The decision to purchase a marketing automation platform/service (MAP) for your manufacturing marketing team is a big one. Not only is it a big decision because of the monetary investment, but it's also a big decision because of the typically massive cultural change that may be necessary for your marketing team and your entire revenue-generating function to support such a broadly invasive tool.
If you can master MAP and incorporate the tool into your culture, the upside is huge. Qualified leads increase, market perception improves, return on investment grows exponentially, sales has new respect for marketing, cost per acquisition goes down, and more. Even with all of these benefits, it is not a decision that should be made lightly.
There are many companies offering MAP services with price points from a couple of hundred dollars a month to several thousand dollars per month. The price is usually driven by the size of the database, features, and support plans. One of the good things about these tools is that the pricing is posted on the vendors’ websites for easy comparison.
Is it worth the investment?
When a manufacturer contemplates purchasing, implementing and integrating a MAP into their marketing tool kit, the concept is usually proposed to management with a supporting business case. It’s relatively easy to show how marketing automation should improve the efficiency of the marketing team and increase sales, but it is challenging to execute a plan that achieves these results.
Back to my premise question, “Is MAP worth it?” And of course, the answer is “It depends.” Your initial investment in marketing automation will likely cost between $5,000 and $40,000 per year. It’s not a one-time purchase price, but an ongoing subscription. It’s not hard to show a robust ROI on paper based on some rosy efficiency numbers. However, the danger in determining if MAP is worth the investment is that many hidden costs don't show up in the previously mentioned business case or the brochures and websites of the MAP companies.
Hidden costs may include:
- Staff hours spent on implementation and learning how to use the tool
- The complexity of implementation and complexity in the actual use of the tool can be a large opportunity cost not to mention the cost of staff hours. Vendor cost for setup and training
- Outsourced cost for maintenance and execution
- Opportunity cost (could your time and money be better spent on something else?)
- Internal time and energy cost, not to mention cost to reputation if the project fails to meet expectations
Suppose you submit to the annual expense and agree to absorb the hidden costs, what is the payback and are you capable of using the tool to realize a payback?
I frequently hear from marketing directors and managers who have purchased a MAP subscription, excited by the possibilities but are unable to fully use the tool because of lack of technical leadership, expertise, or personnel. They usually end up using it as an email tool. It's a very costly email tool.
Reading technical marketing blogs or articles, it's easy to believe that anyone and everyone is using MAP and if you and your organization don’t get on board, you’ll be labeled a laggard and end up missing the fast growth boat to your more adaptive competitors. This is not the reality of the marketing landscape. According to the 2015 Marketing Sherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, only 24 percent of B2B marketers are using marketing automation. The report further states that of those 24 percent, at best 53 percent have implemented core functions. Only 30 percent have fully implemented advanced functions such as reporting dashboards, lead management, nurturing, or lead scoring. Therefore, only 8 percent of B2B marketers are fully leveraging their MAP.
Other data, from a 2014 study by SiriusDecisions as reported by AdvertisingAge, states that only 16 percent of North American B2B companies use marketing automation. This report shows a wide range of adoption rates as broken down by industry, with the highest rate of 65 percent with information technology companies and the lowest rates with health care, financial services, and manufacturing, all with adoption rates of less than 10 percent.
Could this be opportunity knocking for your firm to get a leg up on the competition with a shiny new MAP?
Perhaps, but there are some strong indicators of success you can benchmark against to help determine if you and your organization have a good chance of being successful with a MAP. For the sake of this discussion, let’s define success as an increased revenue growth rate as a result of a MAP.
Based on my 8 plus years of experience with purchasing, implementing, and using various marketing automation platforms, these are some key success factors for marketing automation:
- Make sure your key stakeholders are on board and excited about what a MAP can do for them. The main stakeholders might vary with your organization but should start the executive team: CEO, CFO, CMO, VP sales, etc., and their associated teams.
- Have at least a preliminary plan written down and share it. Note the “written down” part of this step. If the plan is in your head or someone else’s head, be wary, because the details of any unwritten plan are usually absent.
- Own the owner. You need to have one person who owns the MAP and is responsible for its success. This person should be on your team and not nestled away in the IT department or the sales department. This is your champion and, ideally, he or she loves technology, is curious, fearless, innovative, creative, and has a thick skin (shouldn’t all marketers have thick skins?). Reward this person for success! If you try to add the responsibility for the MAP onto the litany of other tools the webmaster or another marketing person owns, it will be tough to get any traction with your new MAP tool. It will likely languish as a glorified email tool at best and as a forgotten resource costing you $2,000–$3,000 per month at worst. Do not rely solely on outsourcing for strategy and execution. Outsourcing is no doubt a highly valuable resource, and I encourage supplementing your MAP with outsourced or freelance help, but that cannot and should not replace an in-house MAP champion expert.
- You will need the expertise of an outside vendor, especially if you plan to integrate MAP into other systems in place such as your CRM. The expertise of outside vendors will speed up your implementation, help get your team up to speed much more quickly, and set a strong foundation for future efficient use.
- Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Let your whole company know how this tool is contributing to the goals of the firm. Be careful not to report vanity metrics or metrics that seem to be bragging about yourself or the team. Talk about how an individual campaign increased sales, for example. Even better, highlight the success of one of the stakeholders because of his or her use of the tool. You cannot over communicate the success of the MAP. As marketers, you might treat it as an internal product launch with a positioning statement, value proposition, and associated messaging.
- Measure everything and customize the presentation of results to fit the respective audiences.
Your team should be excited and interested to learn as much about this tool as possible. Every marketer should be assigned the task of becoming an expert in the MAP strategy and technology. Your team should plan to use this tool on a daily basis. Without that kind of interest, your success will be limited. If you plan to assign everything about the tool to one individual or a very small team of so-called digital marketers, your success will also be limited.
Is marketing automation worth it?
No, if you’re strapped for resources and won’t be able to invest the time and absorb the hidden costs that are incurred to optimize the MAP. No, if your culture is not eager and ready for a marketing automation tool.
Yes, definitely, if you are able to leverage the power and implement all the core functions to your marketing plan around an energized, technically savvy group of marketers.