Three things to ask before you invest in marketing automation

If you’re in marketing, you’re probably feeling the pressure to invest in marketing automation or to upgrade the system you’re already running. And you might be wondering whether it’s time or whether you’ve just got a bad case of martech FOMO.

The pressure is real—the data backs it up: Gartner reports that companies now spend more on marketing technology than they do on advertising, and, according to Aberdeen, nearly 58 percent of best-in-class marketing organizations use a marketing automation platform (MAP).

Marketing automation providers are responding to the flood of demand with an ever-increasing array of options—from full-featured platforms that offer services such as multichannel campaign management, marketing analytics, machine learning modules, budget tracking and forecasting to simpler systems designed to appeal to smaller organizations.

But are you missing out on the demand-gen fun by not having a new MAP or investing in a newer option? If you have a MAP, is it optimally implemented? And the big one: Is marketing automation worth all the money you’re spending?

To avoid hasty decisions that will impact your marketing organization for years to come, take a step back and look at the big picture before you decide to implement or reimplement a MAP. Here are three critical questions to help guide you to the right decision.

How will it affect my bottom line?

The urge to invest often has to do with the nagging feeling that your marketing doesn’t have the reach it could. Typically, marketing automation makes the biggest impact when a company’s products or services require a sizable investment—one big enough to require a decision by purchasing committee. This isn’t universally true, but it’s an important factor to consider when trying to figure out the potential impact of an implementation or reimplementation. Consider your total addressable market and your rightful share of it. If you’re not generating hundreds of leads now but you think you could be, buying into marketing automation is probably a safe bet.

How much should I spend?

Before you start comparing features and functionality, first consider time to value. How quickly will you be able to demonstrate a return on your investment? This can help determine the price range (or, for reimplementation, the number of resources to dedicate) particularly for smaller businesses with limited resources.

Next, if you’re in the market for a new platform, consider what you need the system to do. Marketers are spoiled for choice here, so it’s important to think about what you might need now—and what you might need in the next 6 to 12 months. Inventory your needs and start from there.

And don’t forget to consider interoperability. Make sure that whatever you decide to invest in will work with the infrastructure you have in place, especially your CRM or SFA solution.

Do I have the infrastructure to support it?

To answer this, look no further than your sales process. It must be established, documented, and running smoothly. Adding marketing automation to the equation will change this process, but starting with a workflow that everyone understands and agrees on is important.

Next, evaluate your marketing and sales alignment. The core value of marketing automation is to help deliver leads that are ready to engage with sales. If that transition is broken, no amount of technology will help bridge the gap.

Last, have a clear understanding of how marketing automation can accelerate and improve your process. Do you want to capture more leads or maximize the intelligence you get with each one? Do you need help sustaining the conversation throughout the buyer’s journey, or do you want analytics support to quantify and predict potential revenue? Knowing this information will help you get a running start on a successful implementation.

Ready to take the leap?

With the answers to these questions in hand, you’ll be in good shape to start building a business case for investing in the right marketing automation system. Plus, you’ll have a head start on integrating it into your current marketing infrastructure, processes, and team roles and responsibilities.

Once you’ve decided to make the leap, the next step is to create a formal business requirements document. Gather input from others in your marketing organization and prepare to get your implementation or reimplementation right the first time.

Want to see the next steps for marketing automation success? Check out the Marketing automation owner’s manual for a guide to keeping your investment working like a well-oiled machine.

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  • Abigail

    Thanks for the article. We’re considering getting one of the marketing automation platforms. We’re going to test GetResponse and some others with free trial to see what fits our needs. What would you recommend to pay attention to?