Marketing Automation Roundtable

I participated in a great round table discussion at the Mass Technology Leadership Council this morning. The group discussion touched on a wide range of issues related to deploying marketing automation systems. Some of the key success factors are summarized below by stage:

Planning

Executive buy-in and expectation management: To be successful, marketing automation projects require integration with other enterprise systems and repositories. Getting top level support for cross departmental cooperation is critical to long term success. However, project leaders must also be very concerned about executive expectations in terms of how quickly they will see measurable improvements in revenue. This is a function of your sales cycle and executives must have a clear vision of the time it will take to get hard numbers to report on.

Data management: MA systems are only as good as the fuel you put in them. Data quality measured by consistency, accuracy, and freshness will determine the fate of your MA project. Typical challenges include: de-duping contacts and accounts, harmonizing account hierarchies (who owns whom), enterprise standards for customer data, ongoing resources for data governance.

Cross departmental support: In the long run, MA systems, unlike other enterprise systems such as CRM, billing, support, etc. are wholly dependent on how well they are integrated with other systems. Specifically, the extent and efficiency of the closed loop reporting process from response to revenue. This requires cross functional support in terms of:

Data standards

SLAs between groups regarding issues such as:

Definitions for lead advancement

Engagement commitments (how long and how many touches to accept, reject, claw back, etc.)

Transparency and visibility of customer touch points from marketing to sales, finance, service, and support.

Scoping and Roadmap: Defining your marketing automation project vis-à-vis business objectives is critical for success. The project leader, business users, executives, as well as your implementation partner and vendor all need to have a very clear vision of where you will start and how you will build over time. At each stage of the roadmap It is important to scope, define, and communicate:

What processes are being automated

What metrics will be used to measure the success of the project and the performance of the system

What resources are necessary to implement, support and use the system

What output is expected from the system

Staffing and skills: MA systems require new skill sets and approaches to marketing. Technical skills with MA tools and analytics, as well as good process mapping are in high demand. They are difficult to hire, and once trained will raise the market value of your staff so be prepared.

Deployment

Campaign workflows: The key is not to get too far into the weeds in terms of nurturing workflow models. MA tools are capable of designing incredibly complex routing - marketers should err on the side of simplicity when getting started and build based on business drivers not just technical capabilities.

Integration: System level integration with the CRM is a must out of the gate. If not available from the start, integration with other systems should be planned on the roadmap for the MA implementation.

Training: MA requires new skills in terms of campaign design, execution, and analytics. This is a lot to ramp up on for the novice MA user. Training programs should be designed specifically for each type of user as they will have very different use cases with respect to system functionality.

Post Implementation

Measurement and reporting: This remains a commonly cited weakness of most MA implementations. All leading providers have decent reporting capabilities built into their solutions. But it can be confusing about what to report to whom. This gets more complicated the higher you go on the marketing org chart. The needs of a campaign managers can be met with data that is germane to the system , but marketing executives need a perspective that goes beyond the marketing department. They need metrics that show influence on the sales pipeline, into deal size and velocity, and customer lifetime value. Marketing has a key role to play in all stages of the customer experience.

Social/inbound marketing activity is another common point of disaggregation. IDC expects that to see new tools to better assimilate unstructured social data into the formal lead management process so that, at least retroactively, marketers can measure the outcomes related to social engagement.

Overall, the marketing automation landscape continues to be highly fragmented with new media, channels, and tools cropping up daily. While there has been some consolidation over the past three years, IDC expects to see much greater M&A activity over the next three as major tech players look to build infrastructure offerings that integrate all customer facing functions.