How can marketing automation impact my marketing and sales plans? In truth, marketing automation is an enabler, not THE answer. I’d like to break this question into three parts: planning, staffing, and executing.
Let’s roll back the clock about 10 years ago. We had just emerged from the Great Recession, and we were excited about the future and what “i-everything” would bring to us, and how the internet would impact our long-standing B2B ecosystem.
At that time, one of the board members from the large diversified B2B manufacturer for which I was working for, invited some of us from the Marketing Department to visit his company and explore how “digital marketing” could be used to help our business grow. The promise was to educate prospective customers and drive them to the brand. In fact, that company planned to spend almost zero on print advertising and other forms of outbound marketing as a result.
My colleagues and I came back from that experience and implemented as much as we could. One of my projects was 50% digitally marketed; a first for us. Did we hit the plan's target? Yes. In fact, by some measures, we hit the one-year goal in half the time. The secret sauce? Planning…
We spent almost a year planning for the launch as the product was being developed. From the “digital marketing” experience described, we focused on five personas and adapted our messaging to those typical buyers. Clearly, we needed marketing automation. Back then, it was rudimentary, but it worked! Engagement was high and conversions were way above the norm for us.
A few years back, I was invited by Ed Bradford to contribute some thoughts to his book called Marketing Navigation. The question was, “How do you keep plans on track?” Looking back at my experience in large B2B corporate marketing environments, there are two important success factors:
There must be a charismatic, full-time dedicated leader to run the project. Moreover, that leader must have passion for the product or service and have authority over the required resources.
Ask any farmer: If we don’t “kill or prune” the old, we'll never be able to grow new. We often make the mistake of piling up new plans and activities on staff who are already too busy. That approach doesn’t work.
That’s where marketing automation kicks in, bringing relief to stressed-out organizations by leveraging their assets such as people, blogs, videos, social networks and websites.
When it comes to execution, marketing automation “breaks the mold” for a majority of our customers. If the plan is well-conceived and top and senior management are behind it, chances are you'll need to converse, engage, attract, close and retain a certain number of new prospects and customers along the buyer’s journey to make plan.
In fact, there are no less than three participants in that journey at any B2B company: A “specifier,” a “buyer” and a “payer.” If you deal with different industries that have vastly different needs (e.g., aerospace, automotive, food and beverage) across multiple geographies, channels and languages, marketing automation can become your lifeblood.
While working for a large company ten years ago, I came to a simple realization when I was listening to our colleagues explaining their plans for “digital marketing": it's a strategy that's impossible to master without automation. We had hundreds of permutations of personas, end markets, and geographies. Even at LEVY, we have dozens -- too many to handle the traditional way. They need, like we do at home, that personal touch and that "feel real" experience.
If the success of your marketing plan hinges on your ability to engage with everyone individually, marketing automation is the only way you can meet your goals. This approach has been largely democratized since I began using its techniques and tools.
Now, for a few hundred dollars a month, you can use state-of-the-art marketing automation software platforms to improve your company's competitive position. It’s well worth every penny.
By our estimates, marketing automation at LEVY generated a 78% ROI in 2019.
If you want to learn more about marketing automation and planning your full inbound marketing communications plan, reach out and connect with us and download our free planning checklist below.