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Chuck Schaeffer Why Marketing Automation Software Fails to Deliver

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The Untold Truths and White Lies of Marketing Automation Software

In my prior blog post, I identified exactly Why You Need Marketing Automation Software. I’m a long-time advocate of marketing automation, and the benefits are substantive. Nurturing unqualified leads until they become sales-ready, delivering better leads to the sales force, accelerating sales velocity and using rich lead analytics to demonstrate precisely how marketing investments lead to incremental revenues are paramount for successful marketers.

But despite these benefits, only a minority of marketers have actually deployed marketing automation systems. There’s a lot of talk about whether marketing automation software has crossed the chasm, but there’s no substantive research to show measurable market adoption. From both my anecdotal market study and my talks with marketing software CEOs, it’s clear that despite being over a decade old, this technology market is still early in its lifecycle. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, particularly when you consider the Forrester research report, Forsights Software Survey, which finds that only 47% of North American and European enterprises have already implemented a CRM solution which includes marketing, sales and service.

But digging deeper, the slow market adoption must be the result of impediments standing in the way of the many espoused benefits. I authored all the marketing software reviews on, and can certainly attest that some applications possess much stronger capabilities than others. But that said, I’ve also spoken with many CMO’s and marketing leaders and can further corroborate that seldom is technology the single contributing factor for failed marketing software deployments. So what is?

Marketing Software Risks and Untapped Potential

From my research, conversations and personally managed deployments, here’s why marketing automation software most often fails to deliver.

  1. Poor Strategy. Putting technology in front of or in place of strategy is nothing new in the enterprise software market. As has been the case with CRM for over two decades, marketing software adopters often lead with technology and then find themselves wondering why their marketing software investment fails to deliver payback. Simply put, marketing automation software enables marketing strategy, and if there is no strategy it has nothing to enable.

  2. Deployment Challenges. In my most recent research report, The Best Practices of the Best Marketers, I surveyed marketers about their positive and negative experiences with marketing software. Top reported challenges and frustrations with marketing software adoption included implementations that took longer and cost more than expected (32 percent), higher total cost of ownership than expected (24 percent), software which required more technical skills and resources than anticipated (24 percent) and software that required more resourcing to operate than anticipated (21 percent). Several survey participants commented that they didn’t appreciate the technical requirements or need for resources before they began their deployment.

  3. Sales and Marketing Alignment—or the Lack Thereof. In my video discussion with Phil Fernandez, he gave an interesting analogy describing the range of relationships between sales and marketing as either two ships that pass in the night, or two ships the lob torpedoes at each other. We've all witnessed the companies where if you ask sales staff what marketing does, they might respond “those are the guys that make the promotional t-shirts, organize the company picnic and go to the trade shows which have plenty of glitz but produce no good leads.” Or if you ask marketing about sales, they might respond “Those are the guys who work the least, get paid the most, will say anything to close a sale and are celebrated as heroes every time a sale closes.” This cultural friction is a barrier to lead management processes and supporting technology. Until sales and marketing can bridge the cultural divide and align their objectives and processes, no technology solution will achieve its potential.

  4. Glorified Email Marketing. The dirty little secret that marketing software vendors don’t share is that most of their customers relegate their solutions to nothing more than glorified email distributions. The marketing software is capable of much more but in typical enterprise software fashion, most customers use about a third of the software’s capability. For example, while marketing software can create finely tuned customer segmentation which contributes to delivering relevant, contextual and personalized messaging, most customers simply send the same unpersonalized email blasts to every lead irrespective of buyer persona, product under consideration or where that buyer is in their purchase process. This reality clearly stems for prior issues, including lack of strategy, and the next issue, lack of content.

  5. Content Marketing is Hard. Marketers understand that outbound (interruption-based) marketing techniques perform poorly and annoy prospects. They also see the value of inbound techniques, such as content marketing, which at a basic level delivers remarkable content to (normally online) venues in order to educate buyers, and subsequently be considered in those buyers’ purchase processes. Marketing automation software needs remarkable content to advance leads through a buy cycle funnel of awareness to consideration to purchase. But feeding the content beast is a full time job, creating remarkable content is rare and few marketers apply a solid content strategy to their content marketing program. To be done right, remarkable content should be created according to buyer personas and buy cycle stages at the minimum. Aligning the content pursuant to market adoption, for example where products lie in the chasm curve, further increases the likelihood the content will actually get consumed and achieve its lead generation purpose. The unfortunate truth is that while many marketers espouse the virtues of content marketing, very few actually capitalize.

  6. A Disjointed Revenue Model. Sales leaders religiously use sales pipelines to track, manage, forecast and improve sales performance. Most marketers don’t apply the same rigor, but should. By appending the sales pipeline with the marketing stages which precede the sales pipe and measuring the performance of lead volumes, flow, and velocity, marketers can create a more comprehensive revenue cycle to forecast, benchmark and measure how their top of the funnel activities impact bottom of the funnel revenue generation—and proactively manage the entire lead to customer acquisition process. Marketing systems can bring automation and visibility to the revenue cycle, but like strategy, the model must first exist. Start by building your revenue cycle, and defining all stages that new leads should pass (along with supporting metrics such as conversions and durations per stage) on their way to becoming a customer. Only then can you really benefit from marketing technology.

  7. The Wrong Analytics. Many marketers limit their reporting to the standard reports available in their marketing automation system. This can result in a significant setback in reporting and analyzing the most strategic measurements that deliver the greatest impact to the company. For example, few marketing software systems capture marketing costs making campaign ROI and ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) reporting impossible. It’s important to resist the temptation to measure marketing program metrics that are easy to measure, but provide little insight into growing the company’s top line revenues. End

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Comments (4) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest skeltashy
  Great article. BtoB put out a report titled “Marketing Automation: Best Practices for the Management of B2B Digital Marketing Campaigns” that shared some of the common challenges with marketing software, and cited that 32% of marketers said they are constrained in adopting marketing automation by budget limitations and poor integration with sales, 30% cited inadequate data collection infrastructure and 23% cited the complexity of marketing automation software itself (23%).

Guest Nolin LeChasseur
  In other words, the software didn't fail. The buyer failed to realize they were buying a tool, not a solution. You can buy the most expensive hammer you're still going to need a lot of planning, expertise, hard work, money, and materials to build a house.

Guest dan sullevin
  I've seen multiple failed marketing software implementations because the customer believed that the software enabled a set-it-and-forget-it operation. They totally missed the fact that content, reporting, tuning and people are required on a continuous basis to make this stuff work. The marketing technology is the easy part.

Guest Ryan
  The biggest risk I've seen with marketing software implementations is company's over-communicating with mediocre or poor content and becoming a nuisance instead of a help.




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The dirty little secret that marketing software vendors don’t share is that most of their customers relegate their solutions to nothing more than glorified email distributions.


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