This week the folks at Beachhead Marketing pointed out an interesting article from Chiefmartec describing the Ascend2 report that 9% of firms are fully using their marketing tech stack. This is the first confirmation I have seen of a trend I noticed as a consultant and marketing technologist at various firms: very few people are using their marketing automation platform to the fullest, let alone their whole stack.
Yes, the survey talks about “marketing technology,” so this could be the entire range of tools. But think for a moment – most marketers think of their email platform and MAP (marketing automation platform) as their primary tool or the center of their martech stack. If 91% of marketers are not using the entire system, then it stands to reason that roughly that number are not even making the most of their MAP’s capabilities.
The question those marketers have is probably not, “How can I use more of my stack?” the question is, “How can I generate more revenue? Or more SQLs?” In fact, Ascend2’s next chart says that 52% of marketers want more sales revenue and 50% want more leads. Surprisingly, less than half are interested in personalization, targeting, or efficiency, which are strongly correlated with increased responses. And the big vision “Predictability” is dead last at 13%. To me, that should be a concern for companies like Marketo and Lattice Engines because the big vision goal of predictable revenue and predictive scoring is likely not high on most firms’ lists – except that 9% leading edge group.
What is on most marketers’ minds is getting the most out of their marketing automation tool with things like nurturing and funnel visibility. If they cannot reach those goals, those marketers are going to be increasingly dissatisfied with their stack.
This data continues to confirm what I often tell people: Marketing Automation is a journey and it will take two to three years to fully realize the vision. Most marketers are not ready at all to even track the Lead Lifecycle in their first year with a MAP, let alone have the data, experience, and sales alignment to successfully use predictive scoring or other match tools.
As a consultant, I often came across situations where the MAP had been purchased, implemented, but never fully used. The company knew this and was willing to restart the process because they still believed it was possible to reap efficiency gains or even achieve the Vision of revenue performance management in the future. Rarely does a consultant get called in to help a high performing marketing organization, of course! But with 57% of marketers rating their match program “Somewhat Successful” and 27% less happy than that, there are a lot of opportunities for both vendors and agencies to help companies achieve so much more with relatively little investment.
The good news is most marketers seem to believe that technology can change marketing performance positively, with the survey saying this is at 87%. However, I often heard the CMO or Director of Marketing say that a MAP was only helping marginally, or not at all. According to the Survey, at least 55% of marketers are in that camp today. To me, marketers who say this are likely using their MAP as a glorified email tool. They did not take the time to go through the evolution of marketing or the training needed to fully use the MAP to achieve the Vision. Naturally, their view of performance is that not much changed.
According to the survey, 50% of firms find the complexity challenging and 39% find the lack of budget slowing down their implementation. I would say that the critical piece is the budget or resources to achieve success. If you cannot find the budget and/or right people to help you implement a martech project, then that alone will stop your plans regardless of “complexity” or “inefficient processes.” A new tool will be complex to the uninitiated and inefficiency will abound until someone helps you create the right plan and sets up the tools correctly for your business. Thus, this again supports my advice to CMOs: understand your marketing strategy and firm first, then hire the right team (or agency) to help implement the technical side well. Is it better to spend $50,000 this year to set up success for the next three years, or to spend $15,000 today for a poor implementation that means $70,000 is software fees are flushed away? Going for a cheap option now usually means more expense later when the new consultants have to spend twice as long ripping out what the last agency tried.
Now, let’s discuss how a firm can implement a marketing technology plan successfully and a firm can implement a turnaround to move into that 9% over the next 12 to 24 months.
Getting to the 9% of “martech nirvana” as Scott Brinker puts it does not inherently require a lot of martech vendor solutions. In fact, you may only need a MAP, CRM, Website, and Social Media tool. (I talk about the minimum stack here). What you do need is a clear plan for your marketing strategy, tactical mix, matched against available martech vendors. By plan, I also mean what you plan to do over time.
Here is a framework I have been developing to help guide your marketing technology plans. The Marketing Automation Maturity Model is not quite like Marketo’s Maturity Model or The Pedowitz Group’s RM6™ assessment. The model here is focused on the use and implementation of marketing technology and when each piece should begin.
Each Stage has a set of pain points that emerge as you make the marketing automation journey. Each Stage has a corresponding Solution involving people and technology that is used to help create leverage for ROI. And each Stage takes time.
The single biggest impediment I see in achieving the Vision is thinking that the change will happen in one year or less, “because the vendor told me so.” And when that naturally does not happen? The vendor is fired and you have to start all over again. Far too many CMOs have said as much to me during evaluations. This is surprisingly short-term thinking from strategic executives. If you are a CMO, set better expectations with your team and with the C-suite colleagues. If you are a demand gen or marketing operations manager, explain this model to your CMO to avoid the uncomfortable calls to cancel your MAP contract, or to “go with a cheaper solution.”
Stage 0: Marketing Transformation
- Pain Points: batch and blast emails not bringing in sales; marketing ideas are stagnant; list purchases and rentals are primary lead source; lack of content strategy; website is brochure-ware; Roadshow events are product and sales based. Yes, these firms still do exist.
- Solution: New inbound marketing strategy. Website improvements to facilitate inbound content and lead collection. Begin sales-marketing alignment discussions for lead ranking and improved routing.
- Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: Do not feel the need to invest beyond the website or CRM. Stay on plan, as doing too much now will create the perception of failure very quickly.
- ROI Potential: strategy change invigorates team and sales sees action is happening. Increase in leads and lead quality, decrease in CPL.
- Timeframe: 6 to 24 months.
Stage 1: Begin Automation
- Pain Points: lead volume is too much to rank easily; not all leads are ready to speak with Sales; content plan needs more coordination; demand generation requires more structure around the buying process. Marketing needs faster turnaround on landing pages and website control.
