Ok, so the idea behind marketing automation is that it increases the operational efficiency of your business while boosting your revenue generation. It supposedly makes the “routine and repeatable” tasks happen without human intervention, such as:
- Creating and managing a marketing database
- Scoring the leads and allocating them a position in the buying cycle, and
- Management of the lead nurturing process
But does it really improve the way you do business, or is it all just hype? Research from Forrester shows that 83% of marketers think that it will, but at the same time shows that agility is equally important to efficiency and the improvement of sales processes.
Why You Need Agile Marketing
So why is agility important in marketing automation, you ask. Here are four reasons:
#1: To Improve Response Time
With the current pace of development in technology, which is the basis for marketing automation, we no sooner get to grips with a method of doing things than it changes. Digital media becomes more fragmented by the day as new channels open up to augment or replace old ones. Customers abandon tried and tested methods with increasing regularity, as they turn enthusiastically to the next New Shiny Thing. By being able to adapt communications as fast as progress allows, marketers can shorten the cycle times between the changes in the environment and the company’s response to them.
#2: To Shift Priorities
As budgets tighten and companies try to maximize profits, marketing teams need to adopt a prioritization approach so they have a clear idea of what needs to be done first. Campaigns set up months in advance may need to be superseded by more pressing campaigns. Marketing automation software needs to be able to make these shifts smoothly and easily.
#3: To Promote Engagement
Marketers walk a fine line to promote engagement between the various stakeholders. These include:
- Company executives who need to ensure activities are aligned with their overall strategy
- Sales personnel who demand the generation of qualified leads on an ongoing basis
- Current and prospective clients, who need the marketing activities to be engaging, two-way communications
To balance these competing audiences while achieving their own lead generation objectives in the face of a constantly-changing environment, it’s essential that they have the freedom to switch tracks as needed.
#4: To Remain Relevant
Agile marketing enables the company to remain relevant by adapting to the changing needs of the marketplace as and when they occur, in ways that don’t have an adverse effect on bigger programs. And for companies using marketing automation to improve operational efficiencies, the meaning is clear: regardless how good your marketing communications are, if they are no longer relevant to your target market by the time they are received, they’re a waste of time and money. The shorter your “relevancy window,” the more vital agility is, otherwise by the time your campaign rolls out the problem you want to solve might no longer exist.
Agility Vs. Efficiency
As you can see, efficient marketing operations are one thing. Agile ones are another. And the ability to remain agile is ultimately the more important of the two. It’s essential to be able to respond in real time to changes in marketing practices, market fluctuations and current affairs that impact your business.
Social media marketing, in particular, moves at the speed of light sometimes and opportunities come and go quickly. Anything automated simply can’t keep up. Besides, marketing automation isn’t as easy as it seems at first glance. It’s relatively complex, with the requirement to set up processes that trigger events in response to specific criteria.
So you can choose to focus on the productivity benefits of marketing automation, which means creating systems involving sales, your legal department and other areas of the business. Or you can remain agile by developing a trusted team of marketing officers who have the freedom to shift direction and adapt to new information or the changing needs of the target market.
Making Marketing Automation Work
Judging from these results, it seems clear that to make marketing automation really work you need to maximize the productivity benefit—while finding a way to keep it agile. This means being able to shift tactics as necessary based on changes to the data you have.
Getting approvals for marketing content has previously been a cumbersome process, which required everyone from the top down to give the go-ahead. If your marketing team faces this kind of obstacle to getting material out, it’s certainly not going to be able to respond in an agile fashion. And marketing automation takes time to create the messages, then set up the communications and test the delivery. You can’t afford a hiccup in the pipeline, or your message is out of date before it leaves your company’s shores.
The way to resolve this situation is to build a strategy for marketing automation that takes a long-term view of your company’s objectives and has buy-in from all your stakeholders. At the same time, it needs to include enough flexibility for your marketing team to make changes when they need to do so to keep it agile. This fits the definition of “lean marketing” perfectly, which is based on the lean manufacturing techniques used by companies leveraging economies of scale.
So, when you’re building your marketing automation strategy, make sure you include everyone who might have a stake in the process. Do some education so they understand the principle of agility and get their buy-in to ensure that when the time comes to move, you don’t get held up by anyone. That’s the best way to make marketing automation increase the operational efficiency of your company—by remaining agile.