3 Marketing Automation Road Blocks, and How to Defeat Them

As with any major shift in strategy, it's not always smooth sailing when a B2B company implements marketing automation for the first time. In fact, even the largest and most successful organizations often experience difficulties that can then turn them away from adopting future innovative technologies. According to a report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, just 15 percent of B2B marketers have widespread use of advanced tools, analytics, and practices to better leverage data in their marketing and sales efforts. Luckily, some of the most common roadblocks can be avoided with a few simple steps.

Salesforce’s 2016 State of Marketing report shows 72 percent of top marketing teams will increase spending for marketing solutions and tech in the next two years, with marketing automation being one of the fastest-growing categories. As B2B marketers continue to see the value and benefits of using marketing automation, including increased productivity that directly affects the company’s bottom line, it’s important for them to eliminate any barriers that would prevent them from achieving their marketing automation goals.

Based on my experience from working everywhere from small companies to Fortune 500 brands like Oracle and Salesforce, I’ve found that any company—big or small—will at some point experience marketing challenges. But from these challenges, I’ve also learned how to best address them. I’d like to share a few common roadblocks B2B marketing teams often experience and easy ways to ensure they don’t get in your way of a successful marketing strategy.

Roadblock 1: Lack of alignment between sales and marketing teams

Marketing automation is beneficial not only for marketers but also for sales teams. It’s the backbone of growth for B2B companies today and impacts how companies generate, nurture and qualify leads. While marketing automation has become a useful tool in aligning marketing and sales teams, there are still useful best practices and tips to foster a better sales-marketing relationship. Here are a few that have worked for many B2B marketers:

Schedule regular meetings with your sales team and come prepared with data that will help make these meetings fact-driven, productive, and ultimately more valuable. This will help to promote consistent, open communication, and make both teams more successful.

Be a silent listener during a sales call to better understand the type of questions a prospect may ask, so you can send relevant marketing material immediately after the call.

Keep all of your marketing materials in an organized library so your sales team can easily access the right material for any type of situation they come across. Summarize the main themes for them, recommend when each should be used, and provide quick access to email templates that can be sent to share content.

Roadblock 2: Inaccurate contact data

When it comes to B2B marketing, the accuracy of the data about your prospects and customers will determine your success. Too often, marketing databases are full of old, inaccurate, or invaluable data. Luckily, there is technology out there to make sure your database is organized in a meaningful way. For example, you can invest in a data cleansing tool. This will automatically match, add, or update prospect records in your CRM system, which can easily integrate into your marketing automation tool.

More and more B2B marketers are also trying progressive profiling, which is collecting information about a lead gradually. We’ve all filled out online forms, usually for a coupon or exclusive offer, but when the form is too long, we often speed through it, providing inaccurate information about ourselves, or simply skip over it altogether. The same goes for prospects interested in buying your product. Instead, you can ask for a few pieces of new information at different moments of the sales cycle rather than having them complete an extensive form from the start. 

Roadblock 3: Failure to document your strategy

Marketing automation is an amazingly powerful solution, but like any tool, it is only successful if there is an effective strategy behind it. It can be tempting to jump in and start using your shiny new technology, creating rules and sending out emails. While it’s okay to start getting your feet wet, the most successful implementations are carefully thought out and documented. Often, this requires taking a step back to rethink and outline your marketing automation goals and needs.

Your planning period may include assessing the skill set of your team—assigning ownership and filling any gaps—and thinking through which processes you’d like to automate so you can set up automations in your new system, connecting with other departments such as sales, aligning success metrics, and more. Luckily, there are resources available that can help you think through your marketing automation strategy from a granular level. For example, here is a planning template you can use to help build out your strategy step by step.

B2B marketers are managing a complex customer journey, and you may encounter a few bumps in the road on your path to success. I hope these tips and tricks help you feel more prepared to tackle them quickly and keep right on moving.

Michael Kostow is the senior vice president and general manager of Salesforce Pardot, B2B marketing automation by Salesforce, where he is responsible for driving product strategy and market execution. Kostow is a six-year Salesforce veteran and has spent the past three years helping Pardot become the fastest-growing and most widely deployed marketing automation solution for Salesforce customers. Prior to Salesforce, Kostow held various sales, strategy, and operations roles at Oracle and other fast-growing tech companies. Follow him on Twitter @mikekostow.

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