With Barack Obama’s second Inauguration, everyone is busy writing up the biggest challenges for his second term in office. Likewise, CMOs are considering their top challenges and seeking solutions to turn things around in 2013. At the top of the list—how to make better use of their marketing automation software investment and turn marketing into a profit center. With a slightly deeper dive, several important challenges present themselves. Here they are in David Letterman order:
At the bottom of the sales funnel you want a roadmap so that hot leads go right to the waiting arms of your inside sales team, and unqualified or immature leads go back into lead nurturing campaigns or out of the funnel altogether. That’s what lead scoring is for. You want to be able to track the history and choices your leads make as they migrate through your funnel and grade them accordingly. As they become more sales-ready, their scores increase. When they cross the thresholds you set for marketing qualified (MQL) and sales qualified (SQL), your team gets notified, and your CRM gets updated automatically.
The challenge is coming up with a lead scoring “algorithm” that matches the criteria your sales team would use in assessing lead status. This starts with sales and marketing alignment – putting the stakeholders in a room and not allowing any potty breaks until they reach agreement on criteria, triggers, thresholds and the process for updating records and notifying the right people. Then you have to put the process in place and make sure everybody buys in. Your lead scoring process needs to be flexible so that you can adapt to changing products, markets and goals. Your marketing automation software doesn’t have all of this set up out of the box, and some platforms don’t even support lead scoring.
Next up, lead segmentation and context marketing. You want to classify your leads by a variety of parameters important to your sales mission. As you capture and nurture leads, you can progressively add more information to your lead database and enrich each lead’s profile with demographic data, company data, industry data, consumer preferences, social media data, etc.
The challenge is understanding your buyer personas and classifying them based on factors important to your sales team. Once again, your marketers and sales folks need to get locked in a room until they come up with a process and plan for lead segmentation. Once developed, your marketing team can reach out to the right leads at the right time with the most helpful content to move them down the sales funnel. Is there a roadmap for developing such a plan in your marketing automation software? No way, Jose.
One of the things marketing automation does best is lead nurturing. It’s pretty easy to send out a demand generation campaign, then set up a drip campaign of automated emails to the converts that gradually influence them down the sales funnel. It’s also relatively easy to set up behavior triggered communications that allow you to respond instantly to lead lifecycle changes (like moving from MQL to SQL), lead scoring thresholds or specific actions (like visiting your Pricing page).
The challenge is creating effective lead nurturing content that will cause your leads to do something positive—like download your stuff, ask a question, sign up for a demo or participate in a conversation with a sales rep. Since your sales and marketing teams are locked up in a room developing lead scoring and lead segmentation criteria, why not ask them to think about what kinds of message and content are the most appropriate for each persona at each stage in the buy cycle? Now develop a content map you can use for building awesome lead nurturing campaigns.
That leads us to the content itself—THE BIG BOTTLENECK. You can have the most advanced, tailored marketing automation process in the world, but without good content, you are DOA. Most enterprises, other than media companies, don’t hire journalists, bloggers and social media wizards to contribute to their content marketing program—although this is changing quickly. So the marketing department writes its ad copy and the products group puts together nice sales sheets, neither of which work well for filling the funnel with qualified sales leads and nurturing them at their own pace.
The challenge is changing the way marketing is done within your company. This means new directions, new people and a new process that embraces content marketing as the engine that feeds marketing automation. You can read about that ad nauseum, but doing something about it—that still eludes many CMOs in 2013.
Now we’re assuming you have gotten your act together on lead scoring, lead segmentation, content marketing, context marketing and sales and marketing alignment. Congratulations! Unfortunately, your work’s not done yet.
The #1 challenge is finding good drivers for your marketing automation machine. The job description looks like somebody who would work for a marketing automation software company—and they do!
5+ years digital marketing experience (content marketing, SEO, email marketing, PPC, social media), expert-level marketing automation knowledge for X, Y and/or Z platforms, superior analytics knowledge and skills, database experience, excellent communication and presentation skills…
The list goes on. These people are both hard to find and expensive. They don’t grow Enterprise Data Analysts on trees, at least not yet.
You also need experienced and efficient Project Managers to keep this whole machine moving forward and achieving your goals.
So, yes, marketing automation IS a challenge. It takes a whole lot more than software to optimize your sales funnel and start driving real revenues to the bottom line. The big roadblocks are people—finding talent and putting them to work on a well-planned process. It can be done, but not without a real commitment.
Photo credit: Andy_Myers_Esq
With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via Twitter, LinkedIn or follow John McTigue on Google Plus.