We had a good number of conversations this week on online marketing and the merits of marketing automation. Within the teams here in Europe and the US, but also with our marketing agency, our through-channel marketing agency, and – last but not least – our marketing automation agency. The latter started with a quote from Forrester Research: “[We] found that most companies cited as great case studies by vendors are still at Level 1 Level 2 of Forrester‘s Marketing Automation Maturity Model.” Some quote.
Expensive email blasters
In a November 2010 blog post, Forrester’s Jeff Ernst – the principal analyst responsible for this particular piece of research – states that “too many companies have invested in marketing automation platforms, only to use them as expensive email blasters.” In the April 2011 report B2B marketers must better prepare for marketing automation, he cautions that “Small businesses with simple requirements can receive a lot of value within days by implementing basic features and may not ever need to do more. But for larger companies that serve sophisticated buyer needs, it takes time to build a revenue engine that produces a steady supply of qualified sales opportunities, and getting an email campaign out the door in three days does not ensure that you are on a path to achieving that bigger vision.”
Without having access to the actual Marketing Automation Maturity Model – with Sinterklaas and Christmas just around the corner, spending $499 on aging research papers may not be the most opportunistic of choices – one can guess that it’ll start with manually sending emails into low quality, poorly segmented databases, with zero business impact, and end up with nurturing, scoring, integrated communications based on deep knowledge of your buyer’s journey, with all the targeted segmenting, nurturing, scoring and integration between marketing automation and sales CRM that you can wish for – where the marketing system unilaterally sets the business strategy, aligns sales and marketing once and for all, and wins marketing prizes. Amen.
Ernst identifies 3 traps, around process, content, and skills, which keep companies from getting beyond this “batch ‘n’ blast” level of maturity. They’ll never reap the true benefits of marketing automation, but get stuck in the middle between a great vision, sophisticated platform and expert vendor support on the one side, and bloated budgets, frustrated marketers and low quality databases on the other. And the quality of leads generated and qualified by marketing is – and will be – questioned by sales.
Ernst indeed warns CMOs (ordinary marketers should pay attention, too) that the following success factors are critical, if they expect ROI from their investment in marketing automation (source: Christine Thompson, Success Factors for Marketing Automation):
- A defined lead management process (agreed to by sales and marketing);
- A content strategy that supports buyers’ needs (not the marketer’s convenience), throughout the buyer’s journey — for each buyer role;
- Access to good contact data (up-to-date contact info for the buyer roles most likely to respond favourably);
- Access to the skills and budget needed to keep the marketing automation platform running smoothly.
My take: Without these factors in place, buying an advanced marketing automation platform and expect the ill-prepared marketing manager to benefit from it, is like buying a brand new Ferrari F1 race car, give it to a pizza delivery guy in Rome (with fuel and a full, retained pit crew of course), and tell him he’ll deliver pizza’s across town a 1,000 times faster (and much hotter too). All technical reports, all sports analysts, and all Ferrari fans would agree that that’s a terrific investment, because pizza’s are usually cold on delivery, there simply isn’t a better F1 race car around, and the mechanics will make sure it runs to its full capacity. Of course some of the preconditions to use the car proficiently – like a F1 Super License, access to the Autodrome Nationale Monza race track, some level of racing expertise, and a very wealthy sponsor – wouldn’t have made it into the purchase decision conversation. And hence our poor pizza delivery guy races the streets of Rome at 500+ mph, crashes his racehorse into the Fontane di Trevi, all hot pizza’s drown, and the good people of Rome starve, yet again. Stuck in the middle between a great vision and lots of medieval cobblestones.
Must be a hard game
Forrester’s Marketing Automation Maturity Model was first introduced in 2008. 3 years later, even great case study type companies still haven’t been able to make it past levels 1 and 2. You figure it out.