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Automation is at the center of much of manufacturing now, so much so that in lean manufacturing scenarios, the only human intervention needed is in the setup, the monitoring and finally, the selling of the harvested parts.
So when in a new business meeting, we show manufacturing leaders how marketing automation can enable them to harvest leads, they get very excited and their next question is invariably, “Great! What kind of marketing ROI can we expect?”
The answer is (always the lead balloon) “It depends.” Let me explain.
The marketing automation industry has done a great job with its messaging, and so people believe that the initial install and set up of the technology is easy, and depending on the system, it can be.
What people don’t often understand is that marketing automation technology is just like a robot on the floor right after it’s been unpacked and lit up. You know it won’t be able to produce anything without additional programing and integration with other machines. And you probably won’t leave it alone all night to do its thing until you’ve tested everything thoroughly.
Similarly there are a lot of considerations when purchasing a marketing automation system and then there can be many parts and pieces to set up as well.
For example, the system will want to complement whatever CRM system you have in place, and regardless of what CRM system it is, there likely will be integration needed there. Another series of decisions that need to be made is how much of the process you want to automate.
There’s a big difference in implementation complexity and in turn, the results that follow. For example, setting up a time-based drip marketing campaign is far easier than setting up the behavioral logic to spur special conditions and multiple actions with a predecessor for each. Yes, the idea is to automate the process but never let it rest without evaluating.
Frequent and consistent evaluation will lead the way for subtle changes that impact performance.
Once these decisions have been made, and all the nuts and bolts are in place, the next critical step is to feed the machine the right marketing messaging, delivered at the right time, and with the right frequency.
To get those three things right hinges on the results of foundational brand research and development. This includes quantitative research insights that will illuminate you on a whole bunch of things but most importantly, clarify every aspect of the customer’s entire buying journey and what information you can provide to them so that they can move toward purchase more quickly.
Absent the discipline of brand research and development, decisions about the messaging, frequency and timing of the content being pushed out will be based on anecdotal evidence leading to too many, ill-timed or irrelevant touches.
Those touches that do not lead the recipient closer to purchasing anything may actually annoy them and cause them to think less of your brand. (Not the outcome anyone is looking for!)
The bottom line is your marketing automation approach will directly reflect how well (or not well) you understand your buying audience. For it to work, you have to get the message, timing, and frequency right, and to do that you need the foundational work.
Once everything is in place, then we can turn it on. Once it’s running, then it’s a matter of watching the data and making subtle adjustments to all three elements based on what it is telling us, so that the results of the marketing automation are always continuously improving.
An undeniable factor in the success or failure of marketing automation, however, is the hands of the sales team. Marketing automation changes the way sales does its job, and that can make marketing automation, and marketing in general, unpopular internally. If this is the case, a plan to ensure sales buys in should be developed and rolled into the implementation process.
Marketing automation can deliver significant ROI, if you invest the time needed in return.
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