marketing automation software
Numerous studies throughout 2012 reiterated just how challenged marketers are in proving
Marketing’s business value.
The Capsicum Report found that “Marketers lack commercial acumen and don’t speak the language of the business, reporting their contributions in terms of ‘activities’ or ‘outputs’ rather than the business key performance indicators.”
The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that “the CMO’s traditional dilemma of demonstrating effectiveness, return on marketing investment, and relevance to the business still persists.”
The Forrester Evolved CMO study stated that “to prove their value and justify investment, they (CMOs) must tie marketing closer to business results.”
The 11th annual marketing performance management study conducted by VisionEdge Marketing and ITSMA reported a continuing trend of the C-Suite’s perception that only about 25% of marketers are able to demonstrate their impact and contribution to the business.
Some marketers, though, are cracking the code, and we can learn lessons from them as we work to power up our marketing.
One of the key differences about the stellar performers is that these marketers view and present themselves as businesspeople first. This elite group is customer-centric above all else, and it’s driven to transforming or establishing Marketing as a center of excellence within the organization.
These marketers work at ensuring that Marketing focuses on producing results that matter to the business, particularly in customer acquisition, retention, and value, and they are able to communicate those contributions in ways that are relevant to the C-Suite.
These marketers consistently apply five best-practices:
1. Aligning marketing activities and investments with business outcomes
2. Developing outcome-based metrics and reporting capabilities to demonstrate their
3. Employing and developing analytical skills
4. Investing in the infrastructure, processes, and systems to support their work
5. Building collaborative alliances with Finance, IT, and Sales colleagues.
They also recognize that deploying those best-practices is only part of the equation for boosting their performance and measurement competencies. They realize that playing a more strategic role takes added muscle, which they build by…
- Embracing strong talent, balancing creativity with science derived from valuable customer and market insights
- Emphasizing innovation for all aspects of marketing—related to strategy, implementation, processes, and so on.
Every organization can benefit from adding such power and muscle to their marketing team:
Take a look at the most recent 2013 Marketing Performance Management Report: Executive Summary (FREE DOWNLOAD) or Purchase the Full Report at the VisionEdge Marketing Online Store!
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The Right Stuff, a 1979 book by Tom Wolfe, chronicled the sequence of events bridging the breaking of the sound barrier and the Mercury space expeditions. The book (and subsequent movie) explored why the Mercury astronauts accepted the danger of space flight, as well as the mental and physical skills required of them to do their job—in other words, the ”right stuff.”
Recent studies suggest the need for many marketing professionals to re‐skill and re-tool. Only about 5 percent of marketers surveyed in a recent CMO Council study are highly satisfied with their levels of accountability, operational visibility, and marketing output. Most see plenty of room for improvement.
So what skills and tools are needed for your organization to have the right stuff?
Regardless of company size and industry, marketing teams (whether a team of one or more) are under increased pressure to drive top‐line growth and profitable revenue. For many organizations this means acquiring new skills related to marketing performance measurement and management, analytics, benchmarking, and customer engagement. Let’s review these four specific skills every marketer should have under their belt:
• Metrics and performance target‐setting. With greater demand for marketing to be more accountable, solid metrics, performance target‐setting, measurement, and reporting skills are crucial. Participants in numerous studies comment on the importance of being able to set measurable goals and track results. These skills will be in vogue for a long time to come.
• Analytics. This is the ability to derive insights from data. If growing valuable customer relationships and being able to forecast sales from future marketing activities are important, then analytics ought to be on the top of your skills‐to‐acquired list.
• Benchmarking. This is the process of comparing what your company does to another that is widely considered to be an industry standard or best practice. The aforementioned CMO Council study indicated 58 percent of respondents have nominal or no benchmarking capabilities. If you don’t know what the standard is, how will you know what to strive for when it comes to such things as win/loss ratios, marketing key performance indicators, share of preference, product adoption rates, and so on? Benchmarks are essential to any organization that believes continuous improvement is critical to the pursuit of excellence.
• Customer experience management. If business exists to produce and serve a customer, and marketing’s job is to create, communicate, and deliver value to customers, then marketing is your organization’s ultimate steward of the customer experience. Marketers need to be sure they have the skills necessary to improve customer engagement and touch- point effectiveness. They also must respond to changes in the buying cycle and conduct voice‐of‐customer research in order to retain customers, create loyalty, and transform customers into advocates for the company.
