Are You Ready For Marketing Automation?
POSTED : November 20, 2013
BY : PK

Most marketers these days are aware of the buzz surrounding Marketing Automation. But many marketers still haven’t taken the plunge.  In February 2013, ClickZ published a study of Fortune 500 B2B companies which found only 25% were using Marketing Automation. Still, it appears more and more likely that for businesses of all sizes the question is not about whether to use marketing automation, but when and in what form. If you are thinking about implementing Marketing Automation, here are 3 things to think about before you do.

Fit to your customer

Think about who your customer is, and how they come to their purchase decision. High involvement purchases benefit the most from Marketing Automation. When the sales cycle is long and the buyer spends a lot of time researching options, Marketing Automation tools excel. These tools help by remembering the researcher and nurturing them through the research process. Leads are nurtured with emails and calls from salespeople at just the right time. With low involvement purchases, the customer comes to a decision before Marketing Automation can really help.

Another dimension of your customers to consider is how they reach you. Marketing Automation software is usually integrated into your website and uses email to keep in touch with prospects. If most of your traffic is on foot, or your customers really prefer face-to-face sales meetings, your need for automation is less. Some level of automation may still be appropriate, but you won’t need as many features if most of your traffic is still on foot.

Fit to your business

When considering Marketing Automation, don’t forget about your business model.  Some sales channels won’t benefit from Marketing Automation. If you usually sell through partners, Marketing Automation on your own webpage won’t make much sense. You may still want to look at some features, however, such as email marketing and event management for keeping in touch with your sales channels.

Think also about your brand, and how it will be affected by automated contact and tracking. What depth of relationship is appropriate for your industry, product, and target customer? Although tracking with cookies and auto-generated emails are commonplace, they may not be appropriate for your business. As privacy concerns are on the rise, many consumers are wary of how much businesses know about them.

A key component integrating Marketing Automation into your business is your resources: not only to pay for the software but to run it in a way that shows you the benefits. Budget will be a major determinant in what platform you adopt, but so will the ability of your team to keep it running. Consider the time it takes your current team to generate and nurture leads, and how much time it will take them to manage the new system. More complicated systems can both save time and consume it, so be sure you know exactly how much money and time you can afford to spend.

Fit to your business systems

Marketing Automation software, like most software these days, needs to be connected to your other databases, systems and software to deliver the maximum results. Salesforce.com integration is nearly standard across all of the available platforms, but some do it better than others. If you are using a different contact management solution, be sure you know what it is and how it will be able to connect to the automation platform.

The same goes for your CRM system. Some platforms can integrate into your CRM solution, and others cannot. If you don’t have a CRM system, you may want to consider getting one. Automation platforms can do a great deal of tracking on their own, but linking to purchase history provides a depth of analysis that will help you prove results in loyalty and revenue, not just lead generation.

Think also about your IT infrastructure: web-based software is fabulously easy to maintain, but your server-bound systems that it connects to may not be as up-to-date. Check with your IT department before you get too far ahead of yourself.

Also, discuss security and risk tolerance with your IT department. The cloud is not for everyone. Tracking your potential customers can be a sore subject, and leaving their personal information in the cloud might be a non-starter. Think about all of the data you want to collect, and where you want it to be stored.

Conclusion

Marketing Automation is getting a lot of buzz these days, but the most popular platforms may not be right for all businesses. Careful consideration of the customer, the business and the business systems can help determine if Marketing Automation is a good fit. This process may reveal that automation is great, but the business systems are not ready yet, or it may uncover unique needs that inform that platform selection process. Those companies that really understand how Marketing Automation fits their business are more likely to select an appropriate platform and see results. Part 2 of this blog series will help you think about which marketing automation software is best for your business.

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