To Avoid Subpar ROI From Marketing Automation, Start With Integration And The Organization

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Ben Eisenkramer, principal at Infinitive.

From email newsletters and content management, to campaign design and cross-channel user tracking, to media buying and activation, there’s almost no end to what you can do with marketing automation.

But its robust capabilities may be a part of the issue for many stakeholders. Despite all the new firepower, some marketers find themselves frustrated with the value they are generating after making significant investments.

And as has happened with other powerful technologies, the finger of blame is usually pointed at the technology. It’s too complicated or doesn’t let us work in the ways we have always worked, some complain. Or the right people aren’t using the software in the right way, and others aren’t using it at all. Yes, we can track everything users and prospects are doing, but, no, our reports don’t really give us the clear insights we need to make decisions that can actually move the needle on marketing performance.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the barriers to success with marketing automation are similar to those that have prevented organizations from optimizing returns on investments in other types of marketing technology. Those barriers include limited organizational readiness for change, siloed operations and lack of end-user adoption of new tools and redesigned processes.

In other words, it’s not about the technology. Even the most powerful software can’t create value by itself. It needs to be configured and implemented in the right way, deployed within efficient and well-designed processes and used by people who know both why and how to use it.

So, how can marketing groups make that happen? From the organizational perspective, marketing leaders must ensure that disparate teams and stakeholders are aligned on the vision and new ways of doing things, including specific use cases.

For instance, IT groups must become more conversant with marketing initiatives, and marketing teams must better understand technology requirements. This alignment sets the stage for effective data management, with data flowing appropriately through external systems and internal IT data warehouses, as well as in line with privacy regulations.

Given the high cost of marketing automation systems, it’s natural to want to trim costs elsewhere, like on communication and training. That’s a mistake, because effective communication about the business case for marketing automation and solid training are proven to boost end-user adoption.

Within marketing, different teams – TV vs. digital or CRM vs. email, for example – must see how their individual objectives ladder up to bigger-picture business objectives and how marketing automation will help them meet both individual and company goals.

For instance, promotional offers for new product releases should be sequenced with standard communications for loyalty programs. That way, consumers won’t feel confused or overwhelmed. Similarly, combining offline sales and behavioral data with digital information and linking internal and external data sources allows brands to see customer profiles more holistically.

That brings us to the importance of integration. Marketing automation systems must be fully integrated with other components of the mar tech stack. That major providers of customer relationship management platforms offer their own marketing automation systems reflects the advantages that come with sharing data. Data management platforms and customer data platforms should also be patched into marketing automation systems. These integrations are especially important today, as data flows between systems must comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act, in addition to providing the consumer insights that companies are looking for.

Such multisystem integration is hard work. That’s why many firms start using marketing automation tools – especially the easiest and most accessible features, like email and campaign management – without waiting for full integration. That step exacerbates problems all of these systems were purchased to solve, such as clearer recognition of, and engagement with, individual consumers across channels.

Marketing automation has followed the classic hype cycle of next big thing and alleged silver-bullet technologies. Compelling value propositions, plus robust (even aggressive) marketing by software providers, complex and powerful technology and complex technology environments almost invariably equals limited user adoption and, ultimately, subpar ROI.

The good news is that by addressing the variables of integration and organization, marketers can rebalance their value equation and get more from their marketing automation systems.

Follow Infinitive (@InfinitiveRocks) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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