Things That Shouldn’t Happen With your Marketing Automation System

Guest post by Chris Frank, TreeHouse Interactive Director of Marketing

Some experts estimate that marketing automation and lead management system usage is still in its infancy (link). I’ve seen estimates as low as 5% penetration and as high as 20%. But I would venture to say that many of the companies that step up to use these systems don’t really know how to use them effectively or have the wrong one in place for their company’s needs. 

And that’s not the marketer’s fault necessarily. The demand generation and marketing automation space is very, very crowded. There is also a lot of what I would call “pie in the sky” ideas around marketing automation principles and much less in the way of practical advice. 

Focusing more on the practical, here are some things I’ve found shouldn’t happen with a new marketing automation system, but often do because marketers overlook them or don’t think to ask the right questions when shopping around:

Getting Leads to Sales Teams Too Slowly

Demand generation and marketing automation systems integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce CRM and Oracle CRM On Demand differently. What many marketers don’t realize when researching is that some send leads over immediately while others send them in batches or not at all if the integration isn’t built. It doesn’t do any good to qualify leads if you can’t get them into salespeople’s hands at the right time.

In a study by Leads360 of 20 million Internet-generated leads, they found that those called within 60 seconds had a 391% better conversion rate. These conversion rates dropped to just 17% above average at the 24-hour mark. Most of the conventional wisdom in this area suggests that leads go cold after 15 minutes. Thus, you should be able to pass leads in real-time to your salespeople regardless of the CRM system you use. This goes for passing leads to partners in a timely manner as well.

People and Data Living in Silos

A lot of marketing teams have the attitude that once they hand leads to their sales team, they’re done. They provide the obligatory fields for contact and expect sales to take care of them once they hit the CRM system. For sales teams, providing marketing feedback on campaigns is low on the priority list.  For some, these attitudes are born out of habit and not recognizing that technology has changed—and so too should processes.  Today’s best-in-class marketing automation allows for real-time communication between sales and marketing teams.  

Here’s an example: When a lead is distributed to a salesperson or CRM system, the CRM system should allow for automated feedback on the quality of that lead.  Moreover, your marketing automation and demand generation technology should automatically tag the lead to the right campaign so you get return on investment (ROI) reporting. This enables salespeople to focus on the sale. News flash: Sales executives are NOT going to associate their closed business to the right campaign manually, even if it ultimately benefits them in the end to do so.  

In terms of focusing on the sale, salespeople should also be able to see a complete history of marketing interaction within the lead record in their CRM system. This includes behavioral things like email opens, link clicks, webinars attended, downloads off your website, etc. This gives a sales executive the context they need to make the best call they can make with a given prospect.  

Finally, you should be able to support nurturing within the sales process regardless of whether it’s based on sales qualification or explicit nurturing that salespeople kick off from the CRM system (but is executed out of the marketing automation system). It’s about supporting the sales process and revenue goals, not just lead numbers.

Insufficient Ability to Target 

Many marketers are used to sending blanket emails to a prospect base. They often continue that practice in marketing automation and demand generation systems unless it can accommodate additional data collection. You shouldn’t have to call your vendor to add a field to email or pay-per-click landing pages, event registrations, surveys, etc. Non-programmers should be able to set up the collection of any data, be able to associate it to contact records automatically as it comes into the database and then turnaround and target based on that information. The same goes for importing lists with additional columns of data outside normal contact fields.

The point here is that demand generation and marketing automation systems should be a central place for targeting data. Without that, you might as well be using a standard email blaster. You want to be able to collect any pertinent prospect information and then use it to target when sending one-off emails or entire nurturing campaigns. Incidentally, if you have your CRM system and marketing automation system talking, all standard and custom fields in your lead and contact records within your CRM system should be available for targeting. You should not be manually exporting lists from your CRM systems and importing them to your marketing automation or demand generation system. This is a complete waste of time I’ve unfortunately seen many marketers go through because they either have the wrong system or don’t have their current system set up correctly.

Spend five minutes on the Marketing Sherpa site and you will find case after case of improved open rates, numbers of leads, and conversions for micro-targeted campaigns. Ultimately, the ability to bring detailed prospect information into your marketing database is what allows this to happen. 

Outsourcing Everything

One of the most ironic things I’ve seen when marketers adopt a marketing automation system is that they begin outsourcing all their campaigns. Many times this is an unfortunate byproduct of implementing a system that only a consultant knows how to use. It can be an unexpected and frustrating consequence of not doing enough research. Understanding the basics of setting up and sending an email, creating a landing page, and producing automated actions shouldn’t take more than a day. If training is a several week process or the vendor/consultant won’t get their hands dirty to help you launch the first couple, then there’s a real issue. Marketing automation and demand generation should empower marketing teams regardless of size and level of experience if you’ve done the work to educate yourself. 

Isn’t the point of implementing a marketing automation system to improve internal processes and capabilities, as well as ramp up marketing execution? Depending on an external team for all campaign execution is a sure way to slow productivity to a crawl. While I think you have to prepare yourself by learning all you can about lead nurturing and demand generation before you implement a system, the technology shouldn’t get in the way of execution.

Because the marketing automation and demand generation space is so crowded, I’d suggest you focus on how your sales and marketing teams operate now, where you want to take them, and how whatever system you choose will provide real value. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. The points above are by no means exhaustive—they are just a starting point. 

What things have you found in your research that are important when looking for a marketing automation solution? What do you wish you would have known before signing on with a vendor?

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