Marketing operations refers to infrastructure — that is, the tools, systems, and processes in place to facilitate customer‐centricity. Forty‐four percent of the respondents in the CMO Council study are looking for way to lower costs and improve go‐to‐market efficiencies. For many organizations, achieving these operational efficiencies requires infrastructure changes and improvements.
With limited resources, where can you get the best bang for your buck? Here are four areas for investment consideration:
1. Operational process alignment. When was the last time you mapped your operational processes and verified marketing alignment with the sales, product, service, and other parts of the business? All of us get into routines and habits. Reviewing processes and updating them may be time consuming, but if you are looking for ways to reduce inefficiencies internally, this is a necessary step.
Many years ago, when I was in the semiconductor industry, we needed to find a way to reduce the time from order to delivery of product. It was just taking too long to get product to customers, and we didn’t know why. When we calculated the time it took for the individual steps of order placement, manufacturing, testing , assembly, and shipping, the time didn’t add up to what it actually took.
So we mapped the process, counting the time product was ”in‐transit,” whether physically or in some other way. Lo and behold, the in‐transit time was off the charts. The mapping process enabled us to identify the inefficiencies, label the white spaces, and put in new processes to reduce and even eliminate them.
2. Market/Business intelligence. There is an art and science to using external information for driving business strategy. Business intelligence applications enable the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of competitive, channel, product, and customer information to derive trends and insights. The value of having such a tool is that, when used properly, it enables you to begin conducting scenario analyses and anticipating the future. With the insights derived from business intelligence, there is the potential to anticipate the development of new markets, technological turning points, and how the competitor will react.
3. CRM. If the marketing organization is responsible for the relationship between the company and the customer, then it stands to reason the organization needs tools to facilitate this relationship. As you know, there are a range of CRM tools out there, so selecting the right one can be a daunting task. Even so, in today’s environment a company can’t afford to operate without a formal approach to customer relationship management. Of course, once you have the tool , the next biggest hurdle is using it.
4. Performance management. The ability to use analytics, reporting, and dashboards to assess marketing’s effectiveness, efficiency, financial contribution, and progress toward achieving pre-determined goals is performance management. In the end, marketing must demonstrate its value, which lies in how much you are “moving the needle.” This necessitates reporting on performance, impact, and ROI from the program level up.
Progress doesn’t come without missteps, misfires, and failures. Winners look for ways to overcome challenges and continuously improve. They seek outside help, new ideas, and new skills. While attending a Webinar, reading a book, or going to a conference helps, consider looking for ways that will enable the whole team to be on the same page at the same time. There are plenty of on-site and online programs offered by professional organizations and institutions, as well as by firms specializing in these areas.
In Wolfe’s story, the national heroes of the Mercury space program were not necessarily the truest and best. What they possessed was the right stuff, the skill and courage to ”push the outside of the envelope.” Does your marketing team have the right stuff?
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The results from the marketing performance research recently conducted jointly by ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing (VEM), and Forrester were just announced. In its 12th year, the purpose of this study has been to understand how proficient marketers are at measuring and managing performance; using metrics, data, and analytics; and communicating marketing’s value, impact and contribution to the business. This year’s study captured input from more than 400 respondents. The study revealed areas in which marketers have made strides and areas where marketers remain challenged.
The result I found most perplexing was that, while marketers have access to more data than ever, leverage more analytics, and invest in more tools and systems, they continue to struggle to prove marketing’s contribution to the business. One clear indicator of this is that just 9% of CEOs and 6% of CFOs use marketing data to help make strategic decisions. Less than 10%! Although the majority of the marketers regularly produce and share a marketing dashboard, they are not bringing valuable, useful information to the table.
So where’s the disconnect? If you want your leadership team to understand how marketing is moving the needle in terms of top line revenue, market share, customer value, category ownership, and so on then the dashboard needs to be able to tell that story. Unfortunately, it appears that most marketers participating in the study use their marketing automation (MAP) or sales automation (CRM) systems to create their dashboards. In fact, dashboards and reports are already integrated into many of these systems. These dashboards, however, typically report on marketing activity and associated costs – email activity, website activity, social media activity, lead activity- rather than reporting on metrics executives can to set direction. It’s not that these reports and dashboards are bad; they are valuable when used to support tactical decisions, but if you want your CEO, CFO and other members of the C-Suite to use your dashboard it must clearly connect marketing investments and initiatives to business outcomes and results.
