Focus

The Secret to a Successful Marketing Automation Implementation: Focus

I recently read a great planning document that clearly outlined 32 steps to successfully rolling out a marketing automation system.  It spread tasks such as ‘document customer profiles’, ‘integrate with CRM’, and ‘build lead scoring’ over a one year period which creates a great road-map to a complete marketing platform.  It seemed pretty simple.  This got me thinking – I’ve been involved in several roll-outs of both marketing automation and CRM systems and they never go smoothly.  Even with budget, great people, and support from vendors and partners the road always turns rocky.  Why does this happen?

In my opinion – it’s focus…or lack of it.

By focus I mean committing to a manageable number of projects and executing them through to completion.  Unfortunately, focus in marketing departments seems to have a time limit that always expires before project completion.  If a project or campaign isn’t complete half way through the schedule it’s ‘put on hold’ and resources are moved to a new project.  And before that one reaches it’s expected due date, it’s left behind in favor of yet another new project.  I see and hear about this happening everywhere.

Being agile in today’s markets is crucial for success but never finishing a project properly will only cause long-term problems.  When you consider that most of the benefit realized from a project is developed near the end of the cycle, pulling the plug too early puts your results at risk.  For example, moving resources from the final 10% of a project to the first 10% of another project will generate significantly less value.  Conversely, if the project was going to fail anyway you forfeit the learning experience and risk repeating the same mistakes in the future.  I believe that less is more – focusing on a few projects and executing well will always provide more long-term benefit to a company than trying to run long list of projects that won’t get the attention they need.

Here are a few tips to ensure you maintain focus and your marketing automation system is implemented successfully…

Plan, Plan, Plan Some More

Document in detail everything you have and everything you want in your system.  Include written descriptions, flowcharts, pictures, and whatever else you can come up with to help you dig as deep into the details as possible.  Get approval from all stakeholders so you can identify all processes and issues in advance.  This will help you focus on what is needed to get you from A to B.  It will also help expose everyone to the true resource requirements in advance so there are no surprises in the middle of the project and you can work on a realistic time line.

Get Executive Buy-In

This doesn’t mean getting an executive to sign the contract.  This means getting them to back the project and ensure the proper resources are allocated to it.  More importantly, it ensures that the proper resources stay with the project to completion.  Make sure the project has a full-time owner focused on driving it to the end and don’t move team members to other projects.  They never come back and eventually the project will run out of horsepower.  The most common mistake is removing a team member so they can run marketing campaigns.  The potential short-term revenue may look attractive now but not having your system running properly when you need it is going to hurt over and over down the road.

Don’t Use A System While It’s Under Construction

It’s beyond me why every organization gets trigger happy and thinks it’s a great idea to use the system before it’s built.  An incomplete system will not function properly.  Using it prematurely causes the people who should be building the system to spend all of their time troubleshooting features that have not been fully deployed yet.  The project will be delayed or never completed at all.  Poor campaign results will follow along with low user adoption.  Think about ROI – is it realistic to expect a return before you’ve made your investment?  Build it, test it, and then use it.

Break the Project Into Phases

Breaking the project into smaller packages helps keep focus on each piece so it can be completed, tested, and launched before moving to the next.  The planning document I mentioned above broke it into 32 parts but it’s likely you will only need a subset of these.  Doing this also stops you from trying to accomplish everything at once and running out of resources.

These situations will occur but can be easily dealt with.  Keep your eye on the task at hand and don’t be afraid to push back if someone tries to pull you away.  Be prepared with a solid argument as to why you should maintain focus.  Usually the people pulling you away are not trying to sabotage your project – they just don’t fully understand the situation you are in and need clarification from you.