Marketing Automation for the Agile Enterprise

By admin March 30th, 2012 | No Comments

To be successful, a great CMO needs to make a strategic marketing automation system decision within the first 180 days. The automation system becomes the metrics backbone for the organization and is the marketing data core for lead source definition, web site taxonomy, executive dashboards, go-to-market strategy, ROI analysis and campaign planning. In my personal experience, making the system decision within the first 90 days is a best practice since it takes up to 6 months for meaningful data to emerge yet you’ll typically start getting the “what have you done for me lately?” phone call at around the 120 day mark. At the 180 day mark you start getting the CEO wondering why he or she needs marketing at all. This is one reason the average tenure of a CMO was 22 months in 2010 and all the more reason to accelerate the marketing automation system decision and begin building a solid metrics framework immediately.

In my experience the driving force for marketing automation system adoption is primarily rooted in justification and validation. Depending on the specifics of the situation you are either justifying marketing spend and campaign effectiveness or you’re justifying the very existence of marketing. As much as we don’t want to admit it, I would say upwards of 70% of marketing automation decisions are inspired by the justification of marketing at its most fundamental level.  A second force driving marketing automation decisions is the accelerating need for operational agility. In 2012 all CMOs face the same hard truth; that the pace of innovation is outpacing the marketers ability to adapt and deliver. The inability for marketers to move fast enough, to generate enough content, to bring products and campaigns to market readily enough is the major reason for the ultra short CMO career tenures. As a marketing community interested in our own self preservation, we need to make Operational Agility one our three fundamental strategic pillars. The enabling force for agility in marketing is effective automation. It enables us to make instant adjustments and automate workflows to effectively adapt to the hundreds or thousands of customer and prospect interactions that occur every day and ultimately define our success or failure. This is why it is vital we treat the automation system as a strategic asset and not simply an analytical support tool.

The set of marketing automation system options expands monthly. Marketo, Eloqua and Aprimo are maturing brands and new market entrants such as Pardot, Hubspot and Balihoo deliver compelling offerings as well. Most of the solutions worthy of consideration are cloud-based and you pay a subscription fee on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis based on your customer data base size and user count. For a small marketing department, automation solutions range from around 25K to close to $150K, but can be more depending on the size of your customer database. On average for about 200,000 records you are probably looking at around 80K – 100K. At this price point you should be demanding onsite training and integration into your CRM system. Another useful guideline to consider is adding an additional 20% in addition to the basic quote for customization requirements that will emerge later on that you won’t have visibility of in the initial purchase cycle.

To help you choose the right solution and vendor for your organization, we’ve created an assessment worksheet and vendor scorecard. The worksheet was designed for small and medium B2B companies with a requirement for integration but as a foundation it should serve you well and provide guidance for your selection process. We want your feedback and suggestions on how to improve the model and we’ll source your contributions in our download section. The question of how  to properly assess vendors is an interesting exercise which ultimately boils down to each company’s vector of differentiation in terms of how they address the marketing automation problem and how it applies to the “atomic unit” of your specific problem. For example, some solutionsare well suited to email marketing, some for sophisticated B2C campaign workflows, others are strong in database management, reporting & analytics, sales performance management, and the list goes on. This is a major reason why you cannot under any circumstance approach this as an isolated marketing decision. In my experience you must ensure everyone from the CEO down across all the functions, especially sales and customer advocacy, are involved in the creation of the assessment criteria and agree on the atomic problem unit you are solving for. I have seen many colleagues unsuccessfully launch marketing automation due to lack of alignment across the company. Don’t make this mistake. As a final point, assessing and implementing marketing automation systems is not a one off exercise. To make it work in your organization you need to align all stakeholders including the vendor in ongoing cadence to ensure proper usage of the system.

We want to hear about your experiences with marketing automation systems and your own best practices for vendor selection. Send us and email to and we’ll post it to the community for discussion.

Nolan Rosen

Principal  & Cofounder

CMO Solution, Inc.

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