5 Ways to Kill Off Your B2B Marketing Automation Project – Revisited

In ,,March 2011, I looked at some of the factors that I felt were likely to hold back the nascent market for marketing automation platfoms (MAP). This was based on my experience in the previous 5 years with a number of international software and SaaS companies.

As a reminder, 2011 was the year of the Japanese Tsunami, the rise of the Arab spring, the year Osama Bin Laden was killed and, in the tech markets, the year Steve Jobs died. In technology circles, it was the year that Apple became the highest valued company in the world, releasing the iPad, and Facebook started making available much more of its users behaviour online for targeting. In Marketing, Scott Brinker published the first official ,,Marketing Technology landscape infographic. The biggest marketing platform providers in B2B were Eloqua (since acquired by Oracle), Marketo (acquired by Adobe) and Pardot (acquired by Salesforce).

Looking back at that article, I feel that, even though I refer to it, I underestimated the change management challenge, which I went on to experience first hand over the next 7 years in the first European headquartered company in which I took a leadership role in martech. It brought to life the challenges in changing behaviours that I have talked a lot about recently; including in my ,,recent post – ‘It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it!’.

Broadly, I think these 5 points are as relevant today as they were in 2011 and explain why adoption remains slow and systems integration to enable data analytics across the full buyer’s journey is still a major hurdle. Let me know if you agree – and maybe provide some comments on your experiences of introducing marketing automation. What follows is the ,,original post:

Recent experience has reminded me that, as we in B2B seek to implement enterprise-class tools to support our marketing efforts in demand generation and sales support, it is easy to forget some basic principles that can quickly set our initiative back – or even kill it off altogether: Here are 5 key things to consider if you want to  be successful:

1. If you’re not clear about the project objective or success metrics, you won’t know what progress you’re making. If your SVP Marketing or CMO has decided to buy X vendor’s software for Marketing, because sales has already got Salesforce.com and (s)he heard that it integrates well – or they’re offering a reduced license cost for 12 months – you’re already on to a loser.

2. If you don’t know the differences between your go-to-market processes in France versus the USA, don’t be surprised when you get resistance to adoption. With enterprise software there is no such thing as one size fits all. ‘Best practice’ doesn’t mean do it this way or not at all.

Differences exist in local culture, process, market maturity, people skills and understanding of direct marketing techniques that need to be reflected in the project – by getting people involved early on and documenting what needs to happen. This document will make it much easier to brief vendors or other professional services people who will be needed to actually configure and set up the marketing automation platform.

3. Underestimate the impact on marketing managers’ day-to-day jobs at your peril. Marketing automation changes the emphasis in Marketing from activity – programme execution – to results. And it requires familiarity with complex technology, with support from specialists in IT. This isn’t what most Marketing people signed up for: we are specialists in creative communications and organising events or product launches, not setting up emails, planning landing page offers and tracking open rates. We don’t want to deal with technical people day to day. You may find that automation leads to a rethinking of the skills and experience required in marketing and a period of unrest and change.

4. If the marketing project is driven by marketing in isolation from the rest of the business – particularly Sales and Customer Service/ Support (‘Oh, we can worry about integration later.’) – it will take much longer and cost much more to fix it later. Marketing can only be treated separately from the rest of the business when what it does has no impact on the business – this is the old world we are trying to fix, so try not to make this mistake again. A marketing automation project requires us to look in detail at areas that we have hitherto safely ignored: process, metrics, data, ROI, integration with other functional areas on which we are mutually dependent. In other words, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just use it for sending out emails and tracking activity on the website and worry about how to get qualified leads into the sales team SFA later. You will find customer data is out of synch in the two systems, campaign tracking is impossible and you are unable to show any evidence of ROI to the CFO.

5. Ignore the Change Management process; offer minimal training and do not invite comment from marketing users during roll-out. Implementing systems for marketing is just like implementing any other system – it is an exercise in change management. Everyone needs to be on side – from executive management, to the ultimate end user. Unless all parties understand what they are trying to achieve, why and how it will affect the status quo, the project will run over budget, take longer than anticipated and go way outside the scope – assuming any of these things were defined up front.

Marketing automation projects are not primarily about the technology. If your CMO is seduced with all the bells and whistles or stunning dashboards, remind him/ her of these 5 key points of failure – which are by no means exhaustive – and get him, or her, to take a step back and consider the basics.