Six Problems that can’t be Solved with Marketing Technology

Marketing Technology BarrierIn my column for CustomerThink last month titled, My Love/Hate Relationship With Sales and Marketing Technology: 6 Lessons Learned, I talked about the reasons why so many of us have been frustrated with sales and marketing technology. One of the primary reasons is the huge imbalance about what is promised and what is delivered.

This overselling of benefits is a boost to the bottom line of technology providers but offers pitfalls for B2B companies and their marketing organizations. One example is a recent conversation I had with a software company CEO who had been talking to one of the more prominent marketing automation companies about installing their very expensive marketing suite. I was amazed that this very technically-smart CEO was made to believe that the new software would be the answer to his marketing challenges.

In this particular case, the software company had poor messaging aimed at the wrong audience as well as several other significant challenges. Here are some of the common barriers that I see that need to be addressed before implementing marketing technology.

Six Barriers to Marketing Technology Success

  1. Poor messaging. As in the above example, if the messaging is wrong or just substandard, new technology is not going to make everything right. It takes creativity and a good amount of elbow grease to figure out exactly where the right fit is between what you are offering and challenges faced by your target audience.
  2. Siloed data. In a recent CustomerThink article, A Customer Data Platform (or Any Technology) Can’t Solve Your Organizational Problems, author Buck Webb made an important point about technology limitations: “What a customer data platform cannot do, however, is solve the organizational problems inherent in breaking down data silos and closing the gap between customer engagement strategy and execution.” The article continues: “Every organization has functional data silos, which have grown organically over the years. For example, sales owns sales data, service owns service data, and marketing owns marketing data.”
  3. Ineffective lead-to-revenue (L2R) model. Lead-to-revenue is a marketing and sales framework that optimizes people, processes and technology in a synchronized manner to produce higher revenue, shortened sales cycles and improved close rates. Lead-to-revenue spans every activity from initial marketing outreach, to lead nurture, sales engagement and close. L2R success is measured by revenue and profitability metrics. Get your L2R model right first and then implement the appropriate technology to support the model. Please don’t start with the technology.
  4. Broken marketing processes. If your processes (e.g. campaign management, email marketing) are not following industry best practices and your human resources don’t have the right expertise, you need to prioritize this before buying any software. Automating broken processes only leads you to failure faster!
  5. Mediocre product marketing. This is such an important barrier to marketing and sales success that I will write about it in detail in the next few weeks. Basically, the person(s) who owns product marketing is responsible for a number of important functions, whose critical failures will become apparent when technology is introduced.
  6. Organizational roadblocks. Two critical organizational components are necessary for marketing technology success. First, buy-in from the executive team. I’ve seen marketing teams go “rogue” and implement solutions despite a lack of support from the C-suite. This almost never ends well. The other issue is the ability and willingness of the marketing team and other staff to embrace the new solution, even if it means a major change in the way they are doing things.

Just to be clear, I am not advocating that you not implement marketing technology. Heck, I’ve worked in three companies (including my own start-up) that provided this type of software. In fact, implementing marketing automation technology can force you to address the six issues above. But there is no doubt you will be a lot more successful if you address and overcome these six barriers as early as possible.

How to Choose the Right Marketing Automation Technology

Marketing automation technologyIn my last post, I talked about how the promise of marketing automation is often not matched by the reality. And one of the most important aspects of achieving success is to make sure your technology is a good fit with the size of your organization and the complexity of your marketing and sales processes.

Here are a few guidelines to help you make the right selection.

