When I talk to marketers today, I sense a growing optimism. Sure, the digital revolution has rocked the industry to its core. But most colleagues seem to have made peace with the idea of transformational change. “We’ll get there,” they say, no longer breathless at the prospect.
On the one hand, this acceptance is wonderful. I see lots of momentum, progress and a desire to improve by implementing integrated marketing management (IMM) and marketing automation solutions.
On the other hand, though, it worries me a bit. Are we truly ready for the future of marketing automation? Or are marketers just dipping their toes in the water, and then feeling satisfied because at least they tried something new?
Frankly, I’m concerned marketers may not be ready to move onto the next “big thing” when so many are still grappling with acquiring the right skills and knowledge to tap what exists today. For example, research from the Pedowitz Group found that more than 25 percent of marketing automation adopters have not integrated with CRM. Worse still, more than 50 percent have not added in lead scoring or nurturing. In other words, most marketing teams have not moved beyond “batch and blast” mode. I certainly have seen many using automation technology simply as “Email 2.0” –that’s a good starting point, but it’s nowhere near capturing the full potential.
What can be done to turn statistics like these around?
As I see it, realizing the full potential of marketing automation is a dual challenge, one shared between both marketers and vendors. Each side has a responsibility to step up so that businesses can start benefiting from all that new marketing technologies have to offer.
- Be open to new ideas. Now is the time to educate yourself and your team. CRM taught us about tracking behavior, but now we must update our strategies to includes newer 1:1 marketing tactics, such as social media listening and two-way dialogue (as opposed to broadcasting sanitized positioning messages).
- Go beyond “self education.” Apply the coaching methodologies that work well in other disciplines like sales and customer service. It makes sense to rely on your own vendors, of course, but also reach out to industry organizations, such as the Marketing Automation Institute. Require that your team and your agencies are certified in the application you have invested in, and utilize experts so that you leapfrog common obstacles and optimize practices.
- Embrace the power of customer-centric strategies. Marketers need it all –of course! But we can’t allow a technology aptitude to trump good marketing strategy. Remember: Automating bad marketing is a bad thing. Too often I see marketers try to automate strategies that are focused on volume, not quality. Effective 1:1 marketing is about the individual customer/prospect and improving the close rate; it’s not just shoveling more leads into the top of the funnel.
Clearly, marketers have to assume certain responsibilities in order to succeed with the latest IMM solutions. But, vendors need to do their fair share, as well. Marketing people are not IT experts, and no one should be required to have a PhD in five disciplines before they can use marketing software effectively. That means today’s vendors must:
- Make technology more accessible and simplified. IMM solutions must allow for different roles with different levels of experience and aptitude to work together and access just what they need.
- Develop powerful, multi-faceted solutions. Technology needs to be increasingly more powerful so it can adapt to and master our fragmented, multi-channel world that’s now dominated by social communication and real-time activity.
- Continue to evolve. Marketing automation is still a relatively new industry. It began around the year 2000 as an offshoot to on-premise CRM applications. Given the power of cloud computing and the advance of integrated databases, we should fully expect to see continuous evolution, perhaps even faster than in other tech markets.
- Sharpen their focus. Marketers will need products that are more user-friendly, with more complete features, lower cost of ownership and faster implementations and upgrades. Vendors need to direct their attention to four critical areas: 1) Time to market (also measured by Time to results); 2) Ease of use / Usability; 3) Performance and stability (at high volumes and with highly sophisticated data management); 4) Integration with sales force, ecommerce, web analytics and other solutions.
The future of marketing automation innovation depends on both marketers and vendors rising to meet these challenges. The Gartner Hope Cycle –a map of how innovation and technology is adopted and utilized by a growing number of users –shows how the market may evolve. In my estimation, we are somewhere beyond the Trough of Disillusionment and moving toward the Slope of Enlightenment. But, I’m interested to hear how you see it. Based on your own vendor and experience, what do you consider the major challenges to successful adoption of marketing automation solutions?
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