To Automate or Not to Automate Your B2B Marketing – by Christopher Ryan
I just read an excellent article by Lauren Carlson titled Tailwinds for Marketing Automation Software. I suggest you give it a read if you want to see the macro trends that are driving more companies to use technology to manage their marketing processes. I’ve been in the B2B marketing business quite a long time and co-founded a marketing automation software company so I have seen many successful marketing automation projects as well as a number of disasters.
Leo Tolstoy begins his novel Anna Karenina with the observation, “Every happy family is the same, but unhappy families are all different.” Likewise, successful marketing automation implementations seem to share the same characteristics while the reasons for failures span a wide gamut. Let’s discuss four of the issues you need to beware of:
Complexity – Many of the marketing automation programs have a lot of horsepower; they come with tons of functionality, but are very difficult to install, use and maintain. In an earlier life, a company I worked for purchased such a system at a cost of over $150,000, then had to hire a full-time administrator to manage the technology and train people how to use it – and all of this money and effort for a marketing department with only a dozen people. The project was a spectacular failure. Lesson learned: Don’t buy marketing unless it is very easy to use and intuitive. If you can’t figure it out without a trainer, don’t use it.
Poor Integration – Remember that the primary goal of any marketing system is to support the revenue goals of the company. You will probably have problems if your program is not designed to easily integrate with your sales force automation (SFA) system. This is why integrated CRM suites like Salesforce are so popular.
Lack of IT Support – The IT department usually has enough on its plate that the marketing department will have to stand in line to receive their help. This is why systems built on Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms are becoming so prevalent. There is no software or hardware to install and they require little if any IT support. Users can access the system anywhere they have a Web browser.
High Cost – Most B2B marketing departments don’t have gobs of extra cash lying around and it is tough to convince a CFO that a marketing automation system will provide a good return on investment. This is another good reason to consider a Web-based (SaaS) system. These are paid for on a monthly or annual pay-as-you-go basis, not as a capital expense. Marketing departments can often carve a few hundred dollars per month out of their operating budget to pay for a SaaS solution.
If you do decide to use a marketing automation solution, do a lot of homework and make sure you keep these challenges in mind. You can definitely be one of the “happy family” success stories.