8 Tell-Tale Signs You Do (Or Don't) Need Marketing Automation

by Kirsten Knipp

Date

January 18, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Marketing Automation Search Trends The topic of marketing automation has skyrocketed on marketers' radars, as evident by the volume of searches over time. But with all the hype over marketing automation or revenue performance management (RPM), some businesses jump too quickly to assume they MUST need this shiny new object. 

Don't get me wrong - marketing automation tools are great for a lot of companies. But before you even start to consider them, ask yourself if your business aligns with the qualifications below to evaluate where you are in the lifecycle of need. If you determine you don't NEED the tools, don't waste your money or effort implementing something that you aren't ready for just yet.

As a broad guideline, marketers need automation to save time, accelerate sales cycles and win rates, or increase retention and up-sell/cross-sell based on a moderate to high volume of leads or contacts. Knowing where you stand in the relative battle of the ever-shrinking database is a key component of understanding whether you are in need of automation.

Surefire Signs You'd Benefit From Marketing Automation

1) Twitter is alight with folks asking you to please call them back.

2) So many leads are going unanswered, that your prospects are getting fed up and opting for the competition.

3) Your sales team has given up on your leads because they are of such inconsistent quality that they prefer prospecting over warm, marketing-generated leads.

4) Your sales cycle is onerously long, and your prospects ask a TON of the same questions over and over.

5) You know you are throwing away half of your marketing spend, but have no idea which half.

What does this mean, and what should you do next?

If one or more of these statements applies to your current state of affairs, it's an indicator that you have significant lead volume but lack the tools and insight to properly segment them and address the distinct needs of each prospect's  unique buying cycle . As a marketer, now is the time to make a map of your sales funnel and figure out where you have bottlenecks.

Listen to feedback from your sales team, refer to the numbers, and evaluate which are your most burning issues. Is it that Sales doesn't know which leads to call ( lead scoring would help here), or that nearly none of the leads are deemed 'ready' (where lead nurturing would add value)?

As you identify each of the major pain points you have, you can create a wish list of capabilities and use that to evaluate automation tools . A word to the wise: don't do it the other way around ( advice also shared by software-agnostic automation experts ). There are hundreds of features out there any given marketer could take advantage of, but there are probably just a core few that are critical to advancing your individual business. Knowing that before you evaluate vendors is critically important.

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Indications You DON'T Need Marketing Automation (YET)

5) You aren't sufficiently getting found online.

6) You need a lot more leads (your database is in the hundreds or low thousands of contacts).

7) You don't have a basic, agreed upon process for lead-to-sales handoff.

What does this mean, and what should you do next?

If the above indicators are true for you, then you should hold off on marketing automation and instead work on growing the top of your funnel. That means creating content and optimizing it and your website for search engines , leveraging social media to increase your reach, and coming up with offers to turn that trickle of leads into a flood of leads. As you do this, work with your sales team to agree on 'what a good lead looks like.' You could go as far as creating formal service-level agreement (SLA), or you could just start with some basic guidelines that will help you refine lead-capture forms and your process. 

Only once these basics are in place and you have a steady flow of leads do you want to start diving into an automation discussion. Then come back, and revisit the qualifying questions above.

Become a Funnel Scientist to Identify Your Need for Automation

There is a really big difference between growing visibility and net new leads at the top of your funnel, and using marketing automation to yield better results from your database's existing prospects and leads in the middle of your sales funnel. Take a hard look at your marketing funnel to identify where your biggest challenges are before you dive in head first! Your software, tools, and even contractor needs should be determined by your business challenges, NOT what the market thinks is HOT .

Do you have a story about implementing marketing automation before you were ready? We'd love to hear how you handled the challenge.

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