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The Secret to Justifying Marketing Automation to C-Suite Executives

The following post was submitted by Ian Michiels, Principal & Managing Director at Gleanster Research. For more on this study, please check out Pardot and Gleanster’s joint webinar on the topic, Set-and-Forget Marketing: Nurture Marketing Tactics for the Overwhelmed Marketer.

Research from a January 2013 Gleanster survey captured trends on the top challenges of marketing automation adoption. A simple data pivot provided a window into the unique challenges among users of marketing automation and organizations that have yet to take the plunge. For organizations that have yet to invest in marketing automation, lack of senior management support and funding made the list of top three challenges.

Despite the challenges of multiple fragmented systems and a general lack of cadence in communications, it seems old habits die hard. Senior leaders in finance, sales, operations, and IT often approach marketing automation with an air of skepticism. Can the organization really realize all of the benefits touted by marketing automation sales reps? For those of you who are trying to champion internal change and drive awareness around marketing automation, there is one secret to selling the idea to senior leaders: it leads to widespread commitment from decision makers and influencers faster and demonstrates attention to measurable return on investment.

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The Field Guide to Justifying Marketing Automation

Before revealing the one secret to driving marketing automation initiatives at the senior level, let’s review some basics. Ideally, marketing automation initiatives should be championed by senior leadership, especially the CMO or VP of Sales. But more often than not, the real pain of managing multiple disparate marketing systems, measuring campaign results, and establishing universal business rules for cross-channel engagement falls on the shoulders of Marketing Managers and Directors – and the best resources should be looking for ways to gain efficiencies and optimize the process.

According to Gleanster research, 7 out of 10 organizations using marketing automation indicated manager and director level roles initially championed marketing automation with the CMO. In some cases, even the CMO must be convinced of the benefits before taking the initiative further – and then CMOs must convince their colleagues at the senior level, including the CFO, CEO, CIO, and VP of Sales. That means answering questions like:

  • How is this different from what we are already doing?
  • How much commitment will this take from current resources?
  • Why not put the money toward more lead generation activities?
  • How will this be different from the last marketing technology we invested in that fell flat on its face?
  • How much will it cost to support the system?
  • Are we going to divest of other systems? If so, how do we migrate our historical data?

Like every business investment, there are both qualitative and quantitative justifications for investing in marketing automation. Let’s look at a few of them:

Qualitative Selling Points

  • Message cadence: The ability to automate communications based on customer behavior across channels transforms batch-and-blast campaign processes into communications with just the right message at just the right time, which shortens the sales cycle.
  • Customer preference management: In a multi-channel strategy, when customers opt out of communications you need a centralized tool to manage those.
  • Alignment with marketing and sales: A single system closes the loop on marketing spend and delivers visibility into bottlenecks in the sales cycle. When you can physically measure how many leads came from marketing and ended in a sale, you can start to have a discussion about how to really optimize the process
  • Improved segmentation: A central system of record for prospect engagement allows for more personalized and relevant communications (which result in more engagement).
  • Simplicity: One interface to manage multiple channels and centralize reporting.
  • Know your audience: Different stakeholders will approach the decision to support the initiative from unique perspectives. The CFO will care about cost savings and return. The CIO will care about integration, support, and implementation requirements. The VP of Sales will care about improved qualification, customer segmentation, and average deal size.
  • Case studies (facts and statistics): A solid business case should include references to companies in your industry that have realized benefits from marketing automation. Look for metrics that can be compared to current performance in your organization:
    • % increase in revenue
    • % increase in campaign response rates
    • % increase in sales quota achievement
    • % increase in average deal size
    • % increase in the time to execute campaigns
    • % of marketing sourced leads that result in a sale
    • % increase in conversion ratios
  • Cost savings: Document the cost of current day-to-day marketing execution. This could be in the form of employee salaries relative to common marketing activities, time spent configuring multiple systems, the cost of multiple technology licenses, or the time and money sales reps waste qualifying opportunities. Use these to benchmark against industry standards or stats from case studies.

Quantitative Selling Points

While all of the above is critical to building a compelling business case, the most important thing you can do is create urgency to take action. Here’s how to do that:

ian_gleansterIan Michiels is a recognized thought leader and accomplished speaker in the fields of marketing automation, marketing operations, and demand generation. Michiels has a background in creative and analytical marketing roles at Fortune 500 organizations. Michiels is responsible for a wide body of published thought leadership on sales and marketing technology adoption, automated demand generation, digital marketing, marketing operations, the customer experience, and more. He has a master’s degree from Santa Clara University with concentrations in marketing management, entrepreneurship, ecommerce, and managing innovation.