As a marketing automation vendor, you probably expect me to tell you that technology is like a magic bullet—that all you have to do is implement it and you'll be instantly taller and thinner. If only that were true.
The reality is that marketing automation can be extremely powerful. It can provide so much for end users—leverage for limited resources, new insights on leads, and the ability to develop and continue digital conversations with leads over time, thereby increasing revenue. However, technology on its own won't be successful. It's not a magic bullet. It's how people actually apply technology to their business that determines success.
In fact, success often comes down to the people side of the equation. Below are some of the things I see that keep companies from deriving real benefit from their marketing automation investments:
1. Implementing new technology, but doing things the same old way. Marketing automation is so much more than a hyped-up email system. To take full advantage of the technology, a marketing team must also implement complementary new processes and approaches for lead nurturing. They must understand the new insights that are available to them. For example, they'll be able to analyze leads' page viewing behaviors and what they mean in terms of lead interest or their readiness to buy. To be truly successful with marketing automation, marketers must use the intelligence it provides to gain a fresh view of their target audience and decide the best ways to communicate with them over a period of time. Marketers have to realize they are no longer simply generating inquiries and sending them to sales. Instead, they now have the tools to move prospects through the top end of the sales funnel until they are "sales ready."
2. Not revising lead management processes. This mistake and the first are closely intertwined. If you just plug in the system and send out monthly newsletters, you really aren't using the functions of marketing automation to your best benefit. As mentioned above, users need to fully evaluate their lead management process—all the way from initial lead generation to identifying sales-ready leads. Marketers must start to use the additional components of lead nurturing that will help develop sales-ready leads to send to sales, versus simply sending sales inquiries. Marketing automation certainly provides the tools to know your audience better, to engage them more fully, and to continually evaluate their readiness. Revising your lead management process with marketing automation support in place will not only drive greater return from your lead generation budget, but it will also garner more revenue from sales resources because you'll be giving them higher-quality leads.
3. Not understanding the value of content. Content fuels the engine of lead nurturing. But it can't be just any content, nor can it be sales content. Marketers must start building content that offers thought leadership. To nurture a buyer effectively until he is ready to speak to a salesperson, marketing must engage and propel him along the journey. They certainly can't do this if they are sending the prospect data sheets and other sales materials when that prospect isn't even at that stage of the buy cycle. At that point, the prospect doesn't really know who you are and doesn't know whether your company has any credibility. The best way to build that credibility is through good, relevant content that offers value in terms of information and expert insights.
4. Not understanding and utilizing the enhanced metrics available through marketing automation. Opens and clicks are still important metrics to track with each email interaction. However, with a marketing automation system in place, it's also time to start tracking metrics that can help you to better identify sales-ready leads that ultimately will become revenue-producing leads. For instance, if a lead clicks on a link, does it really mean he is engaged in your offer or content? Not necessarily, especially if he went to the page and left one second later. But what if the lead clicks and then stays on the landing page for 10 seconds or more? That could be an indicator that the lead has an interest in the content. Duration of page views is definitely something worth tracking. In fact, there's a wealth of digital behavior and metrics that can be tracked and analyzed with marketing automation. For instance, marketers can start tracking the number of sales-ready leads they sent to sales, as well as the number of leads with certain behaviors that became sales ready—useful for more easily identifying these leads in the future. Also, how many sales-ready leads went to what stages of the opportunity and which closed? Looking at these numbers are all ways to continually refine and improve processes, justify marketing spend, and determine campaign ROI—important metrics, for sure.
5. Waiting to get started until everything is in place. I know what you're thinking—that here is where I'm starting to sound like a typical vendor. And that would be contradictory to the earlier point of this article. But when you do the ROI, it's easy to see why you need to get started, even if you can only implement a few changes at a time. By not revising your lead management process and implementing marketing automation, you're losing revenue, and your marketing and sales costs will be higher than they should be. There's a well-known statistic that says salespeople typically ignore 80 percent of the leads generated by marketing. This is generally because the leads are considered to be merely inquiries and of relatively low quality and, therefore, not worth their time. Can you afford that kind of marketing waste? If not, start making changes that will ensure better qualified leads go to sales. To that end, if you aren't nurturing those leads that aren't quite yet sales ready, trust me, your competitors will be happy to do it for you. Marketing automation can make it easier for you to nurture those leads and move them along the pipeline. The bottom line is that your current legacy marketing-to-sales process is ineffective and costly. Marketing automation, with a revised lead management process, will turn that around.
The most important take-away from all this is that technology is great, but unless it's properly applied to each business, and properly used by people, at the end of the day, it's just a hyped-up email engine. Marketing and sales must discuss and implement a revised lead management process that effectively takes advantage of new marketing automation technology. This can be done in phases to make it more digestible. Don't wait to get started; it's costing you revenue.
Lisa Cramer is president and cofounder of LeadLife Solutions , a provider of an on-demand lead management solution that helps drive revenue by bundling a state-of-the-art marketing automation platform. She has been recognized as one of the top five Most Influential People in sales lead management three years in a row, and in 2011 was named one of the Top 20 Women to Watch in sales lead management.