Guest post written by Patrick Biddiscombe
Disclaimer: Guest posts don’t necessarily reflect the views of G2 Crowd.
In recent years, the need to invest in a CRM platform has become accepted as a basic practice for nearly all businesses looking to manage a sales force and grow their business.
However, as marketing automation has gained increasing prevalence and adoption over the past five years — exemplified by the growth of Marketo, Pardot and HubSpot, among others — questions still remain for many businesses as to when it makes sense to invest in marketing automation.
Here are four key considerations you need to make before pulling the trigger on a marketing automation platform:
1. Your sales cycle
Marketing automation tools can be extremely advantageous when used to nurture a prospect over the course of a long sales cycle (more than three months), or one that involves a more complex purchasing decision and/or the involvement of multiple stakeholders. This is because, as Daniel Pink wrote in “To Sell is Human,” we have entered an age in which the relationship between a salesperson and a prospect is one of information parity instead inequality. Today, prospects begin their buying cycle online and are increasingly educated around a potential solution before making an investment.
Marketers can capitalize on this new paradigm and provide relevant information at the appropriate time during the buying cycle with marketing automation.
2. Time to value
Marketing automation can undoubtedly be an ROI-positive investment. However, these platforms are also complex to implement and leverage to their full capabilities. Does your company have the resources for making an automation program successful? Here are the key elements you should consider that will influence time to value:
• Inbound lead velocity: If you have 10–20 leads per month, marketing automation probably doesn’t make sense (yet). However, if you’re generating 10 leads a day from your website, it’s time to invest. Also, consider what your potential inbound lead velocity will be at scale, as it can be easier to implement marketing automation to grow with your company if you anticipate a higher volume over the coming months.
• Employee or vendor resources to manage the platform: This could mean hitting a milestone such as hiring a director of marketing, having $50,000 in monthly recurring revenue and a minimum sellable product with more than 10 customers.
• The size of your contact database: If you have 5,000–10,000 contacts that could be nurtured, marketing automation could be a powerful tool.
• Your current website traffic: If you’re generating more than 3,000 unique visits per month or have a database of 5,000–10,000 contacts that can be emailed and nurtured, marketing automation may be a good fit.
• Investment in content marketing: Content is the fuel that feeds the marketing-automation engine. If you’re not planning to invest in content creation, an investment in marketing automation will likely be less successful.
• A real understanding of your target audience: If you don’t fully understand it, your marketing efforts might be driving an increase in unqualified traffic only. Take the time to research and understand your audience first.
3. Expected marketing contribution to pipeline
According to the Aberdeen Group, companies who use marketing automation tools convert 53 percent more leads to marketing qualified leads, and report revenue growth 3.1 percent higher than non-users.
Additionally, 67 percent of B2B marketers cite lead nurturing and lead scoring endeavors (marketing automation features) increase sales opportunities throughout the funnel by at least 10 percent; 15 percent of marketers are seeing opportunities increase by 30 percent or more.
Marketing automation drives the most value at the middle and bottom of the funnel. If your organization expects your marketing department to drive a substantial percentage of your pipeline, without an incredibly strong referral system it will be very difficult to do so without marketing automation.
Pipeline marketing can be greatly accelerated with effective lead scoring and nurturing workflows. Beyond this, reporting to your board or investors and forecasting revenue growth will be much easier with the analytics and insights granted by a marketing-automation platform, allowing you to build a predictable revenue machine and lower customer acquisition cost.
4. Existing platform (CRM, etc.) and process integration
Marketing automation makes the most sense in an inside sales model. Is your sales organization infrastructure in place to handle an increased lead flow? Or alternatively, are your reps overworked with unqualified leads that need to be further qualified by the marketing team before being handed to sales?
Regardless, having a clearly defined sales process and service-level agreement in place between the marketing and sales teams is crucial to the success of a marketing-automation effort.
Finally, is your CRM data clean and organized? If not, take the time to cleanse this data before layering on the additional data inflow from the marketing platform. Otherwise, data cleansing after the fact becomes increasingly costly and resource-intensive.
At the end of the day, implementing a marketing-automation platform is a huge commitment. But for any company with aspirations for achieving high growth in 2015, leveraging marketing automation is becoming table stakes. But before you go and buy a platform, make sure that you have the necessary personnel, processes and data structure in place to make the investment a success.
About the author: Patrick Biddisombe is CEO of New Breed, which is a marketing and sales agency that specializes in supporting B2B tech and software companies grow and scale their businesses by delivering quality traffic and leads. Follow him on Twitter at @pbiddiscombe.