Process First in Marketing Automation

Over the last two years we have seen a major upswing in the attention that B2B marketers are giving to marketing automation.  While the industry itself has been established for over a decade, it’s only recently that it has been at the forefront of marketer’s minds in terms of awareness and adoption.  What’s interesting however is that this increase in marketing automation awareness has not seemed to solve the problems that marketers say face them regularly.  Several research studies indicate as such. For instance…

  • A Marketing Sherpa study conducted in October 2010 showed that 78% of marketers list generating a high quality lead as their top challenge
  • In a 2010 Frost & Sullivan study, 44% of those who own marketing automation said that a lack of defined process was an obstacle to success
  • In another study, approximately 25% of those who own marketing automation state they are getting the full value from their investment

If these statistics show anything, it’s that marketing automation, on its own, will not provide marketing departments what they need to be successful.  In order for marketing departments to get the most from their marketing automation investment, it’s imperative that they define and implement a lead management process.

In a December 2010 blog post, Jonathan Block of Sirius Decisions detailed research that compared companies who had automation with weak or no process versus those who had automation with process.  The increase in value to those companies with process versus those who had none are staggering:

  • A 366% increase  in sales accepted leads
  • A 416% increase in closed deals
  • $570,000 in more revenue (based on an average  selling price of $150,000)

Block also comments in his post on the importance of process when it comes to automation. He states, “Unfortunately, we still see organizations purchase a marketing automation platform (MAP) in an attempt to automate processes that don’t exist. In instances where this has occurred, the technology has struggled to demonstrate results.”

So, the research points to the fact that process is imperative if marketing automation is going to be successful.   Yet many organizations are stuck, stymied by the questions, “What should those processes be?” and “Where do I start?”

The answer to the first question, “What should those processes be?” is found in taking the all important step of adopting a Lead Management FrameworkSM.  The Lead Management Framework is a set of individual yet holistic processes that provides an operational foundation on which your automation will run.  The Lead Management Framework includes the following process components:

  • Data
  • Lead Planning
  • Lead Qualification (Including Lead Scoring)
  • Lead Routing
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Metrics

By defining each of these components of the Lead Management Framework, and by understanding that these process components are integrated, you will be on your way to providing the necessary operational structure to leverage your marketing automation solution.

So what about the question, “Where do I start?”  The answer to this question is “By seeking to know that which you don’t know.” In other words, seek to get an understanding of your current lead management state.   This is achieved by conducting a lead management audit of your current processes.

An audit of each of the process areas of the Lead Management Framework will enable you to identify gaps that exist, as well as those areas that are working well.  To most effectively get a full view of your current state, it’s essential to include others from various departments including sales, operations, finance, IT, etc.  Any department or resource that has a stake in your demand generation efforts must be included in the audit.  The successful completion of the audit will result in having problem areas identified, and will allow you to prioritize these areas so you can begin addressing them.

The marketing automation industry will continue to grow and B2B marketers will continue to adopt automation so they can increase both their efficiencies and effectiveness.  Those who want to derive value from their automation investment must take a process based approach. Not doing so will lead to minimal results. And while the analysis, development and implementation of the Lead Management Framework is not an overnight fix, taking the time to develop it properly will lead to exponential results over the long term.

About the author: Carlos Hidalgo is CEO of The Annuitas Group, the leading provider of sales and marketing process consulting services.  In his role, Hidalgo has helped their clients identify over $500 million of potential revenue by developing and implementing lead management processes.

Prior to The Annuitas Group, Hidalgo was responsible for global SMB marketing at BMC Software. In this role, Hidalgo was responsible for all aspects of marketing and customer relations for the SMB line of products including creation of strategic messaging, go-to-market strategies, management of all customer communications and demand generation activities. Prior to his role at BMC Software, Hidalgo held a similar role at McAfee, Inc


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