Can Marketing Automation Help My Business Grow?

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As someone who resells a marketing automation solution as part of my service offering, I come across some form of this question almost every day. The market reality of mainstream business’s awareness of what marketing automation is could be broken down into four main categories:

  • business grow with marketing automation

    photo credit: dgray_xplane via photopin cc

    Unaware of what marketing automation is and what it does

  • Aware of what it is and what it does, but unsure of its potential benefit for my business
  • Own a marketing automation solution but not getting value from it
  • Marketing automation is the backbone of our sales and marketing process

So I was thrilled recently when I came across a newly released eBook, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation,  courtesy of Marketo, one of the top providers of marketing automation software.  There’s a lot of great information in the eBook but two things really stood out for me:

  1. There’s a concise definition of what marketing automation is: marketing automation is a category of software that streamlines, automates and measures marketing tasks and workflows so companies can increase efficiency and grow revenue.
  2. In the eBook, there is a 10 statement self-evaluation worksheet that can provide some insight into whether your business is ready for marketing automation or not. Here’s the worksheet:

Marketing Automation

The scoring is pretty straightforward: rate your level of agreement to each statement and total up your score.  35 or more means you’re ready; 20 – 35 means you’re getting close and should start considering options; below 20 means you’re not there yet.

As I looked at the statements, I thought some were valuable in assessing marketing automation readiness, while some were a bit off target or required a deeper dive. Let’s break these down individually.

Our sales process is complicated – it involves multiple touches from marketing and/or sales.

One of the most common misperceptions I encounter involves businesses underestimating the complexity of their sales process. The contributing factor to this underestimation is lack of a defined and documented sales process. If you feel you have a really good grasp of your typical sales process, you’ll begin to understand that automating portions of it may increase success. A hallmark I look for is successful use of a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. By successful, I mean the CRM tool is not used as a glorified contact management system. Quality data about interactions between sales and prospects resides in the tool.  Score yourself as 5 if you’re getting great value from your CRM tool.

We target sophisticated buyers who do a lot of research before they engage with us.

That’s pretty much everyone and every business these days. Granted, higher ticket purchases with longer sales cycles are different from low cost, commodity type purchases but many buyers are 70% through their purchasing cycle before they engage with a salesperson.  5’s all the way around here.

Our company requires more insight into the exact value that our marketing programs deliver, so we can quantify our investment.

This should be a no-brainer 5. Most, if not all, businesses want that ROI read.  The challenge is not knowing the current ROI numbers well enough prior to the decision to spend money on marketing automation makes it difficult to take on more cost – a position many businesses find themselves in. 5 if you have a handle on ROI, a lower number if you’re not clear on the ROI of your current marketing expenditures.

Our customer (and prospect) base is larger than our sales team – a lack of direct personal relationships with all of them.

Unless your product or service is super-specialized, the majority of businesses rate a 5 here.  But I don’t think marketing automation, even when supremely executed, is going to provide a lot of “personal” in nurturing relationships – it still requires lots of human interaction.

It would be impossible to call every potential customer or new lead that we generate.

If you can, you’re a 5 and definitely need marketing automation to pump up your lead generation! If you can’t, marketing automation will help the nurturing effort tremendously – 5’s abound here.

Many of our new leads aren’t ready to buy from us – they require nurturing.

This is probably true for most businesses, but I see premature sales intervention with leads all the time. Marketing automation helps provide a clearer picture of where your prospect is in the funnel and when the best time to engage is. Educate, educate, educate – then engage. If you’re consistently showing restraint when a new lead comes in, give yourself a 5.

We would improve our results if marketing played a bigger role in our sales process, particularly as it applies to nurturing relationships with early stage prospects.

This is really addressing what roles and responsibilities marketing and sales own in the sales process. The idea here is for marketing to take prospects as deep as possible into the sales funnel and then turn them over to sales.  It also addresses the fact that leads can regress and may need to be handed from sales back to marketing for more nurturing. From a resource and cost standpoint, this makes great sense. If your sales and marketing team are working together as a cohesive unit, give yourself a 5.

We already use most, or all, of the capabilities of our current email marketing service provider.

This is a good litmus test for marketing automation readiness. The depth of capabilities in marketing automation software can turbocharge email efforts and if you’re already skilled here it can pay quick dividends. It’s similar to the CRM situation – higher utilization of these tools indicates a readiness to leverage the benefits of marketing automation. 5 in my book if you’re rockin’ with email.

Data drives almost every decision that our marketing team makes.

This ties into the proficiency businesses have achieved with their existing tools. For example, If a business is using CRM and email platforms consistently and successfully, there should be a decent amount of performance data to evaluate and guide future decisions. Marketing automation provides broader and deeper data on the successful actions of the marketing and sales departments. Data geeks get a 5 here.

Our marketing team is generating (or has specific plans to generate) significant amounts of personalized content for our target prospects.

This is a pretty easy call to make – either you’re currently generating a lot of content and it is mapped to the various stages of your sales funnel or you have a plan in place to launch this type of content creation. Any marketing automation system will be deficient in performance if the company’s content production is too low. Only serious and purposeful content producers get a 5 here.

Your Turn

If you’re using a marketing automation tool, which one are you using? If you’re not already using marketing automation, where do you score in this readiness assessment? If you’re a higher score and not using marketing automation, what’s holding you back?

Your feedback is most welcome and always appreciated!

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Rich McElaney
Rich is an inbound marketing professional, content development craftsman and conductor of sales and marketing teams with over 25 years of new customer acquisition experience. He has founded and successfully grown three businesses, one of which was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. Rich is a certified HubSpot partner, a partner in Inbound Trainer - a provider of video-based training for inbound marketers and the Chief Chaos Officer at The Sales Lion. Rich is happily married, has two sons and one English labrador. In non-marketing mode, Rich can often be found playing golf, skiing and snowboarding, riding motorcycles and working on his Italian vocabulary.
Rich McElaney

@richmac

Problem-solver helping businesses grow through content & inbound marketing, forever chasing scratch golf & proud lifetime member of Red Sox Nation!
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Comments

  1. A lot of great content and advice here, Rich.
    I'm putting this in my "Repeat Read" Evernote folder :-)

    • RichMcElaney says:

      Thanks Ray – I feel privileged to make it to that Evernote folder! Let me know if you questions or feedback once you reread it.

      Best,

      Rich

  2. Thanks Rich, a good read. Especially like the points about the importance of understanding sales process, which becomes especially powerful when mapped to the customer's purchasing decision cycle.

    • RichMcElaney says:

      Bob,

      The link between the "internal" sales process and "external" purchasing process is often overlooked. Just as good content should focus on the customer, so should the sales support process.

      Thanks for dropping by and for your comment!

      Rich

  3. Rich — As the author of the Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation, I just wanted to say thanks for this thoughtful post!

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