The way people buy things has changed -- and this has changed how we should market, Jon Miller, vice president, marketing content and strategy at Marketo said at Dreamforce 2012.

Build the Business Case for Marketing Automation

It's not enough to simply say that marketing works or to do things that just feel good -- marketers need to manage expectations within their companies. To make his point, Miller replayed a classic scene from the "I Love Lucy" television show, in which Lucy is working in a candy factory. To keep up when the assembly line starts moving too fast, she starts eating the candy. As the line goes even faster, she frantically stuffs the candy into her shirt.

This, Miller pointed out, is what happens to marketers who don't manage expectations. Marketers may advocate a bit too aggressively to their CFO, and find that the boss ends up expecting the world -- in Lucy's case, by the speeding up the assembly line.

Miller would no doubt prefer companies bought Marketo products, but his advice on how to build up a case for marketing automation could be applied to any system.

He breaks down marketing automation software by what types of features they have. Some features, like batch emailing, are found in nearly all systems. Then there are features that are usually found only in larger, more expensive systems: CRM integration ability, lead scoring and deep analytics. Features like A/B testing and dynamic content are less common.

The Importance of Cost Savings

Those who already have an email system like Vertical Response still need marketing automation, said Miller. Although it won't create leads, he pointed out that complete systems have the tools do that now. For those who think an automated marketing system may be too spammy or impersonal, tools like 1:1 marketing and behavioral segmentation can improve relevance.

Miller believes that the best way to make a case for marketing automation is to highlight the ways it can save time and money. Saving cost is the best business case, he pointed out -- being able to automate actions that are repeatable or that you are currently doing yourself is a bigger cost savings than having to hire more people to do those things.

Automation can help ensure compliance and approvals -- something that can be especially helpful in large companies or in industries that are highly regulated. Automation can also help reduce the dependance on spreadsheets. 

Marketo VP Jon Miller's Dreamforce 2012 presentation in whiteboard style.

Why Marketing is Like a Dance

By measuring and optimizing marketing investments, expectations are raised and pressure increases on the marketing team. Miller compared it to a pyramid:

  • At the bottom is the system of record.
  • Above that is where the system is measured, tested and optimized.
  • After that, it is easier to prove the program ROI and then show its impact on the sales funnel.

This helps to set marketing budgets and predict revenue to make better investment decisions.

To build faster revenue growth, Miller encouraged the audience to think of marketing like a dance. Invite lots of people you think you might want to dance with (potential leads). Figure out who is there who might even want to dance (some aren't ready yet but at least they came to the dance). Develop relationships so you can dance when customers are ready. Engage them at the right time and scale. 

A recent Marketo survey showed there were four levels of marketing maturity:

  • Traditional marketers, who mostly rely on things like batch emails.
  • Those who are doing basic marketing automation (likely to be using some CRM integration).
  • Those who have achieved a level of refined marketing automation (using tools like lead scoring).
  • Revenue performance managers, who do lots of analysis to fine tune their systems.

Miller refers to the revenue performance managers as marketing automation ninjas.

Automate, Iterate and Adapt

The survey, detailed in the report "Benchmark on Revenue Performance 2012" included responses from around 500 people -- about 43 percent of whom were at the basic marketing automation level. To show how effective automated marketing can be, Miller pointed out that only the revenue performance managers (the ninjas), had their sales teams working 70 percent of the time on actually making sales. At the lower levels of marketing maturity, sales teams were spending less time working on sales.

To build a business case, he said, it's best to be conservative with any pitch to the CFO. Marketo has an ROI tool on its website to help in generating a number. For example, the Marketo Spark system costs about US$ 1,000 per month for companies that have around 10,000 contacts. Marketo Standard and Select are for bigger and more mature companies.

There are additional costs, Miller pointed out. Some companies may not have enough leads to start off, and that could mean hiring consultants to generate those leads. A company might have a very creative marketing team, but may need to hire someone who is really good with numbers. There may be more content needed or even CRM integration -- and these things could cost more money besides just the software.

"Dream big," Miller said. "But start small. Automate, Iterate and adapt."

Even if all your content or data isn't ready, Miller told the audience, it's good to go ahead and get started. Someone starting from scratch, for example, would need about a day to set up any Marketo system, he said. From there, sales should start coming in within a week. Using a nurture program will help jumpstart the system, and within 3-6 months, depending on size, it should be possible to get to the refined automated marketing level.