Why you are wrong about marketing automation

Content Marketing - Marketing Automation - Drip Marketing - Lead Nurturing - Inbound Marketing...

Great buzzwords for those of us in marketing, but is there really anything behind all of it?

Yes, but also no.

What I mean by this is there is great power behind the marketing machine, but only if you are making your content and automation decisions based on data. Too many marketers are doing things like listening to the CEO or other non-experts that tell them they need to send out more emails, or worse, they need to do a newsletter? Seriously, if you are still doing a corporate newsletter stop right now.

Ok, so that is a pretty simple example but the reality is a lot of marketers still operate this way - they are creating content  based on what internal forces are telling them they need to do to push a message, yet Inbound Marketing only works if you take the time to listen to what your audience wants. Your ears in this case are data points that are collected via the socialsphere, your website analytics, your email metrics, your automation tool and also your CRM system. That is a lot of places to gather information, but your audience is that diverse. You may think you are only targeting a very niche audience - but is that person with buying authority doing the front end research to get your brand top of mind? Is that person with buying authority that lives in Silicon Valley responding to marketing the same way someone on wall street does? In most cases the answer is no.

But here is the thing most of us don't like to hear (especially our CEOs) this all takes time. I know we go to conferences and hear stories about how company X created a really cool infographic and all of a sudden the floodgates opened and leads started pouring in and it led to to the company increasing revenue 500% in 6 months and all sorts of other crap. The truth is it does not work this way - you need to look at what your existing data tells you and start creating multiple content pieces targeting what you think the audience wants to hear (most important thing to note, they sure is hell don't want to hear a sales pitch). Create the data and put it out there and collect more data to see what is working and then create more content and constantly refine that way - then use that content and refine and repackage - wash, rinse, repeat.

Don't worry about how it fits in your nurture flow - because if you have a 20 step campaign that takes someone down a path of highly refined timed emails that you created no one is ever going to get to step 20 and if they do the content you provide them at that point is already going to be a bit dated. You need to always be creating new, fresh content - you need to stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like a publisher. You need to develop editorial calendars that are there, but not set in stone and leave flexibility for market changes. You need a writing and editorial staff (you don't necessarily need to hire new, but you need a commitment from internal thought leaders that they will hit assigned deadlines. You need design creatives. You need to create a listening and responding machine (you can't let a blog go dormant for years like I did here).

I know none of this is earth shattering, but I see way too much marketing garbage that I had to speak out and bring this blog back to life.


Be a CRM Smart Marketer

Your CRM system, often the bane of a sales reps existence is a vital tool for the progressive marketing department. While sales teams utilize the tool to forecast and track opportunities through the sales funnel smart marketers are leveraging the data held within the vault to influence and drive their marketing decisions.

As marketing continues its quick shift to metrics and ROI based activities it is important to know what impact you can drive throughout the sales process.

It is easy to set a few lead source options and build out a few basic campaigns to dump names into – but what is this doing for you? What does the data mean other than marketing was able to throw a few accepted leads over the wall? How often does that initial lead that attended a webinar turn out to be the catalyst tied to the opportunity? Was that webinar even worth the money spent? If yes, why?

Marketers, specifically those in Marketing Ops roles need to work in tight symmetry with their sales counterparts. They need to understand the data going into the CRM system and follow closely as the leads convert and opportunities materialize to understand the true impact their team is having. Following is a simple list of things you can get in place now to better understand what is going on with your leads and what influence you may have over all deals in the pipe.

1)    Go beyond lead source – if you have an internal sales development team work with them on the lead triage process. From there build out a field within your CRM system that measures the “Reason for Engagement” that propelled the team member to make the call that landed the meeting. You could have a lead living in your system for months that suddenly became warm based on a drip campaign – while you may not have been responsible for the lead source you are responsible for the lead moving to the next stage.

2)    Track both engagement and source – as stated above marketing is not always responsible for bringing in the lead that matters the most – but by creating reports that track both engagement and source you will get a bigger picture of the percentage of deals closing that were touched by marketing.

3)    Utilize a marketing automation tool – my recommendation would be to use one that integrates cleanly into your CRM of choice. Aside from creating the drip campaigns and landing pages, when utilized to its fullest a marketing automation tool can provide a wealth of touch point data that can be rolled up to give you a clearer understanding of how many times and ways marketing touched the deal before it crossed the finish line.

4)    Use Campaigns – if you are going to do something – make sure you can track it. Campaigns are a good resource in understanding how your marketing activities are truly performing. Was that event that only had 30 attendees a bust? Not if 1/3 of the attendees resulted in generating opportunities. Same goes with that awesome webinar that had 1,000 attendees – unfortunately sales rejected 90%+ of them because they were bad titles or in the wrong industries. In addition by setting multiple statuses within your campaigns you can get a better understanding of where the leads are and what they are biting on – linking your marketing automation tool to the campaign can seamlessly integrate this process.

5)    Create a dashboard – if you are going to track everything, your data will need a home. Some CRM systems offer the ability to create dashboards which is very beneficial in getting all your reports in one clean snapshot – but I recommend taking this further and entering your data into a spreadsheet (so archaic I know) – this way you will have everything you need lined up weekly so you can monitor trends and react and plan accordingly. Track your responses, your lead acceptance, pipeline contribution, reason for engagement and their impact on meetings scheduled and occurring, look at each general area and its effect (email, web, webinar, event, etc). But don’t look at marketing in a vacuum – look at what sales is doing without marketing’s influence and see if you can draw out data. Do marketing leads convert to meetings faster? Do marketing generated ops close quicker? If you have the data you have the answers.

