Marketing Automation is Not Magic

Tuesday, January 13, 2015 @ 09:49

By: Matthew Russo, Digital Marketing Specialist – Marketers have always faced a tough job in balancing practicality and gusto. Whether it is the glamour and glitz envisioned for a campaign versus the time and effort needed to bring it to life, trade-offs in generating new revenue versus the investment required to capture it, or innovative work-saving methods being handicapped by the slow pace of technology departments. The triangle of quality, quantity, and cost has been a tangled map that we navigate instinctively, using any available analytics to help light the way.

The promise of marketing automation software is changing digital marketers’ perception. Old rules of what limits success no longer apply. New automation and data mining tools allow marketers to merge theory and practice in ways not previously possible. Data-driven marketing decisions are becoming the norm, and marketers are embracing the notion that Marketing Automation will not only make jobs easier, but the results more accurate, predictable, and repeatable. We may finally realize some of the visions that were put on ice.

Yet, with the many marketing automation tools available today, results are still elusive and our jobs are still hard. Very hard. So what went wrong? Absolutely nothing.

There is No Substitute for Hard Work

Marketing automation has certainly opened up new doors, adding capabilities that we as marketers have been longing for. However, we expected to do more with less. We expected that “automation” would do the work for us. We expected that careful calibration of our investment and our technology solutions would result in record-breaking ROI. We expected that we would be able to simply push a magic button and the marketing machine would do our jobs for us. Well, marketing automation is not magic.

Hidden behind marketing automation’s magic button is a whole lot of hard work. A technology-enabled machine that is carefully customized and calibrated based on pragmatic thinking, best practices, and good old fashioned hard work. Good people with good tools can do amazing things but your marketing automation system is still just that: a tool. You have to lift it, and move it, and swing it and keep it clean; and like any tool, that investment will make your work easier, faster, better, and cheaper.

How to Automate Your Marketing

Making marketing automation work is not easy, but careful attention to five key areas can get you started in the right direction.

  • Strategy
  • Good Tools
  • Process
  • Governance
  • Help

Strategy

Once the need is identified and marching orders are clear, before marketers can even begin to work, the foundations for success need to be present. A pragmatic and enterprise appropriate strategy is essential. A solid strategy that connects prospects across all the different channels and is focused on customer engagement will ensure you not only make the most of your automation tool investment, but that you are able to close the loop between marketing, sales, and operations, and orchestrate truly connected customer experiences.

Good Tools

Like any good tool, you want the right fit and finish for the job. A marketing automation tool should have a full feature-set capable of supporting all your digital marketing initiatives. Something with the breadth and depth of capabilities and reliability needed for an enterprise-level marketing automation solution. Many tools focus on a few core competencies that force you to deal with bolt-on integrations with other back-office and CMS systems which makes the task of delivering truly connected cross-channel experiences that much more difficult. You should be able to develop and manage your website content, manage and analyze digital marketing campaigns, organize and manipulate your customer and prospect data, all from one place. Tight integration between all your digital tools is essential for long-term and sustainable success. It is no secret what I think the best tool for the job is: Sitecore. That is not to say that there are no other good tools out there, but for enterprise level marketing automation, a battle-tested full-featured platform is essential if you do not want to leave opportunities on the table — and this is an area where Sitecore truly excels.

Process

Once you have a plan, you need to figure out how to work the plan. Having defined processes in place avoids implementation of ad-hoc solutions that are inflexible and can degrade quickly. Defined process also enables organizations to gain sight of all the affected systems and departments, and gives you the opportunity to sync your marketing automation business objectives with other areas of your enterprise. Have a plan for utilizing analytics organization-wide. Consider the entire customer experience when devising personalization and automation scenarios because good marketing automation is not just a marketing and IT department process. Every marketing campaign must be accounted for and every customer and prospect touch-point must be considered in your process in order to ensure a succinct and truly connected experience.

Governance

The marketing world changes quickly, and the technology behind it even more so. Governance ensures your technology decisions are serving your organization’s long term goals. Governance ensures an executive sponsor has a vested interest in the impact your marketing automation will have on the organization. It ensures the current plan is in accord with future plans, and that your efforts will generate tangible business value. Too often we find organizations with orphaned tools or processes that bring little to no value and cause operational inefficiencies. Proper governance over your marketing automation programs and investments helps ensure that the stakeholders in c-suites are happy, and that your organizations investment in marketing automation is paying off and will continue to do so for a long time.

Get Help

Be leery of engineering your marketing automation solution in a vacuum, only including the tasks you feel most comfortable with, or ones your team is currently able to support. Very few organizations have enough specialization in house to support a marketing automation platform entirely on their own. If you find your organization with more questions than answers, and constantly training employees, only to gain a limited understanding of the technologies and tactics required, you may need help. Getting help from an experienced technology partner ensures the human capital needed to get a marketing automation program stood up, and offers an opportunity to learn from their experiences and get your organization on the fast track in a very new field.

Although marketing automation is not magic, customizing and implementing an automation platform so it fits perfectly within your organization and provides sustainable value may require a bit of web development sorcery to get the job done.

 

Matt Russo
Matt is a Sitecore Certified Developer who works for Paragon Consulting as their Digital Marketing Specialist. He looks after the Paragon brand’s digital marketing initiatives, and consults with Paragon clients to help them better leverage their Sitecore platforms digital marketing capabilities.