2013: The Year Marketing Automation Arrived

Marketing Automation has arrived and it’s here to stay

2013 is now half over and among the leading trends that I’m seeing with my B2B Marketing clients is the fast growth in adoption and deployment of Marketing Automation platforms.

ClickZ: 25% of Fortune 500 B2B Companies Have Adopted Marketing Automation

After years of prediction and promise it is in 2013 that I personally seen these technologies become a part of my everyday life as a media agency professional. Many of my clients had adopted these tools in the past, but adoption was often slow or done in silos within the organization. Now the shift toward “accountable” marketing has propelled many leading marketers into more widespread adoption of their Automation tools.

This shift toward Marketing Automation brings with it many changes to the way we do business in lead gen. It’s important that we recognize these changes and the challenges they bring.

Among these challenges, the most important are:

1)      Marketing Automation requires standardization of data.

It’s easy to get standardized data when you are collecting the information on your own landing page in whichever Automation platform you use. On the other hand, if you rely on publishers and lead generation service companies to provide you with the data then you quickly run into a serious problem. No two media companies will have identical registration forms or data collection processes.

Many publishers and media companies have been very hesitant to allow for fully customized registration processes that would meet their client’s marketing automation needs. Customization takes time and development resources, creates a pool of data that does not easily fit into their own database, and it adds to their difficulty in delivering a volume of leads. Many have spent years streamlining their own registration processes with pre-population of forms, single-sign on member accounts and other methods so that they can make it as easy as possible for the audience to engage without barriers. A custom registration form throws all of that out the window.

Marketing Automation isn’t going away, and I don’t think that Marketers are interested in investing large sums of time and resources to “clean up” and standardize the data that comes in from media companies. It is simply too antiquated of a process. Therefore I believe that media vendors will soon be compelled to cooperate with the needs of their customers and will have to provide customized registration forms for every customer based on their Marketing Automation needs.

2)      Database Building and Lead Generation is not the same thing.

In the common language of our business we tend to describe all campaigns that gather customer contacts as “lead generation.” In truth, we should make a point of distinguishing between “sales leads” and  “net new contacts for the marketing database”. There is a significant difference between handing 500 names to an inside sales team for an immediate follow up call, and uploading 500 names into Marketo to receive further emails.

3)      Who should you work with?

When dealing with media companies this difference between lead generation and database building should be communicated clearly as it can have a great impact on what programs they recommend or who you should partner with. Some companies are specialists in delivering what they term “sales qualified” or “sales ready” leads. This means they provide a lot of additional data on the sales lead, which may include more robust job profile data, data on engagement with relevant editorial content or vendor assets, and possibly even purchase intent. That data comes at a premium price and may be worth the added cost when put in the hands of a skilled inside sales team.

However, if on the other hand, those “Leads” are just names that will uploaded into Marketing Automation for later follow up, then most of that additional data is probably going to be lost because it doesn’t fit into the system. So if that’s the case, why pay more for it? This is an important question to answer before building a content marketing plan.

4)      The “Feedback Loop”

This has always been a challenge with lead generation programs. Ideally marketers should be measuring the ROI of their lead generation programs, vendor by vendor, based on a detailed scoring methodology. This can include: sales revenue; revenue potential; the value of sales opportunities; contact success rate and more.

It has often difficult to get this quantitative data from the sales teams in a timely manner so that programs can be optimized. When a Marketing Automation system becomes the final destination for these names, that challenge can be even greater. How do we know the names we purchased were a good investment? How are we scoring them? What follow up was done? What are the KPIs?

The good news is that Marketing Automation is not controlled by the sales team, and so once the reporting process is developed to meet the needs of the campaign, there won’t be any barriers to getting that ROI data into the hands of the campaign planners/buyers whether that be a media agency or internal client side decision makers.

This list presents just a few of the many challenges that arise from the evolution of Marketing Automation and I’d invite you to share your own thoughts and experiences by commenting here or emailing me at kevinflint@justmedia.com.

Good luck and Happy Automation!

Kevin Flint
Just Media, Inc. 

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