The ability to push a button and generate a pretty report that doesn’t add any value to the strategic decisions made at the C-Suite level doesn’t serve marketing well. To be on the right track, you need to start by making sure the marketing initiatives and investments are clearly aligned to business outcomes and that you have the right metrics in place. Otherwise, investing in better marketing tools is akin to buying a power saw when you have yet to master a hand saw. You have the ability to do more damage faster.
Learn more about the survey results and some initial impressions at:
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Today, a suitable marketing automation platform is available to meet just about any company’s requirements and budget. These platforms often include systems for managing digital assets, allocating resources and tracking marketing expenditures, automating campaigns (online and offline), measuring marketing activity and demand generation, and managing Web content and leads.Many companies invest in marketing automation platforms as a way to make their marketing organizations more efficient. Though marketing automation can achieve that objective, two key benefits of these systems is that they help you connect better with prospects and improve the opportunity to engage prospects and customers.
What Marketing Automation Isn’t
Marketing automation isn’t magic. Success requires taking a methodical and disciplined
approach to segmenting, defining the customer-buying process, establishing agreed-upon
definitions of stages, creating personas, establishing common metrics, and committing to
faithfully using the system
.Marketing automation allows you to tailor your content and interactions to enhance how you connect with and engage prospects and customers. As a result, you can positively affect the conversion rate and sales cycle. And, in these tough times, who wouldn’t want to see higher and faster conversions?
Take a Customer-Centric Approach to Configuration
Such benefits alone present a good business case for marketing automation. But for a system to “be all that it can be,” it must be properly configured and deployed. Proper configuration and alignment require and enable stronger alignment between Sales and Marketing.
Many companies configure their systems around how they might sell and evaluate an opportunity (e.g., whether they’ve identified a budget, project, or need). However, before you deploy, take an outside-in view and configure the system around how your customer finds, evaluates, selects, and buys products in your category.
For your investment and that approach to pay off, Sales and Marketing need to agree on how the customer buys, the buying stages, and what constitutes a qualified opportunity, in terms of both fit (segment, budget, size, etc.) and buying behaviors. This approach allows you to use fit and behavior to create a lead-scoring schema.
Create and Measure Four Customer Interactions
Marketing and sales teams are typically proficient in connecting at the beginning and end of the conversation, but the real challenge is managing the middle of the conversation. The middle conversation is when prospects and customers are in the “in-between”—between initial contact and interest, on the one hand, and the short list and final selection, on the other.
A properly configured and deployed marketing automation system enables you to manage the middle. How? It makes it possible to cost-effectively sustain a dialogue with qualified
opportunities until they are ready to buy while enabling you to monitor the interaction between those opportunities and your organization.
You’ll want to set performance targets for these four kinds of interactions, and then use your marketing automation system to create, measure, and monitor them:
Think of connections as those contacts with whom you have established communication and rapport and who have agreed to be “touched” by your organization. A connection doesn’t necessarily result in a conversation. Connections are just that: two entities that have a link between them.Think of how many people you may have in your LinkedIn network that you are connected with but don’t necessarily have conversations with. Conversations suggest an exchange—the sharing of ideas, opinions, or observations. Consider how many people you “talk” with on a variety of 3 topics on any given day. Though some of those people might be interesting, they may not necessarily be the right people—or they may not be ready to move the relationship forward.
Ultimately your marketing efforts aim to create engagement, and you want your marketing automation system to support those efforts. Engagement consists of interactions that indicate the strength of the relationship.
Finally, you want to produce and measure consideration because it is the precursor to conversion. Consideration simply refers to those prospects and customers who are actively “shopping” for the products and services you offer and are considering your offer among the options.
If You Build It, They Will Come
The premise of marketing automation is that it will help Marketing increase the number of
business opportunities for your company, deliver sales-worthy and ready leads to Sales, improve your visibility into the pipeline, and enable your marketing organization to focus on efforts that will drive the highest conversion rate and the lowest cost.
The value proposition is that marketing automation will shorten your sales cycle and help
improve your forecast accuracy.And it’s all possible with this one caveat: Marketing automation is only as good as the effort you make in using it. To use it properly and realize the kinds of results you want will likely require changing processes, addressing Marketing and Sales alignment, and improving skills.
Research suggests that when marketing and sales processes, skills, and systems are aligned, an organization can see a five-fold improvement in revenue. If you are willing to make the necessary investments, you can realize the benefits of implementing a marketing automation platform.
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