Five years ago, marketing automation was a wild, untamed market, with 70 or more vendors battling not just for customers but also for the right to define what a marketing automation application was. What did it do? Who was it for? How deeply should it integrate? On-premise or cloud?
This battle produced winners and losers. The winners are the companies that survived the inevitable consolidation of the market and who remain as names in the marketing automation space. The losers are, too often, customers who made the wrong bet and wound up with a marketing automation solution that doesn’t quite do what it needs to do to be successful.
The good news is that, in the era of the cloud, it’s not hard to make the switch to the right marketing automation platform. But when do you make the switch?
There are signs – and if you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to time your move to a more full-featured and ready-for-growth marketing automation application just right.
So what are those signs?
1. It’s Stuck in the Email Age
Automating the process of blasting out emails was entry-level stuff – get the mechanics down, and you could spam the universe if you were so inclined. Good applications included features to avoid being seen as a spammer, of course, but the approach was the same as a spammer’s, in many cases: broadcast the message to as many people as possible, and hope for a response.
If that’s what your marketing automation system is doing, it’s time to put that puppy out to pasture. It’s not enough to send emails – they must be personalized and targeted for maximum effect. Even beyond that, they need to contain content that’s valuable to each recipient. And the responses must be effectively tracked – not just when they result in a closed sale but whenever they drive a step on the prospect’s buyer’s journey.
If you use multi-channel campaigns – including direct mail and event appearances – your marketing automation needs to accept this off-line data to. That’s something no email application can possibly handle.
2. It Doesn’t Play Well with Other Applications
Marketing automation can collect all kinds of useful data. Unfortunately, some applications seem to have been designed with the idea that this data should remain within marketing. To maximize your ROI on a marketing automation, in needs to integrate with other applications – CRM is the most obvious of these, but also CPQ, social media monitoring tools and customer support systems. (A customer who’s been on the phone with support is probably not in a receptive mood for a marketing email – a temporary exclusion from your list is a good bet in such circumstances.) Built-in integrations are best; a design that makes it easy to integrate with other applications is next best. What you need to avoid is an application that’s a hassle to integrate, because that means increased cost, greater need for ongoing care and more downtime. There are other, more modern alternatives out there.
3. Its Cost Structure No Longer Makes Sense
Marketing automation applications are sold under a bewildering variety of billing options: flat fees with no caps on usage, a flat fee with caps, bandwidth-based fees, and so on. Revisit the way you use marketing automation; if that’s changed, it may be that you now could get more for your investment from a different payment structure. It’s a little like car insurance: the policy you pay for with a 50-mile commute costs more than a policy for a 5-mile commute – so when your commute distance changes, there’s no reason to pay for the distance you used to drive.
4. It Needs an Expert to Make It Work
Does your marketing team have a go-to analyst whose job is to run the marketing application? When that guy’s on vacation, do your marketing efforts grind to a halt – and when he returns, is he under a crush of work built up during his absence? In most cases, this is not the ideal way to work – everyone in the marketing department ought to be able to use marketing automation. Beyond that, others – most notably sales – should be able to use marketing automation to run campaigns to their prospects and customers. Marketing automation should be democratic in that everyone should be able to use it. If it requires a designated administrator, it may be a signal that it’s time for a new solution that better reflects today’s realities.
5. It’s Too Simple or Too Complex
Does your marketing automation application allow you to do what you want to do? Beyond that, is it easy to set it up to do what you want, and when your objectives change can it change with them? If not, it may be too basic for the needs of your evolving marketing team. The flip side of this comes when you need to make a change, but the system is so complex to manage that making those changes is difficult and time-consuming. Regardless of your level of sophistication, you need a “Goldilocks” solution – not too simple, not too complex, but just right. Many of the early email-based applications are too simple and hold users back; some of the larger, name-brand applications are so overly flexible that using them requires expertise that’s beyond most marketers.
Looking to move on from an outgrown marketing automation application? Take a look at Gleanster’s Deep Dive: Marketing Automation Pre-Purchase Checklist to make sure you get the solution that’s right for you.