train-trackBy Brian Hansford, director of client services and marketing automation practice lead for Heinz Marketing

Marketing automation initiatives have tremendous potential. However many companies under perform after just a few months of platform usage and there are many reasons for the letdown.  As we approach 2014 now is the time to plan for getting the initiative back on track.

Here are common causes for a marketing automation initiative falling short of expectations:

  1. No defined demand generation strategy.
  2. Weak leadership and missing executive sponsorship.
  3. Overselling how quickly marketing automation will deliver results, and missing what the results will be.
  4. Failure to correctly integrate marketing automation with CRM.
  5. Limited focus on training internal resources to build internal operating experience.
  6. Using marketing automation as an overpowered email blast engine with no nurturing, scoring, or inbound marketing configuration.
  7. Failure to measure metrics that matter, and effectively communicate results.
  8. Complete lack of a content marketing strategy for any campaign efforts.
  9. Not holding the marketing automation vendor accountable for successful start-up and ongoing support.

Get your Marketing Automation initiative back on track with these important steps:

1.       Define the demand generation strategy and objectives first

What are the revenue goals for 2014? What is the overall plan to meet those goals? How will demand generation map to major events throughout the year? What

2.       B2B marketing involves marketing to people

People are emotional and sometimes follow seemingly irrational paths through the famous Buyer’s Journey.  Use marketing automation to support a process that provides the right information, at the right time, to the right people.

3.       Process Design

Marketing Automation is a process enabler that supports a bigger strategy. Marketing automation is not a strategy in itself.  Build the strategy with the desired outcomes.  The process should support the strategy.  This is where the definitions of leads and opportunities come into play.

4.       Focus on the Metrics that Matter

What is the required Marketing contribution for leads for the upcoming year? How many Marketing Qualified Leads flow into Opportunities and Closed Sales? Focus on the metrics that matter.  Don’t send your CEO the email report on email open rates and click through rates.  That data is meaningless if you can’t track contributions to revenue, the sales funnel, and overall leads delivered to sales.

5.       Gap Analysis

Evaluate the gaps where your org falls short with demand gen and marketing automation. Look at everything with the Process, Platform, People and Content. Plan how to fill the gaps in order to support the demand generation strategy.

6.       Leadership – Quit being the tail on the dog

Too often a demand generation strategy is left to a manager level marketing resource with limited support.  The people in these situations react to situations instead of operating with a plan.  Make sure your people have the leadership to work with Sales, communicate the results, and stay on track with the demand generation strategy.

7.       People – Invest in your most important resource

Marketing automation gives the impression with the name alone that marketing can be automated.  Don’t even go there and don’t let Sales or other CxO’s believe that for a minute.  Marketing automation is hard and requires an ongoing effort of continually building knowledge and skills on the technology, understanding how to engage customers, developing content, and building processes.  People need training to keep initiatives running efficiently and effectively over the course of the year.

8.       Hold your Marketing Automation Vendor Accountable. 

Time and again I hear from a marketing VP or a marketing operations manager that their marketing automation vendor has left implementations and onboarding incomplete. The vendor’s customer success manager has too many accounts and they only contact each customer once a month, if that.  And too often clients get the suggestion “have you checked our blog/knowledgebase/outdated support portal?” This is unacceptable. Your marketing automation vendor should proactively work with you provide you with the plan to lead towards your success and self-sufficiency.  To be fair, blaming your marketing automation vendor for all that ails your demand generation is unacceptable as well.

9.       Database Health – Get your house in order

2014 will be the year database health becomes a strategic imperative for marketing automation.  I have heard of several enterprise organizations with marketing automation that have been blacklisted by ISP’s for poor email practices resulting from dirty database data. Reputation and revenue are at stake with a dirty database. This is no longer 2002 when a cluttered database is acceptable.  Plan for data hygiene in 2014 or lose your job!

10.   Content – wake up!

No more excuses in 2014 for a lack of content. Content fuels how you engage with customers through any channel and especially with marketing automation.  Without content, campaigns don’t have any story to tell. Without content, you’re dead in the water with any demand generation effort.

Just Do it!

Don’t be that marketing team that uses marketing automation as an overpowered email blaster in 2014.  Now is the time to build and execute a demand generation strategy the right way with marketing automation.  How are you planning to evolve and improve your marketing operations in 2014?