processes and organizational maturity
Marketing automation software can be compared to a race car. In order to be able to drive it without hurting yourself, and at the same time achieve satisfactory results, several conditions must be met. The car won't do its job if we don't have drivers in the team with the skills to use it to its full potential. Adequate competence and developed processes are also essential among pit stop mechanics. If the pit stop stay is ineffective, even the best driver will not be able to win the race. In addition, you also need access to crucial data on the condition of the tires, the amount of fuel in the tank, the lap times obtained, and other factors that can determine whether you reach the finish line or end your run prematurely due to engine failure or falling off the track.
The same is true for organizations that decide to implement marketing automation or CRM-class tools that work with marketing automation. After all, marketing automation makes no sense without a CRM that functions well within the organization. Without establishing a foundation for future operations and proper business processes, both on the marketing and sales side, our ecosystem of MA and CRM solutions will be an expensive toy whose capabilities are not properly utilized. In the worst case scenario, we will only automate chaos, and this could cost the organization in lost customers and/or "burned" growth opportunities in the markets we addressed with communications. There are 3 key areas of organizational maturity that affect whether the capabilities of marketing automation tools will be properly utilized:
- Method and Process Competence (maturity of operation methodology and processes)
- Data Competence (maturity in data management)
- IT Competence (IT maturity)
In many companies it’s a common belief that solving IT competence issues will automatically solve all our problems. When we translate this assumption to the marketing sector, it means that we buy a marketing automation and/or a MarTech tool that is supposed to improve, support, or automate something, and we start using it as much as we can, hoping to see more leads. In marketing efforts, such a path seems very tempting - especially considering that there are already more than 10,000 MarTech tools on the market and their number is growing at a record pace. Many of the MarTech tools (as opposed to advanced marketing automation tools) are available at fairly affordable prices. Unfortunately, a large number of them leave much to be desired in the realm of their reliability or the quality of the data they provide. When you add to this the lack of clear marketing and sales processes, the likelihood that shortcuts will lead you nowhere - and, in extreme cases, contribute to problems in communicating with potential customers - is even greater.
Knowledge about good reference implementations of marketing automation and optimal use of the capabilities of such tools and their cooperation with CRM systems is best gleaned from experts working in both the data area and marketing and sales processes and IT architecture. In this way we will learn that few can boast of success in this field. There are many reasons for this, and they may lie in all three of the aforementioned areas of organizational maturity.
This article talks about some of the basics of process maturity (Method and Process Competence). Without them, it is difficult to expect positive results from the use of marketing automation tools, or even much simpler MarTech tools that integrate with CRM and are designed to increase the quantity and quality of leads. Importantly, in order to be able to define the mutual expectations of marketing and sales (including the expected number of leads acquired) and avoid frustration in both departments, it is essential to align knowledge and identify the key drivers of lead quality. Lack of clarity and transparency on the few basic issues related to marketing and sales processes described below is a clear sign that the organization is not ready for automation. In all likelihood, such an organization will also struggle to clearly measure the effectiveness of marketing and sales, which should operate on a common foundation, processes, and KPI.
Here are 5 things in the marketing and sales processes sector that you need to keep in mind so that money spent on tools does not go to waste.
First, market and customer segmentation
It seems unbelievable, but there are still companies whose sales strategy is reminiscent of the title of the movie "Everything Everywhere All At Once," which received, at the 95th Academy Awards ceremony, as many as 7 statuettes. Unfortunately, the award is unlikely to be given for this type of sales approach. On the other hand, a lack of clarity in market segmentation and the customers we want to address can cost us dearly. If at the core of your business is the belief that you should sell a product to anyone who wants to buy it, and which customers and market segments you want to address communications to is a "fluid" and undefined matter - let go of automation. Before you consider it, think about the market in terms of TAM (Total Adressable Market), SAM (Servicable Available Market), and SOM (Servicable Obtainable Market) criteria, as well as the criteria defining the customers you want to communicate to. Well-specified markets and customers are the foundation for the implementation of marketing automation class tools to make sense.
Second, buyer persona
In the case of B2C companies, specyfuing what kind of customers we want to serve can be done by building so-called buyer personas, i.e. profiles of customers to whom we want to address marketing communications. In B2C marketing, buyer personas are most often built on the basis of demographic, sociographic, or psychographic data of our potential customers. The situation is a bit more complicated in B2B marketing, where the customer is the company. In B2B, we define customers based on criteria such as, for example, industry, country, region, revenue, amount of employment, and many others, which should be defined in an agreement between marketing and sales. Buyer personas themselves are the members of the decision-making committee who influence the selection of the service or solution provided. They have their objections, challenges, and issues facing them. Many times these are issues related not only to their organization, but also to their personal goals and personal status or professional success. Depending on their position, they identify different pre-purchase blockers, define success criteria, and follow different selection criteria. There are many models and templates for building a buyer persona. The key is to choose a persona-building methodology that will open the way to a good understanding of our decision-makers and create maximum personalized communication. Only such communication should be considered in the context of automation.
Third, Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
Ideal Customer Profile is often confused with Buyer Persona. ICP, however, is more related to customer segmentation than buyer personas. The Ideal Customer Profile identifies the characteristics of those customers with whom we most want to work. The ICP does not necessarily identify the largest and most prestigious customers. The Ideal Customer Profile is a set of criteria that identifies those customers who are most profitable for us. The aforementioned profitability is determined by analyzing, among other factors, such as the Annual Contract Value (ACV), the average sales value over the period of the entire relationship with the customer (Lifetime Value (LTV)), the duration and complexity of the sales process, the degree of burden on the organization required to deliver the product or service to the customer, etc. By analyzing and determining the aforementioned factors, in relation to the different types of customers served by the organization, we are able to specify those customers on which the organization should focus the most in order to ensure stable growth and comfort. A good determination of ICP is a great reference point for Account Based Marketing activities, i.e. focused on a narrow group of high-priority potential customers for the organization.
