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How to Know if Your Agency is Ready for Marketing Automation

Marketing automation has effectively changed the face of the marketing industry. I don’t say that lightly. We’ve all seen plenty of tools that explode in popularity and fizzle within months; others truly change the way we do business. Marketing automation falls into that camp.

When used the right way, it allows us to nurture leads, harness insights and make revenue-based decisions like never before.

But here’s a sobering fact: 3 out of 5 marketing automation installations fail, meaning they’re canceled, not being used, or are severely underutilized. 60% failure rate. Not bad odds in Vegas-terms, but that’s likely not a gamble you want to take on when it comes to investing in your agency.

Here’s the thing. Marketing automation installations aren’t failing because of the technology; they’re failing because the companies that are adopting the technology are, in many cases, wildly unprepared to leverage it.

The goal of this article is to help prevent that company from being yours. How can you know if your agency is really ready to invest in marketing automation? Here are a few boxes you should check.

You have a conversion-focused website.

Take a moment and think about a recent new business pitch of yours. Think about the time it took to land the meeting itself. Consider the amount of research you put in on the prospect’s business and industry. Remember the time you took to prepare your capabilities presentation. Include any time you might have spent researching competitors chasing the same piece of business. If calculated in terms of your hourly rate, it’s likely a sizeable investment. And rightly so.

Now consider this: your website is taking dozens, maybe hundreds of these meetings every week.

Your website is arguably your brand’s most public-facing asset. It’s talking to prospects every day. It’s delivering the majority of your first impressions. Like any member of your business development team, your website has a job to do. It should consistently attract new, qualified leads, clearly inform those leads of your marketplace position, and engage prospects with unique, expert, indexable content on a regular basis. With the help of marketing automation, you can thoughtfully nurture those prospects as they move through the buy cycle and pass them to sales only when they’re perfectly primed.

Simply put, marketing automation is a tool to help you increase sales. If your website’s primary purpose is not also to drive more sales, marketing automation will be useless to you.

You have an audience.

You know the expression “it takes money to make money?” Cliché though it might be, that sentiment applies to your website, too. It takes traffic to make traffic.

Your marketing automation tool will empower you to test and improve your assets, create targeted list segments, automate tailored messages based on users’ activity, lead scores and demographics, even make smarter decisions about the content you’re posting to your site. But none of that is going to be as impactful as it could be if your web traffic is minimal and your list is small.

You need the headcount. A larger list is going to increase traffic to your website, thus increasing the number of conversions you receive once people get there. More conversions means more people funneled into your marketing automation system for nurturing.

But here’s the problem. Many small to mid-sized agencies have a list closer to 500-1,000 contacts. And growing that list organically is going to take a LONG time. Trust me, we’ve done the math. For an average agency that receives roughly 30-40 website visitors per weekday and sustains a 3% conversion rate for web CTA’s (pretty standard figures from what we’ve seen), organically growing a list from 500 to 3,000 would take roughly 12 years!

The solution? And bear with me here…

Purchased lists.

I know. The consumer in you probably recoils at the thought. But keep your marketer hat on for a few minutes.

Purchasing a list will jumpstart the performance of your website. Frankly, it’s a quick way to get the eyeballs you need. You could have the most conversion-focused website in the world, be creating mounds of expert, indexable content every month, and be using marketing automation to nurture qualified leads as they move through the buy cycle, but without traffic to the site, you’re not going to significantly move the needle. Purchased lists allow you to quickly build up your master list and grow it organically from there.

Still wigged out? We used to be, too. We’ve written about the merits of purchasing an email list before. Take a moment to check out Mark’s post, but promise me you’ll come back.

In addition to increasing traffic to your site, purchased lists can also be tailored to the demographics of your personas, ensuring that recipients of your marketing materials are not only a qualified audience, but a hungry one.

If you’re already seriously considering the monetary investment of adopting a marketing automation tool, look into including the cost of purchasing (and cleaning) a larger list to get you started.

Your sales and marketing teams can collaborate.

Integrating a marketing automation tool is going to require your sales and marketing teams to work together. What you’ve previously defined as a “sales-qualified lead” or a “marketing-qualified lead” is about to change.

That’s a good thing. In fact, it’s sort of the point, right?

