There is a problem in B2B marketing today. Marketers are wasting their precious budgets buying marketing automation systems that they don’t use. A recent study by Ascend2 and Research Partners shows that over 1/3 of the companies that buy marketing automation platforms (MAPs) are not really utilizing them.

The problem is not with the tools or the support that is provided by the vendors. The study also shows that companies that use MA systems correctly achieve success. The problem is the mindset of the people who buy the automation tool without buying into the process. If you buy a hammer it isn’t going to build you a house. The process should include research, smart decisions about content and CTAs, strategy, planning and allocation of adequate resources. The purpose of automation is to systematize a strategic process that generates a positive business outcome. If I just described your situation or if you’re currently evaluating the marketing automation options for your business, here is what you should do before you buy:

  1. Define Clear Objectives and the KPIs That You Are Going to Track: The primary focus of B2B marketing is usually developing qualified leads into sales. How many qualified leads (MQLs and SQLs) must be generated each month for it to be considered a success?
  2. Create a Persona Document: You’re wasting your time if you do not have a document that (at minimum) answers these questions: Who are your target personas? What are their biggest pains? What occurs to make their pain an urgent priority? The best way to acquire these answers is to talk to five of your ideal clients and two clients that got away. This insight will provide the focus for your content and conversion strategy.
  3. Have Your Compelling Call To Action Ready: I think this is where a lot of companies get stuck because they misunderstand their buyers or they lack creativity. Marketing Automation does not work if you can’t compel an anonymous qualified visitor to take action by giving up their contact info. Usually this is some form of digital content like a PDF of a use case, exclusive research or a live or recorded webinar. The more compelling your CTAs are, the greater the conversion rate and ROI. Just a 1% difference in conversion rate can have a huge impact on ROI. It’s imperative to leverage your persona research before you go off and invest the time it takes to create amazing content.
  4. Start Your Content Engine: The fuel for marketing automation is content content content. Your first CTA will just be the start, so be sure that you have the right resources in place to support the generation of at least one high quality piece of content to use in your CTA per quarter. The best content involves use cases, thought leadership, insight or exclusive research that’s aligned with your buyer’s initiatives and pains. A big mistake I see over an over again is companies assuming that their own people will drive the content. This is the ideal but it’s the exception no the rule unless upper management is supportive and values the content.
  5. Make a Strategy and Plan: Once you have figured out the first four items above, you’re ready to create a strategy that leverages the awesome power of an enterprise marketing automation system. We recommend and prefer to work Act-on or Hubspot. Marketo and Pardot can also do the job.

Last piece of advice, is take it seriously but don’t turn this into a massive navel gazing exercise. Set a time limit for your strategy and planning. Your strategy can be a work in progress as you setup your MAP, but be sure to have a good outline so you understand how you will support the program to make it a success. Please comment and let us know what your Marketing Automation experience has been like. Did you wing it or did you have a plan from the start? How would you grade your success?