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5 Reasons Your Marketing Automation Isn’t Driving the ROI You Expected

Will Davis | January 3, 2019

Increase traffic.  

Improve conversions.  

Generate more qualified leads.

Boost efficiency.

Become billionaire.

These are just some of the benefits you may have hoped for when you purchased that shiny new marketing automation tool (especially that billionaire thing). And your high hopes for such an important investment aren’t unique. For the first time, CMOs are spending more on marketing technology than anything else (including – gasp – employees). These trends aren’t expected to slow anytime soon. In fact, Forrester reports global marketing automation spend will reach $25.1 billion by 2023.

Although business leaders across the nation are dipping into their marketing and IT budgets and shelling out big bucks for automation tools, only 27 percent of them actually feel that they can prove this investment contributes to pipeline. Sound familiar?

Getting the most from your technology investment is largely tied to how your tools are set up and supported over time. Too often, business leaders focus on their initial investment in marketing automation and overlook the importance of investing in the proper implementation, training, and support necessary to get results now and in the future.

So, how do you know if you are getting a return on your marketing automation tool?

  • Your team is working more efficiently
  • You have access to meaningful data that drives better (and faster) decisions
  • You’re driving more sales opportunities and qualified leads
  • Your team is doing more with less
  • Your audience is growing
  • Audience engagement is increasing with targeted, relevant content
  • You HAVE BECOME a billionaire (if so, it’s fine to stop reading now)

If you are sitting there, head in hand, because you’re not really realizing any of the points I mentioned that show ROI, what do you do? It’s time to take a big-picture look at your platform and see what’s getting in the way of success. Here are five obstacles that could be holding you back:

Obstacle #1: Cookie-Cutter Set-Up

Maybe you were sold on the idea that marketing automation would be a plug-and-play solution for your marketing. One of the secrets to seeing ROI on your tool is customization. Your company is unique. And the way your technology is set up should reflect the way your team works.

The fix: Customize your tool and structure it around your team’s current processes and best practices. You’ll empower adoption and fuel long-term success. Sit with your team and map out your preferred and successful marketing processes — a whiteboard or those giant Post-its work great for this. Then, look at where your marketing automation tool fits into the processes you and your team establish. Too often people let the default ways a tool works drive the humans. Technology is almost always easier to change than people.  

Obstacle #2: Lack of Maintenance

As much as we would like it to be, marketing automation is not like the famed Fix-it-and-Forget-it crockpot craze. Instead, it requires attention, optimization, and adjustments. Ensure leads are moving through your pipeline efficiently (and delight your sales team) with regular maintenance.

The fix: Optimize and improve lead generation by scheduling time for regular reviews, analysis, and improvements on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. Some starting points include getting your arms around your data health (or lack thereof), auditing programs and workflows that may be running and shouldn’t, checking campaigns and tracking codes, and reviewing and archiving old elements. Check the open and engagement rates of emails in that “old reliable” lead nurture series and make sure they are where you want them to be. Don’t let these activities slip to the bottom of your to-do list.     

Obstacle #3: Inexperience and Poor Training

Too often, we see someone on a marketing team without specific experience being tasked with managing a new marketing automation instance. An effective marketing automation tool is a lot like a stick shift car — for it to get you where you need to go, there needs to be an experienced driver at the wheel (that whole clutch thing is not as easy as it looks). Don’t assume that once set-up is finished, anyone can do the job. Both set-up and maintenance require extensive, specialized knowledge (and continuous learning).

The fix: Provide your team with ongoing training they need to keep up with changing technology, emerging trends, and best practices. Don’t have experienced team members? Enlist an outside agency that can rebuild your marketing set-up and provide long-term maintenance, and strategic, outside support.

Obstacle #4: A Single Person Holds the Key to Your Success

Systems are often thrown into disarray when a talented marketing automation architect moves on, which, unfortunately, happens a lot. These folks are in high demand, and as they move on to new positions, they take with them an intimate knowledge of your tool. This can bring your efforts to a screeching halt if no one else has a clue about the set-up and processes. As a result, data degrades, and careful architecture gets dismantled by untrained team members picking up the slack during a transition.

The fix: Don’t place all the knowledge — and power — with just one person. Empower your team to function as backup for your marketing automation expert by providing ongoing training, or partner with an outside agency to ensure your tool is maintained over the long-term, despite transitions. The “backup” doesn’t have to be an expert at all aspects of the platform (that could get costly too), but if you train multiple people on different pieces, you can make sure you keep things running smoothly.  

Obstacle #5: Clean-Up Requires Additional Investment

I often talk to B2B companies that have had problems with marketing automation, but don’t necessarily connect those problems with the broader impact that those issues have on their business. While spending money to clean up an in-house tool you’ve already made a significant investment in can feel like a hard sell to leadership, it’s a critical expenditure that that will drive revenue — and allow you to ultimately show real ROI.

The fix: Dig into the specific results and goals you’re looking to achieve with marketing automation optimization. Communicate the results you expect and what your organization stands to lose if you don’t make necessary improvements. Can you quantify the time wasted each day, week month, etc. from the mess your tool has become? Can you point to mistakes like emails going to the wrong people or users mistakenly marked as unsubscribed who are missing your messages? These are just a couple examples of ways you can quantify the value of what seems like a cost sink.    

As a leader in your organization, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for what might be a minimal return on your hefty investment in marketing technology. You want to drive customized, relevant messages to your customers, increase lead generation, boost conversions and scale your efforts in a hurry — and then communicate results to others across your organization. Get under the hood of your marketing automation tool and start making improvements now with our marketing inspection checklist. It’s the same checklist we use when we clean up and optimize our clients’ marketing automation platforms.

Need hands-on help? Contact us for an in-person inspection.

About Will Davis:

As Right Source’s chief marketing technology officer, Will Davis oversees the intersection of marketing strategy, consulting, execution and technology for our clients. He focuses first on business objectives and then on helping clients leverage marketing and technology to deliver against those objectives. A recognized leader in content marketing, Will has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in government and politics and broad experience developing marketing strategies that help organizations reach milestones and grow. You can find Will on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn, or read his other posts.

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