Marketing automation is going to make you smarter about the way you approach marketing and sales. You’re going to have insights you’ve never had before. You’re going to be able to monetize your marketing efforts. Make decisions based on tangible data. It’s all pretty exciting when you think about it.

But first, you need to ensure sales and marketing are in alignment. Before marketing automation, your sales team likely juggled countless “leads” without any real way to qualify them before picking up the phone. Likewise, your marketing team probably fumbled through the development of each year’s marketing budget, basing more decisions on educated guesses or gut checks than measurable results.

Now, you will see much more clearly. But that also means you have some decisions to make. How exactly should you set up your lead scoring? Which calls-to-action mean the most to your agency? If a lead is ultimately passed off to sales, does that mean they’re taken out of all promotional communications until further notice? How will you use marketing automation to build stronger relationships with your existing customers? These are big questions. And it’s important that both marketing and sales are on the same page here before you really dive in with marketing automation.

You write. Frequently.

Marketing automation is a content-eating machine; there’s no way around it. If you’re going to do this the right way, you need a variety of content in multiple formats. Your monthly blogs and newsletters are great in terms of the SEO perk that comes with producing unique, indexable content on a regular basis. But a limitation of these content types is how little information is generally solicited from leads in the initial signup form. I might offer my name and email to initially sign up for your blog digest, but all future blog posts will be freely available to me without me providing you any additional information about myself.

With marketing automation, you can establish sophisticated drip campaigns that leverage not only your blogs and newsletters but also more premium, gated content like whitepapers, webinars, or research studies. And that’s a plus because gated content gives you an opportunity to gather additional insights about your audience.

Here’s how it should ideally work: your automated program will monitor the activity and behavior of your prospects. At some point in the program, certain leads are primed to be offered one piece of content, while others are better suited for something different. If this content is gated, leads will be offered a form that asks for additional information about themselves rather than asking them to submit information you already have. So, if they have already submitted their name and email in order to sign up for your blog digest, they might be asked to provide the name of their company and their title before they can access a webinar. This is called progressive profiling, and if you’re not familiar, you can read up on it here.

It’s a great approach, but you’ll need to write enough to sustain the engine, especially when different leads are fed different pieces of content at different times. Creating that much content can seem daunting if you’re not already in the habit of producing it. Keep in mind, the task isn’t insurmountable. We have many clients who we’ve helped create their first content strategies at the same time they’ve adopted marketing automation. It can be done if it’s prioritized internally.

That bears repeating: you must prioritize this internally. And that speaks to the final reality you should consider before diving in fully with marketing automation…

You have legitimate capacity.

Too often, marketing automation installations “fail” because companies just don’t use them.

Here’s a common scenario:

After moderate research and an eye-opening demo or two, Company A decides to move forward with a marketing automation tool. The team is totally jazzed throughout the standard training that’s included with their contract. But once they’re cut loose to fly solo in the world of marketing automation, they find 6 months passes and they’ve used the platform as little more than a more expensive replacement of their old email tool. A few months later, it’s time to assess the tool’s value and decide whether it makes the cut in next year’s marketing budget. Minimal use means minimal results, so the company ultimately decides to pull the plug.

What happened here?

In many cases, the company overestimated its own capacity.

To be successful at marketing automation, you must move beyond just the monetary investment. There’s a real time component to this. If your team’s workload is already bursting at the seams, they will not be able to successfully manage the integration of a marketing automation solution on top of their day-to-day responsibilities.

Even after you’ve trained on how to use the technical features of the system, it’s important to carve out time for guidance on how to use it strategically. There’s no cookie-cutter solution to this – every agency is different. At Newfangled, we never sell a marketing automation install and walk away. Our marketing automation package includes monthly coaching to make sure you’re using the system in a way that makes sense for you and that supports your specific marketing goals, so you can tie this investment to tangible revenue.

That level of insight is going to require time from your team. Don’t let the “automation” in its name fool you. This is far from a plug-and-play scenario. Having a reasonable expectation of the internal capacity needed to make it a success is a must.

Have I scared you away yet? I hope not. Marketing automation lives up to the hype. It can absolutely make you a better marketer. And keeping these considerations in mind will ensure that, once your agency does invest in marketing automation, you’re fully prepared to make it sing.

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