Fourth, definitions of leads
Prospect, MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead), SAL (Sales Accepted Lead), SQL (Sales Qualified Lead), warm lead, cold lead, Opportunity - at first glance from the number of possible definitions and stages of lead conversion in the marketing and sales process one can get dizzy. This is compounded by the fact that there is no single correct and universal definition of each of the terms mentioned. The reason for this, however, is quite simple. Depending on what the organization is selling and to whom, the definitions of leads can vary. The most important thing, however, is that the criteria and definitions used should be understood in the same way in both marketing and sales. Without this, it won't be possible to create processes by which marketing knows how to drive the leads that sales wants to handle. This, in turn, is the foundation for automation, measuring the effectiveness of both departments and forecasting results.
In terms of defining leads, B2C businesses, and in particular the e-commerce industry, where the role of the salesperson is virtually nonexistent, are in a slightly more comfortable reality. The situation becomes much more complicated for B2B. A very broad spectrum of criteria can be used to determine individual definitions, among which are geographic, industry, revenue-related, type of organization, size of individual departments in the company, etc. The offer and the addressed customer segments have a key impact on what criteria we use to determine what kind of lead we are dealing with at each stage of the marketing and sales process.
Fifth, the customer journey
One measure of an organization's marketing maturity is the existence of marketing processes that can be automated. The processes, in order to fulfill their role, must be based on knowledge of the customer path (Customer Journey). There are various models and tools for so-called customer journey mapping, i.e. determining the points of contact between the customer and our products or services. By identifying such points of contact, we are able to effectively identify channels to reach the customer and provide him, through our marketing activities, with the kind of experience he expects at a given stage of his path. Different information needs, emotions, and experiences accompany customers at the stage of building awareness of a given product or service, others when considering solutions available on the market, and still others during the purchase process. It is in the context of the customer journey that automated marketing activities should be thought of. No one likes to get an overabundance of offers when they haven't even considered a purchase for a while, but everyone wants easy access to information when comparing competing products or providers of a particular service.
The key in well-automated marketing activities is to configure in MA-class systems such automations that are tailored to a particular stage in the customer path and trigger when a potential customer comes across our company while looking for a solution to their problem. This is why the implementation of marketing automation brings the best results in marketing-mature organizations, i.e. those where tested, written, and proven marketing processes are in place. Well-thought-out and customer journey based processes and marketing funnels that launch themselves at the right moment are much more effective than "shooting" blindly at selected groups or databases with customer data, among which only 3% on average are interested in buying. Automating ill-tuned and non-personalized actions can yield positive results in the form of interested customers - provided we manage to "shoot" someone from the aforementioned 3% of active buyers. Thus, a large base and automation seem to be quite a temptation, because if an action will be carried out by an automaton and someone can buy our product thanks to it, why not try it? Leaving aside the rather obvious issues of RODO, especially in the case of direct marketing activities, it is worth realizing that it is not a method before deciding on such an action. It's just a statistic, and that statistic works both ways. In addition to the 3% of active buyers, we reach, with uninvited purchase offers, 97% of uninterested people, a huge part of whom will not want to buy anything from us for a very long time after such an experience.
Choosing the right marketing automation tools can make one's head spin. Many MarTech-class tools available for as little as a few hundred PLN per month offer the ability to automate basic marketing processes. Choosing the right tool depends on the scale and type of business (B2B vs. B2C) and the processes you want to automate. GetResponse, ActiveCampaign, and SALESmanago are examples of tools that offer quite a lot of capabilities at a monthly cost that is within the reach of small and medium-sized companies. With a larger scale of business, complex products, and multiple decision makers, as is often the case in B2B companies, it is worth looking at the capabilities of market leaders.
There are several major players at the global forefront. Among them, it is worth mentioning Marketo, a B2B marketing automation platform from Adobe, which has relatively recently joined the ranks of marketing automation leaders. Oracle's Eloqua is a software that has been known for years and offers a great deal of potential, which will work well for B2B companies operating in many markets and addressing many varied audience segments with their communications. Speaking of world leaders, it's impossible not to mention Microsoft Dynamics 365, an ecosystem of CRM and ERP class tools that allow you to manage various types of business processes, including marketing automation. Also among the world's leaders is HubSpot, known for its intuitiveness and great capabilities, which has specialized in tools for efficient management and automation of marketing and sales processes in B2B. Number 1 in the world, in terms of market share, for many years has been Salesforce - an expert in cloud-based CRM solutions. Salesforce, with a view to marketing automation in B2C companies, has prepared a solution called Marketing Cloud. And for B2B companies, the global leader in cloud solutions has created a tool called Pardot.
The global podium of marketing automation system providers has remained unchanged for years, with Salesforce, Microsoft, and HubSpot constantly competing for the leader's jersey. Which marketing automation system works best for a particular company depends on the agreement and alignment of the goals of the marketing, sales, and IT departments. Once the marketing and sales issues are sorted out, and Salesforce is among the solutions being considered, it's worth talking to vendors such as Britenet - a company with a record of certifications and experts and a long-time Salesforce partner. As mentioned in the article, the ecosystem of CRM and MA tools can only be used to its full potential if it is fed with quality data. Therefore, it is worth ensuring that the vendor, taking care of the company's IT systems, is competent in this area as well. If you want to implement or improve existing IT systems that support marketing processes, you should start working with the right partner. Britenet has extensive experience in big data, data science, and business intelligence, as well as offers solutions such as Customer Axis which makes it a valuable and trustworthy technology partner.