You bought all that marketing automation functionality – why aren’t you using it?

The global marketing automation market size was valued at $4.06 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach a whopping $8.42 billion by 2027[1].  And there’s good reason for this: at a time when Marketing Operations teams are stretched, these automation platforms help organisations implement successful marketing campaigns to generate and nurture quality leads, at scale. 

But here’s the rub.

For all the possibilities promised by marketing automation platform vendors, my – and my team’s – experience is that, despite significant investment in automation, in the end, organizations simply tend to end up using it as a more powerful email marketing tool.

And in many ways, it’s an understandable trap to fall into; automating the process of email delivery should obviously improve speed and efficiency, and therein lies an immediate return on investment.  But this is rather like buying the latest smart phone and only using it to make clearer calls rather than all the other features that it has baked into it.  In essence, marketing automation is so much more than just improving email performance .  It’s about improving engagement.  It’s about responding to your customer interests in an agile, flexible manner.  It’s about improving your pipeline significantly, when done right.   

So, why do some many marketers not benefit from the full power that marketing automation offers?  Let’s explore three reasons and then find some answers as to how to really get marketing automation performing for your brand.

(i)             If it ain’t broke, why fix it?  

Part of the challenge is wrestling with human nature.  It’s human nature to keep doing what we’ve always done.  It worked before, so it’ll work again, and we’ll continue to do that.  So when organisations graduate from email services to marketing automation platforms, they tend to view the software as the same thing, but just with slightly more powerful email functionality.  This is true for both:

(a)   Marketing Operations Teams, who are perhaps comfortingly familiar with certain aspects of the platform functionality, and so they continue to use it, albeit on a bigger scale.  If emails sent out years ago were performing well then, why change anything if they can get the same results?  

(b)  Sales, or more senior stakeholders, within an organization often want a repeat of a previous success from pre-automation platform days, however tactical.  Simply emailing a list of prospects to ‘warm them up’ prior to a sales outreach project, for example, is not going to road test the new platform.  So in addition to the users of the platform remaining in their comfort zone, there can also be pressure from elsewhere in the business to carry on doing the same thing as before, because that generated the required results.   

Neither of these points, however, are necessarily due to a lack of desire to find out more.  The issue is lack of time.  It’s worth noting that Marketing Operations teams are often disproportionately small, even in the largest organizations, perhaps due to a conclusion that, if an investment has been made in a piece of software that automates a process, then fewer human resources will be required.   And with increasing demand on these teams to activate a high volume of campaigns and produce numerical results, there is precious little time left for researching functionality of software!

Which brings me onto my next point:

(ii)            You don’t know what you don’t know,

Marketing automation platforms are complex beasts and to fully understand the extent of their functionality requires time under the hood.  Notice a recurring theme here?

Time is a precious resource for marketers.  Often measured on the number of leads generated or emails opened, the net result is they will get those results in the easiest way possible, using functionality they’re already familiar with in order to speed up the process. So having made a significant investment into a fancy piece of kit capable of producing more sophisticated outcomes it often ends up being used only for more email because marketers simply don’t have the time to break from the numbers they have to drive, to explore alternative ways of achieving these outcomes.

Compounding this challenge is the fact that, getting the most out of your marketing automation platform’s performance is an ongoing process, rather than an isolated time requirement.  It’s harder to find chunks of time on an ongoing basis to derive incremental benefits than an isolated window to complete a single project.  

And it doesn’t just require marketing time, but also the time commitment of other stakeholders within the organization.  Let’s take lead scoring as an example.  You can’t just implement lead scoring and then leave it alone; it needs constant tinkering and adjustment to ensure the program is behaving as it should and delivering the required results.  And this requires input from sales, IT or even CRM stakeholders as well, who themselves have conflicting priorities.

Add all of these challenges together and the end result is often to file this project in the ‘too much hassle’ bucket and revert to the old ways of working which, ultimately, don’t achieve the results hoped for from the automation platform investment. It’s rather like buying a Ferrari, only to use it for the weekly shop: it does the job and delivers the desired end result, but it could be doing so much more.

(iii)          Lack of training.  

Finally, even when marketers DO know what the platform is capable of, they don’t necessarily have the skills or capability to get the most out of this functionality, such as a scoring model, or a lead life cycle.  Although there is often a training and development package available with the software, this is often overlooked. 

So what’s the answer?  How can you really get marketing automation performing for your brand?

(i)          Internal awareness: One of the things we repeatedly hear from clients is that internal stakeholders create barriers to progress with marketing automation because they can’t see the immediate benefits and they don’t have the time to invest in an area which, ultimately, they’re not being measured on.  An awareness and education session, then, will help them understand what the platform can offer. Buying the software is only the first part of the jigsaw.  What’s equally important is having the right investment in the people to run it and the associated training, but in our experience, Marketing Operations teams are still consistently one of the smallest teams in the marketing department.

(ii)        Training: The volume of training and workshop options available should reassure you that you’re certainly not on your own with this challenge! Agent3, for example, offers multiple options which will help you understand how much of your platform you are using, what’s left that you could be using and finally how to use that untapped functionality, including all the shiny bells and whistles that you paid for when you bought it!

If you’re interested in finding out more, please get in touch to find out more about our audit product, which we offer these for Marketo, as well as other platforms such as Pardot and Eloqua, our maturity assessment and other training that our in-house trained experts offer. 






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