Mountain Climbing

Re: Close the Gaps to Close More Sales with Marketing Automation

Sharon Drew Morgan recently wrote an article for Marketing Automation Software Guide outlining several gaps with marketing automation that are holding organizations back from realizing the full benefit of these systems.  You can read the full article here.  Building off of her points I’d like to add some further comments on the complexity of mapping your customers buying habits and some tips on getting started.

Summary

To summarize, she points out that the buying process is much more complex than we are prepared for.  She identifies 5 crucial questions that we are currently not answering about prospects that marketing automation can help with:

  • Who is a real buyer from all of the names gathered?
  • What is the interest level and role of the person who filled out the contact sheet? Does he/she have decision-making power?
  • What stage of the buying journey are they on and what data is relevant to that stage?
  • How is the received material being used and who is it being shared with (i.e. competing vendors? In-house teams)?
  • Is the entire buying decision team already on board? Are all who touch the solution in agreement to bring in a new solution?
Buying Process Complexity

Despite my love of numbers and reliance on data to make decisions, I firmly believe that selling is still an art – or at best an extremely complicated science.  As outlined in Sharon Drew’s points above there are many complex pieces to the puzzle that are required before a sale can be made.  To add to the complexity, purchase cycles are usually not linear; prospects enter the journey at different points, they move forward, backward, skip steps, and sometimes jump out and then back in.  Boiling the complexities of your prospects purchasing tracks down to a single process requires you to determine the lowest common denominators across all individual processes – which is no small task.  If the final process is not compatible with an individual’s buying process they may fall out.

Marketing Automation is designed to automate existing processes.  Defining these processes in advance of MA implementation is a requirement that everyone seems to agree on.  Because of this we must successfully map the complex sales process if we hope to find full value in marketing automation.  Can it actually be mapped in enough detail to be successfully automated?

One might argue that you could create a process tree that is compatible with a larger number of the individual processes and therefore help convert more prospects to customers.  However, do we really have the resources to dig this deep into the process?  Chances are the process will change by the time we finally get it mapped out.  Does this mean marketing automation is a passing fad with no real value?

Advice

This may sound like a lot of gloom and doom but I assure you it’s no different than any other challenge a business faces.  The solution may not be perfect but there are ways to get around a complex buying process.

My advice is to at least start mapping the process.  It may not be exact and it may be over simplified but it’s better than nothing.  It gives you a starting point; a hypothesis to test.  From here you can test, modify, re-test, re-modify, and so on.  You may never find the perfect process but at least you’ll always be moving in the right direction.  MA has always been about constant improvement.  Remember, the #1 reason for failure is not starting.

Work with Sales and have them do the advanced qualification to start.  It may mean more lifting for them but the goal is to help them in the long run.  Try to pick off pieces of qualification one at a time and automate it.  This removes the risk of attempting to automate everything at once, failing completely, and have a black hole trickle down your funnel.

The Cold, Hard Truth

I believe MA has a lot of value to offer but it requires a significant investment of resources outside of the initial cost.  Anyone who tells you it’s easy is either wrong or trying to sell you something.  Understanding your customers and business then building an automated system around them takes a commitment.  The time and effort you put into doing it properly now will pay off in the long run.