A client recently shared their frustration about not getting the full potential from their marketing automation technology, describing it as “Not being able to get their Ferrari out of the garage.”  They weren’t trashing the vendor or the technology, they were mostly venting about how their company struggled to get out of it’s own way and do what needed to be done to support their technology investment.  In our conversations with clients this is an all too common scenario.

It usually goes something like this ; marketer embraces the vision of marketing automation, makes a compelling business case for investment in the technology, investment is made, software is live, marketer then proceeds to use the automation software essentially the same way they used their previous batch and blast email solution.  The severity of this scenario varies, but most marketers with an automation solution can relate to this description.

Why is this so common?

Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail – It’s often (almost always) easier to write a check for software then to do the up front strategy, workflow and experience design.  Marketers get rightfully excited about tapping the potential of marketing automation and just dive right in.  The results are often underutilized software or fragmented, disjointed workflows and messaging.

Time / Training – Even the most simplified of automation solutions requires some level of training.  This piece is often rushed or glossed over by the marketer based on limited time.  Again, it’s typically not for lack of resources provided by the vendors, it’s marketers struggling to keep all their plates spinning and factoring in adequate time for training.

Time / People – Almost every marketing team we work with, regardless of size, wrestles with too much to do and not enough people.  Getting everything done requires smart use of talent and time.  “We’ve got smart people, we’ve selected a fairly intuitive tool, we should be up and running with it quickly.”  The learning curve can be steeper and take longer than anticipated, even for a smart, talented team.

Integration – This one can be a killer.  Most of the major automation platforms have well constructed API’s and established integration with common CRM solutions.  Even with sterling technology integration, there are internal processes, technology governance and other internal entities that must come together.  Sometimes there aren’t clean connections on the technology side creating the need for custom development work which has the potential to become a very protracted process.  When campaigns require connection to multiple external systems, things can get complicated.

How do you make sure your marketing automation Ferrari can roar?

Have a plan.  Understand your customers, your critical communications and the structure of your overall communication framework.

Be honest about resources – Shortcuts with time or resources means reducing the impact of your technology investment.  Allocate enough time for your people to get the full value of whatever training is provided.  Be realistic about the time and effort required on an ongoing basis for operation and optimization.  Even a relatively simplistic implementation takes a meaningful chunk of time and typically the more time is spent with the tools, the more possible applications are discovered.

Dig In – Take all the training, maybe take some of it again, roll up your sleeves and really get to know your automation technology.  Like any tool you get more utility and value as you become more familiar and comfortable with it.  Simple to do, just requires the commitment to take the time and do it.

Get IT on board.  A surefire way to alienate the IT folks is to select a technology solution, not involve IT and then expect them to make it work.  Get IT involved at the very beginning, ideally at the earliest stage possible so they can participate in selecting the right vendor, not just end up holding the bag trying to make your selection work.

Success with marketing automation is so much more than the technology.  Support the technology with the right resources and get that automation machine on the road.


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