We hear it often: a company makes a hefty investment in marketing automation but only uses it to send occasional blast emails. The reality, of course, is that the company will never see the jump in leads and sales — or in its bottom line — it anticipated when it took the marketing automation plunge.
“85 percent of companies say they underutilize marketing automation”
Plenty of studies confirm what we hear firsthand. In the last two years, a SiriusDecisions survey found that 85 percent of companies say they underutilize marketing automation.
A lack of analytical skills among employees might be part of the problem, but the platform’s usability and infrastructure matter, too, and can make or break the outcomes. What, then, are the major contributors of marketing automation underuse? Here’s a look at four:
A long ramp up period
Nothing is more frustrating than investing big in a new technology, only to find that it takes extensive training and manpower to get up and running. But that’s the case with many popular marketing automation platforms.
What makes ramp up so time-consuming? Consider, for instance, that there are databases to fine-tune and segment, lead scoring algorithms to configure, campaigns and content to create, and notches on your sales funnel to delineate. With such a steep learning curve, ramp up and training can last more than a year, wreaking havoc on your marketing and sales teams’ many other priorities — and prompting them to push marketing automation lower on the list.
A complex approach to campaigns
Success with marketing automation hinges on your ability to build and implement effective marketing campaigns. With most platforms, that’s a tall order. For starters, you have to know your objectives and what part(s) of the sales cycle you’re targeting. You also need to understand your audiences: where do they get information? How do they interact with email? What challenges do they face? Do they know you already, or not? How can your services help? Are they ready to make a purchase, or in need of warming up?
Then come the decisions about channels, communication cadence, messaging, and segmentation, on top of essentials like lead scoring, metrics, and tracking. Once you determine these, there’s figuring out how each campaign interacts with other campaigns, and how you’re going to manage and make adjustments over the course of the campaigns.
With most marketing automation software, campaigns can feel like a full-time job. Make it faster and easier by choosing a platform with campaign templates to guide you through the process, without sacrificing quality or limiting your ability to customize. Look for a system that offers a wide range of templates for a wide range of campaigns, from welcome and webinar campaigns to lead generation and customer engagement initiatives. And vet them before you jump aboard.
Dense reporting and analytics
Marketing automation is an incredibly powerful tool, giving marketers the data and insights they need to make decisions that drive results. But present-day marketers have plenty on their plates, and don’t have time to sift through and analyze endless vats of data. Unfortunately, that’s what many marketing automation platforms require — and why companies are missing out on the technology’s greatest asset.
Time isn’t the only obstacle, however. As you’ve likely heard, the digital marketing skills gap is widening, affecting not only small to midsize businesses but also enterprise-level companies. In fact, an Online Marketing Institute (OMI) survey of 747 execs at Fortune 500 companies found that nearly 50 percent view limited competency in data analysis as a top challenge — second only to inadequate digital marketing budgets.
For marketing automation to work, tracking and reporting mechanisms need to ease, not worsen, the analytical burden on modern marketers. Infographics and data visualizations (like the ones Real Magnet offers) can help immensely.
A lack of content
Of course, your marketing automation effort won’t work without a steady stream of content. Yet many companies underestimate how much they’ll need. Then, with no bandwidth or budget set aside to create content, they have no choice but to scale back their use of marketing automation — or abandon efforts altogether.
Consider, for example, that you can’t really launch a campaign without a series of carefully crafted, custom emails. And the bulk of those emails need to offer something of value to the recipient — an educational blog post, a “how-to” e-book, or an in-depth white paper.
To run multiple campaigns, you’ll need additional content. You can recycle various content pieces (or at least parts of those pieces), but you’ll need someone to coordinate the effort so it runs like a well-oiled machine.
Marketing automation can do a lot for your company — and is opening doors for businesses worldwide. But there’s no point in having it just to have it. You need a set up you can optimize and use fully.
At Real Magnet, we’ve created a simple yet powerful marketing automation solution that’s enabling companies of all sizes (and marketers of all skill sets) to thrive in the 21st-century marketplace. Get in touch to learn how we can help you.