Successful Marketing Automation: Preparedness Precedes Purchase

By Vince Giorgi  

If you haven’t noticed, marketing automation is on a steep adoption curve.

Yesterday came news from marketing consultancy Raab Associates, reported here in BtoB’s e-newsletter, that marketers are expected to spend more than $500 million on marketing automation (MA) systems in 2012, with vendors EloquaMarketoInfusionsoft and HubSpot to account for more than half of that spending.

Interestingly, the MA boom forecast for this year comes after an almost-as-robust 2011, when MA spending climbed 50 percent above 2010 levels, according to Raab, which advises clients on making MA purchases.

Marketing Automation Warnings and Worries

In light of MA’s popularity, what’s interesting is just how much online hand-wringing exists regarding MA — especially cautions to corporate marketers about how not to make a big mistake when investing in MA software.

Do a quick search on a term such as “marketing automation mistakes” and you’ll find plenty of posts, discussions and top-10 lists of things to beware of and avoid. It starts to sound as though MA should come packaged with a warning label.

And that might not be such a bad thing.

Because if you boil down all the pros, cons and concerns, the theme that tends to repeat is this:

Be prepared, or you’ll likely regret the purchase.

What cautionary voices seem to be saying (including some of the MA vendors themselves, to their credit) is that you’re asking for trouble and disappointment if, before you adopt MA, you’re not first squared away on such fundamentals as:

  • Business strategy
  • Audience personas and buying process
  • Market positioning
  • Content strategy
  • Lead qualification criteria
  • Lead management process (especially the interplays between sales and marketing)

In other words, some rather big, hairy marketing considerations.

Prepare for Marketing Automation, then Purchase

Basically, it’s a get-your-ducks-in-a-row-or-else caution that persists around MA, despite it’s growing adoption. A warning that even the greatest technology can’t salvage weak or absent strategy, alignments and processes. A heads-up that without content, even the best marketing engine will lack fuel to generate the lead-management horsepower needed to drive a brand and business forward.

I like the way Forrester analyst Jeff Ernst put it in this interview with Marketing Automation Times: Essentially, Ernst says, it comes down to having a handle on lead-to-revenue process, content, and measurement. Get those ducks in a row. Then, by all means, you might be ready to make the most of MA.

And what if it’s too late? You’ve already implemented MA, and it’s not delivering the ROI you expected?

Strategy and content are probably more to blame than technology.

Time to reverse engineer.

Time to start wrangling some ducks.