Marketing Automation

10. Invest in marketing automation

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In my last post, I argued that Marketing needs to stop being seen a cost center and start earning a seat at the revenue table. Fundamentally, this requires B2B marketers to:

  1. Drive revenue by filling the revenue pipeline with enough sales-ready opportunities, and
  2. Improve accountability and predictability by connecting their efforts to hard metrics like revenue and profits.

Both these requirements are incredibly difficult without technology support, especially as B2B marketing has become more complex in the last few years. The number of possible channels and techniques we must master has exploded. In addition to direct mail and events, new channels range from email and websites to search engine marketing and landing pages to blogs, podcasts, and communities. Many of these require sophisticated testing, analytics, and targeting to do well. Without the right tools to automate the planning, execution, and measurement each campaign, even the hardest-working marketer can be overwhelmed by the complexity.

Fortunately, there are B2B marketing automation solutions that can help. These use technology to automate manual processes, provide best practices, and improve the measurement and analysis of results. Garter recently published a report called “Predicts 2007: A Return to Growth Fuels Marketing Technology Spending” which claims companies that invest in marketing automation will have a clear competitive advantage over those that do not; grow revenue faster; and cut costs significantly.

However, marketers have had a difficult time getting the budget approved for marketing automation technology. There is rarely extra budget, and it is notoriously difficult to get executives to invest more budget in a department they perceive to be a cost center. This creates a Catch-22 for marketers: to be perceived as a revenue generator, marketing needs to invest in technology, but marketing needs to be perceived as a revenue generator to get the budget to invest in technology.

The answer, suggested by Brian Carroll and Peter Kim, is to allocate some of the existing programs budget to investments that assist with measurement and automate the lead management processes. The tradeoff is simple to understand (even though it can be difficult to act on). As traditional techniques such as tradeshows and mass advertising become less effective, marketers should invest some of those dollars in technology that will help them drive more revenue and improve accountability and predictability. By funding the project out of the existing marketing budget, there is no need for a lengthy approval process or justification. This allows marketing to break out of the Catch-22 and quickly demonstrate the results that will justify continued investment.