Several days ago, Mitch Joel, who is the President of Mirum, wrote a compelling piece on the misuse of marketing automation. I could not agree more with his statements made in the article about how so many organizations are using marketing automation (and many other marketing technologies) in the wrong way in an attempt to garner the attention of their buyers. I have written about this topic in the past and was thrilled to see Joel also begin hammering away at marketers who apply bad practices to technology.
Within the article, Joel states the following, “What ever happened to building an ethical list of potential clients, and actually nurturing those relationships?” He goes onto say,“I want all brands to use marketing automation. I believe it will change the dynamics of customer acquisition and retention. I believe it will lower the overall cost of marketing, and increase sales in an attributable manner. I mean it… this isn’t just a bunch of buzzwords. Still, we need to do it right.”
Again, I could not agree any more with his assessment, but the real question that I believe marketers are struggling with is how to do this? How do they nurture relationships with their buyers and use automation the “right” way to enable that? This is where marketers seem to be stuck.
- Truly Get to Know Your Buyers
Each time I get the opportunity to speak to marketers I ask them how often they speak to their buyers or customers? On occasion I will get a few raised hands that state they make it a consistent practice to do so. However, when I dig a little deeper, I come to find that the overwhelming majority of these marketers do not speak to their buyers about their buying process or the approach their organization took to make a purchase including:
- Understanding the pain points and challenges they were seeking to solve
- Knowing who was on the buying committee and what roles each played
- Gaining insight into their content and channel consumption preferences
- Identifying the trigger events (what Google calls the “Zero Moment of Truth) that pushed these buyers into the buying process
In addition to speaking to their buyers, it seems even fewer understand the industry conditions in which their buyers live and operate on a daily basis. Rather than understanding certain market conditions that could trigger a buying cycle or impact how buyers buy, organizations appear to be content with simply trying to push their message (as Joel points out in a very intrusive way) on these buyers with no understanding of what is happening in their world.
The issue with marketing automation is not marketers sending out emails. It is using this technology to blast emails that have no relevance and do not resonate with those who are on the receiving end. Additionally, many who take this approach fail in that they do not take a multi-channel approach to demand generation.
If you really want to make the most of marketing automation, get to know your buyers – how they buy, what they want to hear, the channels they use, etc. Understand this before you ever load a list, create an email or hit send. It is then you will begin to see some of the benefits of this powerful, enabling technology.
- Embrace Change
The world of our buyer has changed. I will spare the statistics that prove the buying process in B2B has drastically changed and if you are one of those who still refuse to accept and recognize that, I respectfully urge you to find a new profession. Truth is, I rarely find anyone who refutes that the way buyers buy today is fundamentally different than in the past. However, what I do find is the lack of change in response within most B2B organizations. In the face of this change from our buyers, we have by and large failed to adapt organizationally in a way that positions us for success.
Sure, there has been change in terms of adopting new technology (refer back to Joel’s post), creation of more content, additional departments created within the marketing organization and more, but these changes are all surface. As the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day it is still a pig.
If we as B2B marketers are going to do right by our profession, more importantly by our customers and buyers, and derive the greatest value from technology, we have to understand that we must transform. This means looking at how we align people, process, content, technology and data to that of our buyers and their buying process. This means forgoing an undying allegiance to our “sales process” and aligning and operationalizing our approach to the buying process. This means sales understanding they no longer control the sale and rather than trying to qualify and sale continually, they would be better served by taking part in the dialogue and becoming subject matter experts so they can help educate their buyers and their market at large.
Is it easy? Hell no, but it is necessary as our buyers are outpacing us and their complexity and sophistication only continues to grow.
- It is More that Just Content
So much attention is put on content aimed at our buyers and while this is important, it is not the only thing that marketers need to get right in order to ensure success.
Beyond the alignment of content to buyers and their buying process, marketing and sales teams need to align their people, process, technology and data to their buyers and their buying process. In essence, all of the components and interactions need to be operationalized around the buyer. It is in this way that organizations will derive more value from their content and also from their marketing technology. Anything less, leaves a very weak link in the demand generation value chain and will limit the results.
There is no doubt that the improper use of marketing automation can cause consternation and even a “hatred” for those companies who are seemingly all too intrusive. The time to begin using marketing automation the “right” way is now and the only way to do this is to change our approach, focus on our buyer and operationalize our demand generation approach.