The Cost of Delaying Marketing Automation


Posted: January 14, 2013 | B2B Marketing, Marketing Automation

You’re not a marketer if things aren’t hectic and your organization isn’t busy. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll encounter some resistance when you’re making a business case for marketing automation, whether stakeholders push back directly or simply get distracted. But don’t let the delay go on too long. Once you’ve determined you’ll benefit from the investment, you stand to suffer the cost of lost opportunity.

Here are some common reasons why people may delay investing in marketing automation, and how you can overcome them.

Objection Response
“We have too many important campaigns and events coming up.” All the more reason to automate your marketing, since it can increase the ROI of every other program you run. You need to be prepared to effectively nurture all the new names and leads about to enter your system. The longer you wait, the lower your chances are of converting these early-stage names into buyers.
“We have to do something else first—like finish our website, implement CRM, fix our data, etc.” Once these projects are done, there will always be more projects, and more after that. In fact, the nature of marketing is such that you’re always doing something new. The good news is that marketing automation platforms are built to adapt as you evolve. The sooner you invest, the sooner you’ll learn how to incorporate its value into all of your programs – so you get more results from everything you do.
“We lack the staff to run the programs.” It’s true that marketing automation doesn’t run itself. The more you put in, the more you get out. That said, you can hire consultants or agencies to help you get up and running. From there, many companies find they only need to spend a few hours a week—to run some reports and tweak your campaigns and workflows—to get decent ROI.

Of course, at this level of usage you won’t get the same ROI as highly-sophisticated users, but you can certainly do better than you would without marketing automation. And if you pick the right system, you can do more sophisticated work and get even more from the system as your staff grows in size and skill.

“We don’t have enough content in place.” Most companies don’t start with tons of content. What’s needed is a plan to create that content. For example, say you want to send out content every 3 weeks, and you have 4 pieces at the moment. You have 12 weeks to create something new. Simply commit to building a new piece of content every month. Re-use old blog posts. Divide newsletters into bite-sized chunks. With this approach, you’ll grow your content library over time.

In short, there’s never a perfect time to roll out new software or start a new project. You’ll always be busy. But the longer you wait to implement marketing automation, the longer you’ll wait to see your revenue move up and to the right.

Related Resources

  • Bob Apollo

    Jon, I think your responses to the objections are fair enough. But I’ll highlight two legitimate objections that I believe have to be addressed before companies invest in marketing automation:

    1) “The existing alignment or collaboration between marketing and sales is weak or non-existent” – if you don’t address this first, there’s a real danger that marketing will simply create more stuff that sales can’t use, or doesn’t want to

    2) “We haven’t thought through the processes we’re going to automate” – just as with CRM, if you steam ahead with implementing Marketing Automation without having clarity about the processes you are planning to automate, you’ll likely just do more of the wrong stuff faster

    I’m a great fan of MA. I’ve seen organisations get great results. But I’ve also seen them fall flat on their faces if they don’t lay the foundations right first.

  • Anonymous

    Good points, Bob. Those are both essential elements for long-term marketing success.
    But, I would propose that even if those items are not in place perfectly, the best strategy is still to “Think Big, Start Small, and Move Quickly”. Sometimes, getting started and earning some small wins can be a way to help move a company down the sales-marketing alignment journey… and working in an iterative, agile fashion can be the best way to work out the best processes.
    I’m NOT saying you should ignore those key factors. They are critical. I’m just saying that you don’t necessarily need to wait until they are in place perfectly before you get started.
    Thanks again for commenting!

  • Jon Miller

    Thanks for commenting, Brian. I’ve actually been writing alot recently about all the factors that go into being successful with Marketing Automation — it’s much more than just buying the technology.

    Here are two recent examples:

    I’ll keep this message going loud and clear… and stay tuned for a “Readiness” worksheet… coming soon ;-)

  • Owen Ashby

    Jon, Bob, I think you’re both right. MA could be a fantastic investment, but unless organisations have the means, capabilities and processes in place to ensure that the propositions and programs they’re using it to take to market are valid, it will be just a bigger, faster and more public disaster. If MA is to deliver on its promises (and of course it can), then we have also to make the market aware that it still needs to do the “hard bit” first if it wants its investment in MA to be successful. MA will not be a substitute for getting your proposition or programs right it will simply amplify the gaps and weaknesses to a now well informed audience and market place. In that regard…Caveat Emptor! .

  • Jon Miller

    It’s good for the market to understand that the more you put into marketing automation, the more you will get out. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

  • Owen Ashby

    Hmm yes sort of Jon. It’s not necessarily putting in “more” that’s important however, it’s WHAT you put in. Generating lots of “Marketing Qualified Leads” is relatively easy, but that’s not what the business (or the sales team need) and it’s usually only a matter of time before the age-old argument of “lead quality” over volume comes round again. While marketing targets itself (as is still often the case) on volume and the business can only survive on quality, the same problems will continue to arise.

    There’s no question that MA in general and solutions like Marketo more specifically, can add significant value to the execution phase BUT the organisations who really excel using it (as opposed to simply going back round the old loops more quickly) will be those who FIRST address the “difficult bit” of defining a bullet-proof Value Proposition and Whole Product offer, to a well researched and well defined target market who “can” and buy it. And there are few that do that well today. Our experience would suggest that among a wide range of benefits that Marketo brings, one of the most important will prove over time to be the highlighting of the need and requirement to ensure that what goes in is well researched, well defined and well constructed. That, by itself will propel the marketing industry forward significantly. I believe in the next few years as the market matures you will see a rapid separation between those who excel with Marketo (and MA) because they have understood this requirement and address it well and those who simply see MA as a faster way to do more “marcomms”.

  • Jon Miller

    Thanks again all for the good discussion. I think we all agree that getting your value proposition right, defining the right lead processes, generating enough content, and so on are all important parts of long-term marketing automation success.

    The key question appears to be do they need to be “perfect” before you start on a marketing automation journey. I continue to believe the best results come from an agile organization that gets started quickly with something small, and then evolves and adapts towards the end goal — as opposed to a more conventional waterfall approach that waits until the prior task completes before embarking on the next one.

    That’s not the say the other approach can’t work as well. And waterfall is clearly better than starting without everything in place and then NOT evolving and adapting. Ultimately, though, my experience across almost 2,500 implementations is that ‘think big, start small, and move quickly’ remains the best strategy in most cases.

Jon (@jonmiller) is a VP and co-founder at Marketo. He is the author of multiple Definitive Guides including Marketing Automation, Engaging Email Marketing, and Marketing Metrics & Analytics. In 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies under $250 million revenue. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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