  1. Processes should lead, not technology. By this, we mean that you need to thoroughly understand your business objectives and develop the processes that best drive the objectives. Only then should you look at technology. For example, your business may be heavily reliant on telesales, so you must consider integrating this key process when looking at MA system features.
  2. Pay attention to two important acronyms: Time-to-Value (TtV) and return on investment (ROI). In short, you want quick TtV and large ROI.
  3. Ease of use is a crucial factor. Any product you consider should not come with a steep learning curve. We have seen many expensive systems neglected or underutilized because they were too complex for the average user. Back when software was actually delivered in boxes, we referred to this as “shelfware” because you would find the software sitting on someone’s shelf, not being used.
  4. Flexibility is critical. Even if your software fits your needs today, it may not do so if your business processes change. Make sure you have systems that are configurable – which means they can be changed without software coding and expensive outside resources.
  5. Make sure the solution is scalable. By this we mean that you will not have to purchase a new solution or significantly upgrade your existing solution as your company, data and number of users grows. At the most, you should only be required to add new licenses.
  6. Pick the right deployment model. For most companies, a Cloud/SaaS solution is the right option. Cloud software is much easier to implement, requires no hardware purchases and can be operated anywhere the user can get to an online connection. It also tends to be much easier to customize/configure than on- premise solutions.
  7. Find the right balance between a proven solution and new technology. The solution with the most customers may be appealing, but it could be based on an older architecture that gives you less flexibility at a higher price.
  8. Don’t forget integration. If you already have a CRM or marketing automation (MA) application, it is best to choose a new technology that works well with your existing solution. In particular, pay attention to your CRM, demand generation tools and website. Systems that don’t play well together cause lots of headaches.
  9. Monitor marketing metrics. Make sure your chosen solution allows you to capture the key performance indicators important to your marketing operation.

Note: this post was excerpted from our new whitepaper, Navigating the B2B Marketing Automation Minefield.

Why Too Much Marketing Automation Can Be Worse than Not Enough

Marketing AutomationThere is an oft-repeated expression among boaters: “The two happiest days in a boater’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells that same boat.” Having owned sailboats in a prior life, I can definitely relate to this statement. Likewise, many B2B marketers who are so excited by the prospect of marketing automation as an easy answer to many of their problems can find that it creates as many problems as it solves.

As I write about in our new whitepaper, Navigating the B2B Marketing Automation Minefield, we see five common problems with MA systems:

  1. Too complex. Companies have bitten off more MA than they can chew. They intend to self-implement and utilize an existing employee to manage the system. But in reality, it often takes one or more outside consultants to implement, and before you know it, your part-time system coordinator becomes a full-time system administrator. Even worse, if the system administrator leaves or becomes ill, the system is paralyzed.
  2. Lack of process. The most effective MA implementations are highly flexible and driven by a well-thought-out process. Conversely, failed systems often force an overly cumbersome set of processes on managers and users, which often leads to a lack of usage and a slow death for the system.
  3. Poor data quality. Marketing and sales technologies are only as good as their data. And if that data is old, inaccurate or spotty, the system will produce poor results. Best to clean and normalize your data before implementation. For MA, this starts with your list data and extends through your collateral and website.
  4. Solving the wrong problem. We had a client who believed the answer to their marketing problems was to purchase a fairly expensive MA system. However, their root problem was poor messaging and the inability to qualify the trickle of leads they were already generating. Fortunately, we were able to redirect focus to solving these problems first, and then help them implement an effective MA system.
  5. Little or no integration with sales department. Great synergy is achieved if the marketing and sales functions follow a seamless lead-to-revenue path. Conversely, if these two functions (and associated technologies) are not coordinated efficiently, results will be poor. For example, if the lead nurturing stage is skipped and the marketing department sends poor quality leads to the sales department labeled as MQLs (marketing qualified leads), the sales team is going to be unhappy regardless of the sophistication of the technology.

I realize that this post is all about problems and not solutions to marketing automation challenges — but as they say, you have to admit you have a problem before you can solve it. (Twelve-step programs come to mind: “Hi, I’m Chris and I am a recovering business software user.”)

We’ll talk about solutions in my next post. In the meantime, feel free to download the new whitepaper.

Nine Critical Criteria For Selecting Lead-to-Revenue Technology

B2B Sales MachineMy team and I write lots of content for our B2B clients. We also keep our own content stream flowing with fresh and relevant content related to B2B marketing and sales.  To this end, I started writing a white paper on the Lead-to-Revenue (L2R) strategies we use to help clients meet their revenue objectives. 9,000 words later, the white paper has turned into an eBook, which we expect to have published in early May.

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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.