Moneyball – Another Name for Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation


I just finished watching the movie “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt for the umpteenth time. During the movie I realized that this movie should appeal to marketers as much as baseball fans. It’s all about metrics and performance.  The story is about the 2002 Oakland Athletics from Major League Baseball  and how they try to put together a player roster to compete at the same level as larger market teams such as the New York Yankees. In the end, they put together a playoff team for approximately $41 million in salary that wins as many games as the Yankees who spent over $125 million. How did general manager Billy Beane and his staff do it?

Beane relies on metrics such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage instead of the more glamorous metrics such as stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average. Beane loses famous, well-known players and replaces them with players that many of his scouts do not know at a fraction of the cost.  But his new players statistically get on base more often. They call this analytical process “Moneyball.” I think many of us are like Billy Beane with our b2b marketing budgets. We have smaller marketing budgets and staffs as compared with our competitors—so how can we have a bigger impact? With a good marketing automation platform, we can start looking at our programs the same way Billy looked at his players. Here are some lessons I think we can learn from the Oakland A’s and the movie, “Moneyball”:

  • “He gets on base a lot. Do I care if it’s a walk or a hit?”  The answer is no. In baseball, a hard-hit line drive has a lot more visual appeal than a batter getting a walk by poor pitches—yet they both achieve the same goal. In fact, often it is better to be patient and let the pitcher wear out his arm trying to get the ball over the plate. Beane was not looking for the guy who might hit the home run every once in a while and strike out the other times. He wanted the guy who statistically got on base more and put them in a position to score.

In marketing, I think we often get “caught up in the glamor.” We want that possible ego home run so we spend money on huge, famous tradeshows where our booth is barely seen or advertise in well-known newspapers where we generate few leads. We want to say “we have a booth at that show” or “we have an ad running in that publication.” We want to be seen as big hitters. However, reporting from your marketing automation platform may show you that your money would have been better spent on seminars if you were looking to generate sales opportunities.

  • “This guy could be one of the most effective relief pitchers in all of baseball. He should cost $3 million a year. We can get him for $237,000.” With marketing automation, you can really look at ROI and value as Beane did. For example, your trade show programs may be bringing in $2 million in opportunities but may be costing you $1 million to produce. While email and seminars may be bringing in $2 million in opportunities and only costing you $400,000 to produce.  You need to determine what your ROI factors should be. Even if you are coming out ahead, is a 2X return good enough for your organization?
  • “When your enemy’s making mistakes, don’t interrupt him.” We are often reactive rather than proactive when it comes to marketing against our competitors. An executive sees a competitive ad in an airport and suddenly the marketing department is researching the cost of banner ads in airports. Your CEO sees a competitive ad in The Wall Street Journal and suddenly you are asking The Wall Street Journal for it ad rates.  Once you feel comfortable tracking marketing performance and metrics through your marketing automation, you can start looking for trends and begin forecasting. You have to build your success by adapting from your past performance—not by following your competitors.  Use your metrics to make you grow and make your competitors follow you.
  • “Do you believe?” In the movie, success did not happen immediately for Billy Beane and the 2002 Oakland Athletics. In fact, there were periods of doubt, second-guessing, and criticism. A big part of the movie is about Beane “changing things up” when they were not successful. He traded more glamour players for more underrated and undervalued players. He believed in the performance data. You may have to make tough decisions about participating in certain trade shows or running certain ad campaigns based on the historical and transactional data you have before you. Targeted direct mail may not be as intriguing or visual as many of the new social media programs out there but if it is getting great results and is cost-effective for your organization, you may want to believe in the data and put more money behind it.

Marketing automation is not always about reaching out to prospects and generating leads. Sometimes it is about reaching out to customers and nurturing leads. Other times it is about building brand and trust. Always it is about tracking performance and measuring results. Even if you have seen the movie before, go out and rent “Moneyball.” I guarantee you that you will pick up at least one tip that you can apply to your marketing approach. Believe in the Moneyball approach and make the tough decisions you need to make using marketing automation to provide the metrics. As the owner of the Boston Red Sox said to Billy Beane when he was offering him a job, “Anybody who’s not building a team right and rebuilding it using your model, they’re dinosaurs.” Whether you are part of a small marketing department trying to compete against your competitors’ larger marketing departments or you are in a large marketing department trying to determine how to be most effective with your marketing, rely on the Moneyball approach and your marketing automation reporting for your success.