Over on the Software Advice site, Jeff Pedowitz wrote an interesting article, Why the Marketing Automation Market is Floundering & 5 Fixes to Fuel It. He raises some great points at a high level about what marketing automation vendors can do to improve purchase and adoption of the technology.
All of them have merit, but there are a couple that I think warrant further exploration.
Complexity: The whole idea of automating content marketing is staggering in its hugeness. There are so many moving parts. Intellectually, the concept has great attraction value. Realistically, it's really hard to know where to start.
Jeff makes the point clearly when he states:
"The concepts and processes that drive successful adoption of marketing automation are often beyond the core skill sets of daily practitioners."
We need to help marketers better prepare to adopt and use marketing automation. Several issues that have stopped this intention in its tracks include:
- Lack of market definition. This means personas. But it also means understanding how to create a dialogue with those people. Just sending an email isn't the point. If it was, we could all keep our ESPs and be as productive as the next company. Creating contagious content is a skill that's dependent on how well marketers know what their audiences care about and how to talk with them—not at them.
- Lack of clean, usable prospect and customer data. Let's face it, most databases are a mess. We have all these forms that collect massive amounts of information, but we don't collect it in ways that help us use it to create better interactions. We need to improve our data collection processes and we need to do it purposefully. Every field on a form should be there because it helps us better connect with people interested in hearing from us. And don't get me started on customer data. It's even worse - and we know them, or we should.
- Lack of content strategy, development resources and process. How the heck can you create perpetual marketing programs without these key components? Yet they seem to be an after thought for many. I often create annual nurturing programs for companies that include 18 content assets and 36 email messages plus other tie-in pieces and related sales collateral—and that's for one persona + product/solution combination. The scope of requirements to use marketing automation successfully across a complex buying process can be daunting, but they don't have to be. We need to help companies develop methods for streamlining that process and determine how to make it something manageable that also delivers on goals.
Education: Webinars that purport to educate prospects share a lot of great ideas that motivate them, but also leave them wondering just how to put them to work. Some companies even get to the point of deciding prove the concept. This could mean taking advantage of a 30-day trial that some vendors offer or even a more formal 3-month pilot. And, shamefully, we let them, often without setting parameters and expectations.
If the company's average sales cycle is 9 months to a year, just what do you think a 3-month pilot will prove? Sure, if you're lucky, you can scrape that 15% of sales-ready leads off the top, but they could have done that on their own. So what should have been an exercise in proving value for engagement, momentum and contribution to downstream revenues ends up being a glorified, short-term sales campaign.
If we're going to invite companies to try out the software, we need to ensure that how they do so will prove value that they can't already produce on their own. And, we need to help them prepare to get that value in a limited timeframe. Otherwise their pilot stalls and so does their interest in the technology.
Business case: In his article, Jeff makes the point that, "The very person that Marketing Automation seeks to empower – the marketing executive – has the least power on the senior management team to buy." In his fix, he says, "Start selling to sales executives, CFO’s, CIO’s and even the CEO. Make this an enterprise play, not just a marketing one."
I agree. We need to start helping companies view marketing automation from the perspective of a critical business system and the impact it can have beyond lead generation and qualification. There's a case to be made for all of the roles Jeff indicates. How many vendors have expanded their reach beyond marketing executives to enlist other executives in the conversation? How many help their marketing prospects understand how to have those conversations with their colleagues?
Marketing automation preparedness applies to the company's who will buy the solution as well as the companies that sell it. It's the foundation for everything that comes afterward.
Go read Jeff's article - he covers a lot of ground and makes some key points that could change your game.