2014-02-June-Construction.jpgThe problem with marketing automation is that it takes people and processes to use the technology and companies often treat that as more of an afterthought. The result is a much higher percentage of failed programs and implementations.

The problem is not the technology. The problem is being prepared to use it.

The Potential of Marketing Automation

Once upon a time, automation was defined as the application of machines to tasks once performed by human beings. The definition evolved to imply referring to tasks that would be otherwise impossible without the technology. In marketing, automation is explicitly tied to software platforms, applications and technology. It can mean campaign management, CRM, CMS, multiple varieties of analytics and many channel specific tools for social media, email and search …. But it still comes down to enabling marketers to do things they couldn’t do on their own.

Billions and billions are being spent on software licenses, implementation and training -- not to mention the internal time, money and resources expended in the name of marketing automation. And it’s growing. According to a recent Forrester Research report, B2B marketing budgets are reported to be increasing spend on digital advertising/marketing by 70 percent, content marketing by 59 percent and websites by 45 percent in 2014. Marketing automation enables personalization. Personalization drives conversions. Conversions make brands money. It should be worth the cost.

But for all the effort, most companies are not seeing a clear return on their investment. Most of the results do not live up to the hype or produce the desired results. And it’s not because of the technology. The weak link is how the technology is used.

Marketing automation enables cross channel marketing even though most marketing departments are siloed into channel specific groups. Many companies are following the same approval and compliance processes they used for direct mail when real time wasn’t even a part of the vocabulary.  And few companies are taking advantage of the power built into the technology to deliver personalized digital experiences while promoting the sharing and re-use of digital assets across groups, channels and markets.

Is Your Organization Ready?

The first step in preparing for successful deployments of marketing automation applications -- such as analytics, campaign management, CMS and CRM systems and the full contingent of social, mobile and real time -- is to assess how ready your organization is to incorporate new technologies and more importantly, how ready you are to adopt new processes and manage the change that comes with doing things differently.

The best way to determine your readiness is to go through the process of a digital marketing maturity assessment. It can be as simple as taking a online self-test like Adobe’s Digital Marketing Self-Assessment Tool. Forrester Research has created a number of maturity models over the years, starting nearly a decade ago with their Interactive Marketing Maturity Model.