Strategy First: the Key to Successful Marketing Automation Implementation

 

Introduction

The number one reason organizations fail at implementing marketing automation

The number one reason organisations fail at implementing marketing automation is because they skip over strategy. Going straight to implementation without laying a proper foundation leaves your best case scenario as your organisation paying a lot of money for an email tool.

There is a trend that persists in the world of CRM and Marketing Automation – a “shoot first and ask questions later” thinking. To put it more aptly: “implement first and then figure it out after” is common when Management teams are eager to transition to automated marketing. Unfortunately, many fail to see that this change has much less to do with software, than it does with strategy.

In this post I’ll talk about the reasons organisations postpone strategy and the risks of doing so. I’ll also show you how to get started with marketing automation in a way that sets you up for success, avoiding failure.

As a consultant, you will benefit from this post by knowing how to guide customers for a successful implementation all-round. As an end-user, you’ll benefit by recognizing whether your organisation has skipped strategy and what to do about it – or you can help your organisation get it right straight away.

Customer Pushback

Give in, or give value?

Consultants often get pushback when they insist their customers define strategy first. A response could be along the lines of: “We don’t need all of that, let’s just get it done” or “we already know what our customers need”.

Strategy, to many organisations, therefore, often seems like an unnecessary add-on. A way for agencies and consultants to make money on top off the implementation. To many Management teams, it feels like an unnecessary step in a process that is already complicated and costly enough as it is.

However, consultants know deep down that without a good strategic foundation, marketing automation software serves as nothing but a glorified email tool.

So, there are two options – to give in or to give valuable advice.

There are consultants more inclined to give in to the customer, thinking “It’s better to secure the business now, then pick up digital transformation later”. This thinking is not nearly as altruistic as it sounds – they’re not actually helping the customer (in the longer term, at least) by agreeing to skip over strategy in the interest of getting a foot in the door.

Purely implementing deprives customers of a clear landmark that should be used to guide their transition to automated marketing. Otherwise, it’s only really half a solution, because implementation and successful adoption do not both come naturally. You may find teams reverting to old habits and not progressing; email blasting is the same, whether you do it from Constant Contact or Pardot.

Customers: if you insist on implementing first, prepare to pay a premium price for features you won’t be using until you’ve finally managed to get your house in order.

Change Management

Think in terms of systems, instead of campaigns.

Instead, consultants should take organisations by the hand. As I just mentioned, successful adoption is not a given with implementation.

A consultant’s duty, therefore, should be to not only implement software, but build change management into their service. Training and coaching of the customer-facing departments in the accompanying strategies should be a staple. Consultants should teach marketers how to think in terms of systems, instead of campaigns, and how to best market with the end customer’s perspective (which sounds easy, until you actually try to do it).

Getting Started

Some advice for embarking on your marketing automation journey.

I have some advice for marketing teams who are looking to embark on the marketing automation journey. I have seen these exercises work well for my own clients, and for countless others.

First, do your customer research to find out exactly why your customers bought from you in the first place. Talk to prospect customers and ask them what would sway them. Ask both groups what kind of content could have, or could right now, help their buying decision. Ask them what steps they took, or will take before buying. This sounds laborious, but I’ll say it right away: you cannot make do with cobbling together an internal view of the customer. You must talk to actual customers and prospects, or your assessment of the end-customer will be skewed. In practice, that means you’ll get all the following steps in this process wrong.

With a firm understanding of your customer’s world under your belt, create customer personas and buyer journeys based on the insights gained by the research. Make them visually appealing, print them out and put them up for all to see. Make sure everyone in the organisation is 100% clear on who they’re servicing.

Then, look at the appropriate content necessary to facilitate those buyer journeys. Do your customers require written content? Of what kind? Do they prefer video? Live events? How does that content need to be distributed, through which channels? Your buyer journeys should help you make the right decisions here, to create the right content.

Then, and only then, look at software. Tackle the technical part once you have a blueprint for delivering the right content, at the right time, to the right people.

Summary

The Right Order

Now you see that making the change to marketing automation in your organisation has much less to do with software, than it does with strategy.

Considering and confirming marketing strategy first off is the right order for implementing marketing automation. It will guide an organisation to change their marketing for the long term. As customers follow their consultant’s guidance through strategy sessions and content creation, this powerful combination will be immersed in customer-centric thinking.

About the Author

Henrik takes B2B organisations by the hand to support them in a new, customer-centric way of doing digital marketing made possible by modern technology. As a freelance consultant, he does this by offering a unique combination of strategical insight, customer-centric thinking, change management and subject matter expertise in marketing automation software. He has worked with mainly software companies, including internationally known market leaders Bullhorn and Wolters Kluwer.