Marketing Automation—Three Success Tips from John D. Rockefeller

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Posted: January 3, 2013 | B2B Marketing, Modern B2B Marketing

When people hear the name, John D. Rockefeller, they usually think of “one of the world’s richest people” or “one of the world’s most successful business people.”  But Rockefeller did not grow up in a wealthy family.  In fact, his father was a “pitch man” who would be gone for months at a time selling cancer treatments from town to town.  Rockefeller learned at an early age to work hard—but also work efficiently.  He hated waste.  Rockefeller applied a core set of business principles throughout his life.

If a young John D. Rockefeller were a marketer today, there is no doubt that he would be finding success using marketing automation for lead scoring, lead management, lead nurturing, and so much more.  Here are three success tips that I believe that he would share with you:

Tip #1:  “Don’t wildcat.”

In 1859, Edwin Drake pumped crude oil out of the ground in Pennsylvania like people pumped out water.  This discovery set off a craze of “wildcatting for oil.”  People would “wildcat” for oil—placing exploratory oil drilling rigs all over northwestern Pennsylvania in places where oil had not been discovered before.  Sometimes they would hit an oil vein.  Most of the time they would come up empty.

The process was expensive and time-consuming.  Even when they did hit oil, a lot of crude oil would be lost in the soil.  Rockefeller did not want to wildcat.  So he decided to get into the oil refining business—and manage the crude oil once it was acquired.  He learned that by refining oil at a certain temperature, kerosene could be created.  Kerosene was an oil that could be burned cleanly and provide light into the evening.  People stayed awake longer and got more done because of kerosene.

In marketing, many of us spend too much time wildcatting for leads.  We blindly participate in trade shows that probably are not the best fit for us. We spend a lot of money on demand generation programs that give us very little return.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t experiment a little, but we should know where the majority of our quality leads come from.  Analysis and reporting from marketing automation should show us that information.

Like Rockefeller, we should hate waste and strive for efficiency.  Our marketing budgets and teams are just not big enough to do it another way and be effective.  With the reporting available on a lot of marketing automation platforms, you should be able to know which programs are giving you the best marketing ROI so that you can plan your budget and resources accordingly.

Tip #2:  “Have a consistent standard.”

Rockefeller didn’t just refine crude oil into kerosene and hand it over to customers.  He owned all the stages along the way and invested significantly in them.  He built his own refineries using the best materials available.  Rockefeller owned his own barrel making plants, timber and drying facilities, and hoop iron manufacturing sites.  His company manufactured its own sulfuric acid for the purification process.  He owned his own oil tanker vehicles, warehouses, and storage holding tanks.  He even had physical plants to process oil “waste” products.

Rockefeller wanted to control the stages and be able to provide an industry standard kerosene that the public could trust.  Many earlier kerosene products were unstable and caused house fires.  He believed that his product was of such a consistent and high quality that he eventually changed the name of his company to “The Standard Oil Company” so that the public would separate his product from competitive products.

With marketing automation you can follow John D. Rockefeller ‘s advice to “have a consistent standard.” Many of us—especially in small- to medium-sized organizations or in small divisions of enterprise companies—have the intention to do a lot with marketing automation but often end up just using it to send out email campaigns.  With a little more effort, we can set up a revenue cycle with qualification stages such as “engaged,” “prospect,” and “lead.”  We can hold onto the leads a little longer until they are more qualified and meet the requirements to be a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).  We can control these stages and ensure that every MQL that is passed to the sales team meets a specific standard and level of expectation.  A higher level of sales and marketing alignment—as well as a higher level of trust—will be created.

Rockefeller would have liked the fact that MQLs that are passed to the sales team and do not work out are not wasted, but can be recycled and pushed back to the prospect stage in the revenue cycle.

Tip #3:  “Adapt to the marketplace.”

Once Rockefeller started to have success, he did not leave things alone.  Rockefeller was always looking for ways to make improvements.  He did not leave anything to chance.  Everything was accounted for and measured.  Metrics and reports played a big role in Rockefeller’s success.  Rockefeller was always looking to improve his return on investment in staffing, manufacturing, transportation, and sales.

When the railroads that transported his crude oil and kerosene decided to team up and put an end to Rockefeller’s stranglehold on railroad freight pricing and restore it to profitable rates, Rockefeller refused to pay their new pricing and built his own pipelines from the crude oil production fields to his oil refineries.  These pipelines destroyed many railroads and ensured continued success for Rockefeller.

Later when many thought he would disappear as one of the world’s wealthiest people once electricity and light bulbs replaced oil lamps, Rockefeller adapted again.  He was able to adapt by switching over to the mass production of gasoline, another crude oil byproduct, right when the internal combustion engine was emerging in manufacturing and in automobiles during the second industrial revolution.  The rest is history.

Following Rockefeller’s example, we as marketers need to look for ways to make improvements.  Metrics and reports need to play a big role in our success.  We need to use that data to go back and adjust the revenue cycle stages as needed.  We need to watch the behavior of our prospects and get feedback from our sales teams.  By adapting our revenue cycle stages on at least a quarterly basis based on metrics and reports, we can ensure that we are properly managing the pipeline flow to sales.  Like Rockefeller, we need to appreciate how important “pipelines” are to the success of our companies and what our roles are to ensure that quality continues to flow through them.

Though John D. Rockefeller is best known for what he did in the oil refining business, there is plenty that he can teach us about marketing automation and revenue performance management.  Dominating the competition was one of his specialties—but that is another story.

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  • Rajagopalan C

    Truly awesome post. Vivid and Voluble !

  • http://writtent.com/ Sergey

    Great article, thank you. Wonderful parallel drawn between John D. Rockefeller’s activity and online marketing. Marketers can find this post very useful.

Marketing Automation—Three Success Tips from John D. Rockefeller

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