A recent Econsultancy survey revealed that marketing automation is a top-three priority in 2013 for only 11% of responding organisations, down from 15% in 2012.

However, twice as many marketers as last year see marketing automation as an exciting opportunity. Based on the discussions at Digital Cream, the road ahead does have some twists and turns for a large proportion of B2B marketers.

Sylvia Jensen, Director of EMEA Marketing at Oracle Eloqua, said:

Some companies are further along than others in using automation but all, even advanced users of marketing automation, are somewhere along their journey of using technology as well as best practices and company processes to help their companies grow revenue.

While some delegates have been using a marketing automation platform for one year or more, many companies said they’re “not quite there just yet”. Full details are available in the free report, but for a quick summary, read below…

Sales enablement and engagement: how to close the gap between marketing and sales

One of the key themes highlighted at Digital Cream by B2B marketers was that working with sales teams has never been easy. This is where marketing automation comes into play and any marketer worth his salt will admit that the technology (and internal processes developed to support it) can foster enablement and understanding.

Some approaches and best practice tips were highlighted by delegates:

  • Involve sales before the marketing automation platform is implemented, gradually moving from no dialogue to collaboration. As one delegate said, “it just doesn’t make sense anymore to have the two teams separate, working in isolation”.
  • Take the time to explain that the quality, rather than volume of leads, takes precedence. Or in the words of one marketer: “You need five great leads rather than 100 rubbish ones”.
  • Work on a one-to-one basis with sales, engage on a personal level and focus on what is actually going to generate revenue. Try to speak the same language and don’t forget that sales people are humans too!

Marketing automation moves the focus back to planning

A key takeaway from Digital Cream this year was that organisations are not automating marketing communications, they’re automating processes. Marketers who implemented marketing automation admitted that it forced them to focus on processes that have a significant impact, particularly campaign planning and content management.

The consensus among delegates was that two main aspects need to be taken into consideration:

  • Look at your content production process and get the content needed to support your campaigns into place. Identify how you can use marketing resources most effectively.
  • Focus on how the platform can help you use different approaches for short- versus long-term campaigns. Don’t forget about the length of the purchase cycle and adjust the frequency and cadence of messaging accordingly.

Making sure that your data doesn’t have more holes than Swiss cheese will save you a lot of trouble down the line

Many organisations rush into implementation without developing a data optimisation process and actually understanding what data fields will be used.

A recent BtoB/Eloqua study revealed that 35% of B2B marketers are working to overcome poor infrastructures in the collection and analysis of data, and 29% said they simply lack data to support their colleagues in sales. Maintaining data quality needs to be a company-wide effort – there’s no quick fix and it requires constant attention.

Digital Cream attendees emphasised some of the most important issues around data standardisation:

  • A marketing automation platform will force you to be brutally honest about the data you already have and will certainly point out many problems, so be prepared. Inconsistent data standards and incomplete fields are a thorn in your side, don’t just ignore them hoping the problems will resolve on their own.
  • Take a look at the data you already have and make sure you use standardised, normalised attributes. For example, one delegate said that before cleaning their database, the company had 22 different ways to record a job title!
  • Data cleansing is not the equivalent of binning the data. In some cases deleting data may be required, but it’s generally about enriching the data you have to make the most of your marketing automation platform.

For more best practice tips, download our Marketing Automation Buyer’s Guide and Marketing Automation Best Practices report. These are comprehensive guides to understanding marketing automation, including specific tactics and strategies that have been most successful, and what headaches a marketer can expect when attempting to implement them.

What are your views?

What challenges have you faced when implementing marketing automation? What steps have you taken to overcome them? Do you feel you’re making the most of your platform? Leave your thoughts in the comments below…