The promise of Marketing Automation Platforms is to integrate and automate marketing functions
Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs) are receiving lots of attention in the B-to-B marketing sphere. Most of these platforms are targeted toward companies with large database records that execute the majority of their marketing efforts online. For originations that fit the aforementioned criteria, MAPs promise greater marketing efficiency, integration with sales CRM software, reduced external resource expenditures, and ROI tracking for each marketing event.
The strength of an MAP is its ability to capture digital transactional information for specific marketing actions. These actions can include the following:
- Email opens, top performing links, and overall performance
- Website visitation, visitor page interaction and analytics
- Inbound marketing responses to posted content and landing pages
- Social platform monitoring for sentiment and customer insight
These actions are generally considered first encounter lead generation activities found at the top of the sales funnel. It is at this junction that marketing and sales must agree on what a qualified lead looks like and what steps are necessary to move this lead through the sales funnel.
With the definition of a qualified lead identified, an MAP can provide the functionality to automatically continue to reach out to the prospect. As the prospect demonstrates intent to purchase, CRM software is able to provide sales with leads that require shorter close times and better success rates.
All of this sounds great, almost like push button marketing; however, there are several things to consider:
- MAPs are a set of software tools with many moving pieces
- MAPs are not a substitute for a strategic marketing plan
- Underestimating the amount of content required to shepherd the prospect through the sales funnel
- The current marketing staff may not have the technical horsepower needed to manage the MAP
- Time commitment and resources from IT will be needed for implementation, integration, and ongoing maintenance
- Substantial learning curve and resources required for marketing and sales personnel
- Implementation time of 6 to 12 months to see results
- Identification of critical data chains for ROI reporting
- Commitment from the executive wing to fund and nurture MAP implementation
MAPs focus is on digital interaction. What about traditional marketing and brand building? These software platforms are challenged to know what effect display advertising has with regards to purchasing behavior, brand sentiment, and brand loyalty.
Don’t get me wrong here. I see the benefit of ROI analysis and the positive potential MAPs can have when implemented properly. However, at the same time, I am also cautious about MAPS. My concern begins with the automaton nature of the entire process. The promise of inbound marketing is to engage with interested prospects and begin to build a relationship. Being inundated with additional email offers and qualifying phone calls can be a turn-off, stopping the relationship building cold. In addition, marketers must be cautious about treating prospects like Pavlov’s dog. Thinking that they can be trained to respond by redundancy is a danger.