Marketing Automation: First Ask Yourself Why

The excitement around marketing automation systems and the extended lead nurturing activities they enable shows no sign of abating within the B2B community. ExactTarget’s acquisition of Marketing Automation provider Pardot and the news that Oracle has completed their acquisition of Eloqua are just two examples of the industry’s response to a significant marketing trend – that more and more marketers are looking for comprehensive platforms that go well beyond traditional email to manage campaigns and long-term prospect engagements.

And that’s a great thing. These multifaceted tools are enabling marketers to deliver more relevant, timely and – ultimately – more impactful information to their prospect base, monitor prospects’ every electronic “footstep,” score and grade prospects on a multitude of characteristics, and much more.

While every indication shows a substantial increase in the usage of advanced marketing tools throughout 2013, we still see a troubling number of organizations that struggle to fully understand the substantial benefits these tools offer.  For many, the answer to optimizing both the tools and the process of longer-term lead evaluation and nurturing requires a deep breath and a step back.

What many seem to lose sight of during the euphoria of launching the first drip campaign is answering the question, “Why did I start down this path in the first place?”

Was it to better address the changing buying habits? Was it to offset staff reductions in the marketing department that make email campaign execution more difficult? Was it to avoid the constant nagging from the sales team that marketing leads are worthless? Was it to stop the, “How much revenue have you generated for me lately?” hallway conversations with the CEO?

In all seriousness, we all have (or should have) a set of definable reasons for adopting the change management process and challenges these approaches take to master.

We like to think of automation as the next frontier that will revolutionize marketing from the ground up.  It no doubt will over time.  But as a first step in this grand transformation, maybe it would make sense to formalize and communicate the top 3-5 immediate things you want your shiny new tool to do for you as you socialize the value of Automation to internal stakeholders.

Establishing these initial goals as a baseline for longer-term evaluation will provide you with a roadmap for regular review and should help to keep everyone in agreement as to expectations and results.

If you are fortunate enough that your execs are satisfied with just the long-term ROI benefits delivered by marketing automation and a complete marketing retooling, that’s great. For many, dealing with shorter-term requirements and setting the stage with more modest, immediate and measurable objectives just might offer a better path for success.

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