5 things I wish I knew before implementing marketing automation

by Justine Tabone

With a greater number of organisations seeking to differentiate their customer journeys, the use of marketing automation continues to explode. Despite this trend, many organisations struggle to realise value when implementing this type of technology. In this post, we reveal 5 key considerations for implementing marketing automation and accelerating the path to value.

Marketing automation technology is exponentially growing as a key tool to help organisations connect with customers in more relevant, engaging ways. In fact, 92% of global marketers have signalled they will use CRM and marketing analytics by 2019, according to an international survey of 3,500 marketing leaders.1

However, while technology offers potentially game-changing capability, many organisations struggle to use their marketing automation tools to their full potential. We have distilled several hard-won lessons from our own experience leveraging marketing automation technology in-house at Blackdot, as well as from our experience supporting clients. Here are 5 strategic insights that can lead to successful, sustainable realisation of value from marketing automation in your organisation:

1) Marketing automation is only an amplifier

Marketing automation offers the potential to substantially scale your strategy, people and processes. However to achieve results, these key underlying elements must be strong. If they are non-existent or suboptimal, marketing automation will only amplify these weaknesses instead of heightening your strengths.

This connection between technology, strategy, people and process can be easily overlooked given the glossy value propositions offered by marketing automation vendors. It is common for marketing leaders (and broader executive stakeholders) to have high expectations of a silver bullet solution. Whilst the technology genuinely offers game-changing capability, consideration of strategy, people, and process alongside this is key to realising success.

Commonly overlooked elements across these categories include:

  • Strategy – A clear use case and strategy around marketing automation to demonstrate results and return-on-investment back to the business
  • People – Necessary skillsets, as well as effective governance mechanisms and ways of working, for how marketing will effectively work with IT to implement and drive adoption
  • Process – Defined and effective cross-functional workflows and processes across marketing and sales (and often service)

2) Marketing automation success depends on data quality

Whether an organisation’s marketing automation strategy lives or dies is linked to the quality of the data collected. An initial challenge for many organisations is that the state of customer and prospect data is not only poor but is also sitting in multiple locations across the business.

Bringing these data sources together and investing time and resources to clean them up will substantially accelerate your ability to leverage marketing automation. When considering how to enhance data quality and access, some of the key questions which must be addressed include:
  • What are the key data points to collect across the customer journey? How will we use them to add value?
  • What will be our single source of truth? For example: will it be marketing data from form fills, or data updated by salespeople in the CRM?
  • Who will update data for different customers or journey stages?
  • How will we monitor for and solve for duplicate entries in our data which inevitably accrue?

By taking these questions into account, you will be able to obtain complete, accurate customer and prospect data which allows your marketing team to deliver accurate personalisation and relevance.

3) Marketing automation will starve without content

While your marketing automation engine may start out small, it will soon turn into a beast hungry for one food only: content. What most organisations realise shortly after investing in these types of platforms is that to deliver an automated, scalable customer journey, you will need a significant amount of content to back this up.

“While your marketing automation engine may start out small, it will soon turn into a beast hungry for one food only: content.”

Justine Tabone, Senior Manager, Blackdot

Organisations will have to feed their marketing automation engine increasing amounts of content as it grows. Strong content assets with effective calls-to-action are essential. However, a wide range of campaign assets (typically with multiple iterations for various personas and channels) are also critical for delivering personalised and automated journeys. Unfortunately, many businesses do not plan for the content strategy and content generation capabilities required to fully sustain this growing marketing automation engine.

4) Marketing automation is not just ‘set and forget’

There is much more to the success of marketing automation than just implementing the technology itself; a significant upfront build is required. Since most buyer journeys are fluid and complex, typically a complex array of automated journey steps need to be built out to distribute content accurately across the various potential permutations in a customer journey.

Even once all this is created, the work will not stop. These automated journeys will require constant monitoring, refining and rebuilding to keep them relevant and enhance their effectiveness. In addition, releases and evolution of the platform itself are ongoing, so organisations will also need to continually update skillsets and revisit their tech and data strategies.

5) Marketing automation relies on sophisticated skillsets

Technology implementation and adoption cannot deliver the proper results without the people to drive it. A combination of platform sophistication, the fact that mainstream marketing automation is relatively new, and a general shortage of technology talent all combine to make securing the right skills difficult. For organisations building the talent rather than acquiring it, a substantial learning curve is required to leverage full functionality.

“Technology implementation and adoption cannot deliver the proper results without the people to drive it.”

Chris Horn, Executive Director, Products & Marketing, Blackdot

Organisations should be proactive in filling their recruitment pipeline with digital and data-driven marketers. This means a change may be required in both the hiring process and ongoing training and people development. Marketing teams need to build capabilities that include both the ‘art and science’ of marketing and embrace a test and learn mindset. To keep up with the ongoing investment in people that is required, marketers need to learn to effectively communicate their achievements and successes back to the business, at all levels and across functions.

Getting the most out of marketing automation
These 5 points reflect the common realisations that occur after buying a marketing automation platform. Whether you are considering the technology or are already on the path to leveraging it, reflecting on these insights and ensuring they are addressed will minimise your organisation’s chances of making common errors and help accelerate the path to value.

Find out more:

To learn more about leveraging the power of automation across the entire organisation, read our whitepaper, Integrating & Digitising Marketing, Sales & Service, or see how we can assist with customer journey automation in the digital age.  

Worded by Justine Tabone & Chris Horn.

Salesforce 4th Annual State of Marketing Report