6)    Play nice – everyone has a difficult job – everyone is strapped for time. If you step down from the Ivory tower you will see that sales is on your side, but you need to understand what drives a seller. You are more likely to get more people on board and filling out the fields accurately if you are providing results.


11 things to consider when evaluating Marketing Automation

With all the hype swirling around about Marketing Automation it is easy to get caught in the buzz, or think you are missing out. The fact is… you are.

I am a big advocate of using marketing automation as a tool to support marketing programs like management of demand generation campaigns, improving quality of leads to sales, email blasts, lead nurturing, lead scoring and analytics. Now, Marketing Automation won’t do this alone, it is a larger part of the overall marketing program – but it is one that needs great emphasis and attention.

No longer are B2B marketers just judged on awareness and throwing any lead over the fence and then passing the buck to sales. Today’s marketer needs to demonstrate a greater impact on the pipeline and produce quantifiable ROI. While we still need to make the flashy brochure, be at the right shows, launch targeted webcasts, produce high quality websites, launch social media campaigns, give attention to SEO and SEM, etc… we are being asked to do even more every day.

Marketing Automation tools make this a much easier task. As someone who has used many and recently went through the process of  selecting a new vendor after working with a different platform many years I thought I might share a list of some of the important questions to be thinking about while evaluating vendors and their unique technologies. Some of these will be obvious to some, but I am hoping this might spur a few “a-ha” moments to those of you looking at the multitude of tools available to you today.

11 Things to Consider:

1)    Will you be able to dedicate a full time person to managing this tool? (some tools require a more technical person to administer, while they can be quite powerful be aware of the additional investment)

2)    Do you have the in-house talent to design templates, or will you need to outsource? (some tools make it easier to quickly design landing pages and emails, but note they can only do so much without the proper touch of an experienced design professional)

3)    How accessible do you want this data for your sales team? (some technologies allow almost full visibility with their enhanced CRM integration, but often times at an additional financial cost)

4)    How many licenses will you need? (consider the point above, also,  what level will sales need, what about product management and other teams that send large volumes of emails)

5)    What CRM system are you using? Are you using a CRM system? (many of these tools are best used with a specific CRM system, make sure you make clear up front what tool you are using)

6)    Will you want to host the forms/landing pages on your site, through the automation tool or your CRM? (this is important when considering flow to sales/CRM and ease of form creation)

7)    What other technologies beyond CRM are you using, will they integrate? (pretty straight-forward)

8)    Will they give relevant references? (what customers switched to them from another vendor you are looking at, what other companies are in your industry, your size, your place in the cycle when launching)

9)    How robust a tool do you really need? (will you be using this just as an email blast tool, how many emails will you be sending, will you be scoring leads, will you be creating multi-threaded nurturing campaigns, will you use landing pages, will you integrate your PPC program, do you need advanced integration into CRM, etc)

10)    Is the vendor innovating? (is this a tool with buzz for all the right reasons, do the references look forward to what is coming next or is this a company resting on name recognition)

11)    Have you evaluated enough vendors? (sure, you might fall in love at first site, this happened a couple times in the evaluation process for me – but I wanted to throw you a list of names I evaluated to consider – these cover all ends of the spectrum in terms of price and robustness of the tool: Aprimo, Eloqua, Exact TargetGenius, Marketo, MarketBright and Silverpop)

This is just a launching pad for the questions that came up in the process, please feel free to add your own in the comment section below.


Why I'll Never Be A Social Media Expert

By now you have probably seen them… the people claiming they can help you earn unlimited profits by setting you up on social media. These people claim to be Social Media Experts. What these people are doing is actually turning a valuable marketing channel into a wasteland of spam and incoherent babble. The truth is, there are some great people out there that do know what they are talking about when it comes to utilizing social media, but too often they get lost in the noise.

I did a quick search via tweetdeck on the phrase “social media expert” and well, there is a lot of chatter. I then went over to wefollow.com and did a search on “socialmedia”, the result 24,231 users have tagged themselves with this. Now, not all of these people are claiming to be experts so I thought I would look a bit deeper and went over to twellow.com, did a search for “social media expert” and wouldn’t you know it, 656 results. Justtweetit.com, 414 listings for “social networking” and the old standby – I did a Google search on the exact phrase “social media expert”… 1,450,000 results (at least the top results were others lamenting the other “experts”.)

The issue comes down to what are the services these people truly provide? How many of these experts actually have helped a company earn true ROI utilizing this channel? (You know actual dollars and not just some stupid babble about engagement.) How many of these experts can actually help you track if your efforts are producing sales or influencing buying behavior? How many of these experts helped companies integrate social media into their current marketing mix? How many of these experts know social media is more than twitter, Facebook and Youtube?  How many of these experts actually have marketing experience beyond setting up their own pages on twitter and facebook and pimping out their own services?

The problem and actually the excitement behind social media is there is so much unknown and it is a constantly evolving space. I think it is great that so many people are on board and I think it is awesome that companies and marketers are finding ways to utilize SM. I just get infuriated when I think what damage these “experts” are actually causing.

This is why, I never want to be considered a social media expert.