Finding Revenue in the Marketing Automation Minefield

6 minute read
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Technology without the right strategy just means we do more of the wrong things faster.

That's what Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, has learned working closely with chief marketing officers.

"Software has the potential to create and drive revenue when it’s attached to the right strategy," Petouhoff told CMSWire shortly after she and Constellation released this month "Data-Driven Marketing Campaign Optimization." (Snapshot).

Marketers can navigate through the minefields of data and software, Petouhoff said, by enlisting the help of tech-savvy colleagues, keeping a close eye on competitors and by managing the omnichannel world by knowing your customers' preferences.

Marketers Don't Know the Unknown

Constellation interviewed both vendors and CMOs to gauge where the marketplace is using marketing automation software.

"There’s a lot of software that delivers on the promise," Petouhoff said, "unlike 25 years ago when CRM- marketing, sales and customer service vendors, either point or suites, had the right ideas and desire to provide this type of business impact, but the software really wasn’t not as advanced as the marketing ware in sales pitches and slides."

customer experience, Tips for Marketers to Become True Revenue Drivers

Source: Constellation Research

The focus for Constellation? Providing a picture for marketers to identify where they are in the various levels of using marketing automation and then to identify what they’d like to be doing.

"Often times they don’t know what they don’t know," Petouhoff said.

So what are the levels? Constellation and Petouhoff break them down this way:

  • Level 1: Report-Based Campaign Decision-Making Is Retrospective 
  • Level 2: Prioritization-Based Campaign Decision-Making Applies Statistics 
  • Level 3: Rules/Event-Based Campaign Decision-Making Is Prescriptive
  • Level 4: Optimization-Based Campaign Decision-Making Drives Practicability 
  • Level 5: Innovation-Oriented, Optimization-Based Campaign Decision-Making Is Groundbreaking

"They might have only learned about how to use marketing automation software and do the things in Level 1 and 2," Petouhoff said. "They may not realize there’s more they can do. It may also be that they have not chosen software that can do what I describe in the other levels."

Marketing and Revenue

customer experience, Tips for Marketers to Become True Revenue Drivers

Can marketing really drive revenue? It darn well should, and that's what Petouhoff said she's aiming for in this report -- for CMOs and marketers to become "chief intelligence and revenue officers."

"When they are able to show that they can repeated and consistently contribute to the senior leadership team in this way," she said, "they will have the respect they want and won’t be suffering from what I lovingly call the 'Rodney Dangerfield Affect': they just don’t get enough respect.”

A gap exists in the talent pool of CMOs and marketers that understand how to use marketing automation and customer experience platforms to get to Level 4 and Level 5 activity, "and that’s what I want to see happen."

"It would be interesting," she said, "if marketing was driving sales and customer service was taking those customers and making sure that they were taken care of so the customer attrition was low."

"Then," she added, "sales would become more like order takers. I’m not saying that’s the best way to run a company. All disciplines are needed to drive bottom-line revenue, profits and margins. But I use this as an illustration of the degree of the shift in mindset that is required by CMOs and marketers as well as senior leadership teams."

Dealing with Crowded Landscape

So what can marketers do in this crowded software landscape to tie in their strategy with the right tools?

A busy field has always been the case. When ERP and CRM started, there were lots of point solutions. Then, Petouhoff said, the point solutions were gathered together into suites.

Learning Opportunities

"The issue with the suites is whether the technology to deliver on the promise is actually integrated and can provide the results," Petouhoff said. "My suggestion is to get support in looking at technology from people who evaluate it all the time. That might be IT, but only if IT really understands the difference between technology that makes it easy for them to do maintenance vs. tech that delivers business results. It might be a consultant or an analyst."

The true test? Talk to five to 10 customers. One to three customers is not enough, Petouhoff said, adding that most software companies have at least three customers they point to as references.

"You want to hear from many customers what was the problem they were trying to solve, what they implemented and what the results were," Petouhoff said.

Vendors Have Jobs, Too

What can vendors do better in this regard with the technology they offer? How about approach software marketing and sales from a solution-selling standpoint.

"This means," Petouhoff said, "they would have identified the roles/personas that would benefit from their software. They would know what keeps those roles up at night, and they would have identified how their solution, better than any other, would solve those issues for real."

Vendors should train their sales people in solution selling, to identify the early adopters and innovators in an organization. Sales teams need to identify not only roles and personas, but also where the customer is on the tech adoption curve, said Petouhoff, who referenced Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption curve in "Crossing the Chasm" as a great resource here.

"What keeps early majority folks up at night is very different than what keeps innovators and early adopters," Petouhoff said. "Understanding this and learning what benefits the product provides for each type of adopter will help the customer understand if the solution can really solve the problems they face and put to rest their concerns."

Managing Omnichannel

What are some good strategies to handle the omnichannel world?

Knowing which channels your customers are using is a good place to start.

When they use those channels? What do they do there? What problems do they solve? How does that help them?

"Then do a very deep dive into your competitors," Petouhoff said. "What do they do? And then talk to customers. Understand what they are trying to do. As Deming had said many years ago, “Listen to your customers and employees. Integrate that feedback into your business: your products, services, process, how business gets done, how products are made, how customer service is provided and keeps the promise that marketing and PR and sales have made.”

The reason you don’t see more of this is that it is very hard work, Petouhoff said.

"Once you know what your customers are doing, need to do, then you can start to look at how other channels might help them and decide what to offer," she added. "Software is the only way to manage and scale an omnichannel strategy."