Suppose one day your CEO, CFO, or COO asked you what they’re getting for the money they spend on marketing automation? I’m not talking about a request for a fifty slide PowerPoint deck for next month’s board meeting – I mean they’re asking you a question on the spot and they want an answer now. You have a few seconds to answer and a few sentences to say it – and it better be good.
If this has happened to you, then you know what I’m talking about and you probably have a story to tell about how it played out. This has happened to me, and I know more than a few marketers who also experienced this moment and lived to tell about it. Here are some answers you might find useful – or not. Fill in the blank with the one below you would use:
“Marketing automation ___________________________…”
“…increases efficiency, improves lead quality, and helps me report with confidence”
“…lets us blog, send email, monitor social media, create web and landing pages, do marketing automation, SEO and more — all in one integrated platform.”
“…is easy and powerful – it lets me drive huge results fast. It’s complete marketing automation software that we’ll never outgrow.”
“…allows our marketing and sales departments to create, deploy, and manage online marketing campaigns that increase revenue and maximize efficiency.”
They’re all accurate — any one of them could plug in here (check out the marketing automation vendor websites if you can’t figure out which one goes with which vendor). But if you were standing face to face with your CxO sweating bullets, you probably wouldn’t choose any of the above because they wouldn’t work in conversation—they were never intended for that.
What about this: “It’s software and processes that allow us to automatically manage the targeting, timing and content of marketing programs.” That was how Jesse Noyes from Eloqua described marketing automation two years ago to VentureBeat in this guest post. It’s kind of clinical – definitely accurate but you wouldn’t really be painting the picture that adequately explains what your world is like living with marketing automation every day and just how big, complex and important that world is for your business.
The best answer of all is this: “I’m glad you asked. Marketing automation is really important to the success of our business, and it would take more than a few minutes for me to show you why. When can I get an hour on your calendar?”
It’s a bold move – and the right one. What would you do with that hour? Could you explain the whole thing to a CxO who knows very little about marketing automation – or worse has wrong or bad information to go on? No way. The big win here would be to use that hour to capture his/her interest and desire to know more – on an ongoing basis.
I say this because I’ve seen the chasm between the truth of what marketing automation can do/does for a business, what it takes, and what the executives in a company actually know about it. It’s worth repeating what I said in last week’s blog: Marketing automation isn’t about automating your marketing. It’s about rethinking your marketing and its place in your business to take advantage of what these tools offer.
Why wait around to get asked what the hell marketing automation is doing for your business when you can get ahead of it? Here’s the perfect blog (your reading it) to forward on to your boss. Preface it with something like “I liked this guy’s blog about marketing automation and how misunderstood it is at a lot of companies. I would love to get an hour of your time to show you what it’s doing for us and why it’s important for our business” – or something like that.
Here’s the part that should hit home: what your execs needs to know about marketing automation that too often goes unspoken:
- If you don’t use marketing automation, and your competitor does your business is probably losing ground. Do we need another study about how buyers have changed? Duh, they go online first.
- It takes people — smart people that are hard to find to set it up and get it working right (that last part – getting it right is where I have seen a lot of companies miss the boat)
- It’s software that touches all the important moving parts of your business; applications, data, revenue, sales, finance, marketing (yes, that too) and customers. When stuff breaks (it’s software) it can get really ugly.
- If you don’t have your business processes figured out and defined, marketing automation will probably do more harm than good. Automating any businesses process that’s broken or undefined never works—marketing automation is no exception.
- Along the same lines, if you don’t have your basic marketing blocking and tackling figured out, marketing automation won’t do you much good. That means you know your buyers, messaging, markets, strategy, content – all of it.
- Nothing changes faster than marketing, so be prepared to continuously give your marketing automation tool a lot of love, care and feeding and an occasional kick in the pants.
- It’s a really smart way to get more revenue out of your sales because automation continuously surfaces and ranks leads for sale reps. Marketing automation lets you take advantage of volume and velocity, without it you’re flying blind.
And finally, possibly the biggest gaping hole in the marketing automation story is this: it’s damn hard.