5 Tactics to Increase Your Marketing Automation ROI

The implementation of a new marketing automation platform comes with numerous challenges, but the biggest hurdle that marketers typically face is evolving their processes, strategies and overall mindset in ways that complement their technology investment. 

As Scott Brinker, CTO of ion Interactive and program chair of the MarTech Conference, said in a recent interview

The biggest challenge to the adoption of MarTech, isn't technical. It's human. Marketing technologies enable amazing new ways for marketers to manage their organizations and engage with their audiences — but they require new thinking, new practices, and new skills in the marketing team to realize their potential.

This is pertinent to all marketing technology, but specifically true with regard to increasingly sophisticated marketing automation (MA) platforms. Most marketing orgs are just beginning to make the crucial changes needed to fully benefit from their new MA systems.

Earlier this year, Lattice Engines released an eBook (which you can download at the Funnelholic blog), in which SiriusDecisions Co-Founder, John Neeson, stated that 50% of marketers admit they’re not leveraging marketing automation to its full potential.[1] A later chapter provides even more sobering numbers:

  • 75% of MA adopters claim they’re not receiving full value from it
  • Less than 10% of organizations are deploying MA tools to address programs later in the buying cycle
  • 62% of MA owners state that the use of technology did not equate to an increase in sales[2]

This doesn’t point to a failure in MA platforms; after all, CSO Insights states that companies with advanced lead-nurturing tactics drive 50% more sales ready leads at a 33% lower cost. The poor performance numbers simply illustrate that newly adopted technologies aren’t being properly used. Too often, marketers simply incorporate new technology into old processes and expect huge results — this is a recipe for failure. It’s far more effective to develop processes that complement MA systems.

Here are five tactics to help marketers get more value out of marketing automation systems.

1) Connect your systems

the-missing-linkMA platforms are becoming increasingly open to customization and integration with third-party tech solutions. This allows marketing teams to tailor their tech stack according to strategic needs. Marketing apps and complementary systems can make a world of difference when properly integrated with your chosen platform to transmit data fluidly. The operative word here is “integrated.” It’s important to be aware of what supplementary tech solutions are out there as well as whether they integrate effectively with your platform. Systems that can’t talk to each other will require you to pull data manually, and then take the time to compile and format information to make it actionable. This not only wastes time and resources, it reduces the value of the very marketing systems in which you’ve invested. 

2) Focus on importing quality data into your platform

clogged-pipesThe majority of organizations have some type of marketing data validation process in place, but such processes vary in both the level and timing of implementation. In fact, SiriusDecisions has stated that 25% of the average B2B database is inaccurate. Some marketing teams simply scrub lead files for unaccepted values without validating email addresses or phone numbers, while others will validate data, but only after the lead has passed through the nurture track.

This latter case is typically fine for inbound leads, but businesses that rely on third-party lead sources should ensure adequate data governance occurs before importation into an MA platform — otherwise it undermines the precision with which the system can nurture prospects. Such data validation software should include validating email, physical addresses and phone numbers, normalizing formatting and values, and scrubbing any duplicate data or leads containing missing fields. Software automates these processes, and higher quality media partners leverage such technology before importing leads into your MA systems.

3) Attribute scored leads back to specific data sources and marketing tactics

graphWe all know that optimization is key, and we're getting more familiar with the idea of closed-loop marketing. I’m often surprised, however, by the number of marketing orgs that use their automation system simply as a glorified email service provider, rather than a sophisticated system for both cultivating relationships with and better understanding individual prospects. Cursory lead nurturing, scoring and analysis efforts limit the ability to optimize campaigns. Marketing automation platforms have astounding capabilities — you should use them to strategically design and implement a scoring process that:

  1. Delineates the stages of prospect refinement, and
  2. Tracks which data sources (e.g., third-party lead providers, events, etc.) and tactics (channels, creative assets, targeting filters, etc.) most effectively generate high-scoring leads

This isn’t always easy. It requires a thorough understanding of your platform’s capabilities (and often supplemental tech solutions); but more importantly, it necessitates a common language and frequent communication between marketing and sales, which brings me to the next suggested tactic…

4) Communicate with the sales team (and other stakeholders)

integrate-handshakeYes, sales needs leads, and a lot of them, and this is typically what causes marketing teams to rush prospects through a cosmetic nurturing process — sales wants lead volume and it wants it quickly, and developing a sophisticated nurturing track can initially impede both.

Communicating strategic procedural changes and the ways they’ll eventually benefit sales (in this case by improving lead quality, and thus increasing close rates and revenue) enables marketing to focus on the “new thinking, new practices, and new skills” they need to increase the return on their marketing automation investment. In fact, recent conversations with marketing tech pros corroborate that creating common nomenclature and mindsets between sales and marketing is always key:

 “That’s where all the work is really done — in common language and the common goals, and making sure they’re understood by each group.” said Gary Katz, Founder and Chairman of Marketing Operation Partners, during an interview on the topic of aligning marketing operations with marketing technology.

 “At the end of the day, my job is to develop a common vision, gain alignment across all stakeholders and deliver data and technology-driven solutions.”  shared Bala Kudaravalli, Symantec’s IT Marketing Architect/Technologist, in an interview on the topic of marketing technologist areas of focus.

5) Test new data sources

successThis one is simple. I’ve had discussions with marketing orgs that are completely dependent on inbound lead-gen efforts and then wonder why they can’t drive the volume that sales demands of them. Inbound marketing efforts are crucial, but many marketing teams work in industries in which outbound marketing is crucial. Media partners specialize in specific tactics among niche audiences, and their expertise should be seen as a pivotal complement to any inbound strategies to fuel your MA and CRM systems. 

Marketing technology will continue to evolve. Marketers who approach these advances in innovative ways — testing new tactics and continually revising their strategies — are more likely to achieve their goals and dominate the competition.

[1] Craig Rosenberg (ed.), The CMO’s Guide to Technology (eBook), Lattice (2014), 9.

[2] Lattice cited states form SiriusDecisions and Frost& Sullivan/Bulldog Solutions; Ibid., 23.

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