Want to guess the most common complaint about screenwriting software?

It doesn’t write the movie by itself.

While that complaint may sound crazy, a lot of people who buy marketing automation platforms like Marketo expect the software to do all the work by itself.

Marketing automation is like any other software. People buy it for the shiny but don’t put in the work to get the ROI they’re seeking.

That’s why in 2012 Josh Hill founded Marketing Rockstar Guides. It has since become the go-to site for practical step-by-step help to get the most out of marketing automation platforms.

How To Set Up Your Marketing Automation Platform

The guides show you how to plan, implement, optimize, and then scale your marketing automation platform.

You need to look at all your marketing and sales efforts from ads to emails to webinars and get them into the system to help define the processes and different persona funnels.

Rather than taking on the daunting task of trying to document everything, Hill recommends you start with templates. Chances are your business will largely fit into one of the predefined templates.

If you’re a startup or an early stage company, you may not have your sales process down yet. ”A lot of companies don’t spend the time to think through their sales process before they buy marketing automation,” says Hill.

marketing automation doesn't fix a bad process

Don’t get wowed by the fancy charts and funnel visualizations. If the data in them isn’t useful to your process, it’s just eye candy.

Start by automating the hand-off between sales and marketing and then look at how you’re nurturing different personas. Look at your email and webinar programs and scale them up.

Then you can start to look at useful numbers for your funnel visibility.

Be Patient: Setup Takes a While, Results Take Even Longer

Getting useful data can take 12-36 months, which is not what most CMOs want to hear. If you’re prepared with all the right pre-planning and your data is already clean, you MIGHT be able to get actionable data in 30-90 days.

The delay isn’t about which marketing automation you choose, sometimes it’s really just that your data is not ready.

Plug and play is a myth. The software won’t create instant miracles. Even for large, mature companies with well-documented sales funnels and processes, there can be unexpected consequences.

Large companies need to talk to every team that touches a client—from marketing to sales to customer success—to uncover potential impacts when you implement the marketing automation platform.

marketing automation getting rob faster

Martech setup takes far longer than people expect and if the prep work isn’t done correctly beforehand, you can hit the three-month mark with zero results. That’s when the customer blames the martech vendor, switches to one of the five other competing marketing automation platforms, and get similar results.

The sales team has to prepare the customer for a thorough implementation to avoid churn and get that renewal.

One of Openprise’s top downloadable assets is a spreadsheet, a simple data governance template that lays out all the basic structures and products like Salesforce and Marketo with a couple of simple columns that folks can sit down with and say, who’s going to own this field?

A really simple tool like that goes a long way in terms of getting everyone on the same page and talking about process.

Your Best Marketing Automation Leaves Every Evening

One of the hardest parts of making your marketing automation system work well is keeping your staff. In Silicon Valley, someone skilled at marketing automation like Marketo or Salesforce will leave for a better job about every 18 months.

People learn enough to get certified and then they get recruited by a consulting agency or become an independent consultant. In addition to the pay increase, they get a lifestyle upgrade where they can travel the world or work remotely from home.

For companies, it sometimes makes more sense to hire consultants instead of growing from within. Consultants see more projects at different scales with different kinds of use cases. That breadth of knowledge lets consultants cross-pollinate with outside ideas they can apply to your company.

If you want to grow this competency in-house, cross-train multiple team members in the marketing automation system. Some teams swap out marketing automation members every six months to make sure that their entire marketing team has depth training in the software and a deeper understanding of different projects and parts of the company.

Cross-training also helps alleviate boredom by giving everyone a chance to engage in something new. Higher engagement reduces employee churn.

The Real ROI

Obviously, companies expect marketing automation to drive revenue. But sometimes the real ROI comes from greater efficiency.

“I think of ROI in marketing technology as ‘did I save man-hours?’” says Hill. “If your goal is funnel visibility so you can more accurately, consistently target channels and assets, that’s great. But you could save 20 hours a week because you templatize something or automate really simple issues that people have.”

Unfortunately, one solution doesn’t fit all use cases. For example, Marketo does a lot of amazing things but it doesn’t handle email replies. You need to search for additional solutions that improve specific productivity.

“I finally used [a Marketo competitor for email replies only] and that was a 10x gain,” says Hill. “No one ever questions a budget line item for that one. It’s a very simple tool, but it’s very powerful in how it changes manual work to automated work.”

Where Martech Is Going

Hill sees a lot more focus on intent data.

Another focus is combining different kinds of data from different datasets to create a Customer Data Platform (CDP) of individuals. While it can lead to even more effective marketing campaigns, it runs the risk of violating privacy rules like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

One thing’s for sure, this movie’s just getting started.

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