- Solution: CRM+MAP implementation with intense Sales-Marketing Alignment framework.
- Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: larger firms may want to go with a robust MAP for future work. Smaller firms can consider a 1 year smaller MAP tool to get started and plan to switch once everyone is comfortable with Marketing Tech.
- ROI Potential: marketing saves time for investment in demand gen and content planning. Data quality costs decrease, sales cycle is faster.
- Timeframe: 6 to 12 months with MAP implementation.
Stage 2: Lead Quality Management
- Pain Points: sales is complaining that you send too many leads over the wall, so you need to hold more back, but content and nurturing aren’t quite ready.
- Solution: additional sales-marketing alignment and workflow adjustments. Time is now to start building drip nurturing if possible or hire more campaign managers.
- Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: growing firms may need to prepare to switch MAPs to handle the lake of leads and to nurture them in Stage 3. Workflows will need adjustment and new campaigns developed.
- ROI Potential: marketing saves time for investment in demand gen and content planning. Data quality improves.
- Timeframe: about 3-6 months in most organizations.
Stage 3: Nurturing and Sales Context
- Pain Points: Sales is asking for more context of why a lead is MQL; requesting more “sales ready leads”; batch and blast still not working and campaigns require more coordination.
- Solution: install behavioral data tools in CRM to give Sales visibility into scoring and lead actions; train Sales on using the tools; content shifts to storytelling framework which is then operationalized as “lead nurturing.”
- Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: sales context tools may already be in the CRM at this point, so careful training and improved timing of alerts may be what you need here. Use the Nurturing Operations framework [link] to take your content into a serialized novel format to keep leads engaged; automate this in your MAP. If you need to upgrade your MAP, do so. I am 100% sure that less than 30% of firms are remotely doing anything like this on a consistent basis.
- ROI Potential: lead quality improves, sales cycle reduction, time saved for Marketing after initial investment.
- Timeframe: about 6 months if it is a focus.
Stage 4: Funnel Visibility
- Pain Points: difficult to answer questions about impact of marketing programs and sales efforts on funnel metrics like conversion percent and days to next stage.
- Solution: Build and improve the lead funnel and lead lifecycle systems.
- Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: this requires a serious plan with the CRM and MAP teams working closely to ensure the right data collection and the right workflows are setup to achieve the desired Reporting. Jeff Coveney and I talk more about this process.
- ROI Potential: you will be able to confidently discuss the impact of programs on moving leads through the funnel. Reduce funnel conversion times to reach revenue faster.
- Timeframe: 3-12 months depending on the size of firm and database complexity. Some reports may take longer to show data.
Stage 5: Attribution and Allocation Visibility
- Pain Points: All those ROI questions have built up and the dam is going to explode unless you can show the data: How do we know marketing’s efforts are paying off? How do we know which sources and offers are working for us? Is marketing even contributing to revenue?
- Solution: Proper data collection across all channels, tied together by the MAP and special reporting technology.
- Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: Ideally you should have already set First Touch and Last Touch Attribution from Stage 1 or 2. Now you have to ensure Multitouch record keeping is collecting data on every touch and can report on it in relation to the Funnel you setup in Stage 5.
- ROI Potential: your promotion comes through. Everyone now sees just how much that massive Tradeshow costs and how little it brings in; you now see how Whitepaper Series 1 tanked, but Whitepaper Series 2 resonated with Audience 3 and you re-allocate resources there. Legendary Marketing Ops Manager status; full ROI visibility.
- Timeframe: depends on how much groundwork occurred previously. Could be 3 to 12 months.
Stage 6: Reliable, Automated Predictability
- Pain Points: can you help us predict pipeline and revenue based on marketing spend?
- Solution: add in predictive scoring and modeling tools with Finance and Sales help. (The Prediction Vendors won’t like me putting this last!).
- Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: in theory, you may be able to add Predictive Scoring in during Stages 2 and 3. Be sure you are comfortable with the collection of data (behaviors, opportunities, and revenue) to support such a model and that Sales and Marketing are trained properly. I do not believe most firms are ready for this until Stage 5 or 6.
- ROI Potential: instead of making up lead scoring (and we are all doing this), and using Pipeline waterfall reports, now you can rely on a real data model, which will do a much better job of statistical analysis. This becomes a real Revenue Table discussion that helps you allocate marketing spend for impacts 9-12 months out. If these are accurate, you keep your job!
- Timeframe: vendors say this is doable within days. I would expect about 3 months to be comfortable with the tools.
This maturity model is a bit linear the way I wrote it out here today. In reality each of the Solutions in each Stage could happen concurrently with enough resources and people. Stages 0 and 1, however, should never be done concurrently for the plan to be truly successful. Marketing strategy transformation and sales alignment could impact your technology choices, so take the time to communicate these plans and work them into your team’s culture.
The way to use this Model is to focus on Stage 0, then 1. Your plan should then have sprints where Stages 2, 3, 4, and 5 have a focus at different times. For instance, I would not promise full attribution reports during Stage 1, but I could build in parts of the data collection during the implementation, even if I could not use them fully yet.
First time marketing automation implementers should focus on one Stage at a time and not expect the Visionary reports and predictions the vendors sell us. More experienced marketing ops managers and consultants can use the Model to build in components of later Stages earlier in the process, but this requires careful client expectations management.
In the past, I have said that Marketing Automation is a catalyst for a marketing strategy change and a way to force Sales-Marketing Alignment to occur faster. Yes, this is still true, but unless this is managed well alongside the Marketing Tech plan, there is a high likelihood of adding in the wrong workflows and even the wrong martech vendors.
[updated on Aug 26 to correct Stage 2 typo]