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Why Marketing Automation Fails And Three Ways To Fix It

When both my girls lived at home I had a wonderful idea – let’s have a family calendar. We’re all bumping knees – I didn’t know you had a swim meet; your aunt’s birthday is next week; yes, Mom’s working Saturday. This would be a window into the week and a sketch of the month to keep us on track and off each others’ nerves. And if we put it on the computer, everyone has instant access. Didn’t work. So I tried printing a blank calendar and putting it on the refrigerator door. Everyone could just write stuff. Didn’t work. For a very basic reason – you don’t get the picture unless everyone contributes.

Same with marketing automation. Without the participation of each individual, you’re not going to get it’s really outstanding feature – a window into your prospecting process detailing the touch points, in sequence, and the outcome of each. A fantastic tool to ratchet up prospecting’s effectiveness and efficiency.

There’s a catch. This may be news to you, but sales and marketing barely speak. And as the quality of sales’ input to marketing automation declines, so does the utility of the tool. Per recent Forrester research, 50% of marketing initiatives go under because of lack of organizational cooperation. Feels low. Which is silly. We’re shooting ourselves in the collective foot. As Pogo says, we are confronted by insurmountable opportunity.

This river of this organizational discontent, separating sales and marketing, runs deep; it’s called culture.Culture is tradition and history, is deeply ingrained and is passed along. I warn you ahead of time, do not underestimate its power to erode your goals and undermine your plans. Culture eats change for lunch. Successful change requires persistence and imagination. I’d like to suggest three strategies that will set the table for a banquet that all will attend.

1. Sales must be meaningfully integrated into the marketing process now and forever more.

Let’s give sales their due. They have real-world experience that you’re not going to get anywhere else. They’re talking to the marketplace every day. If sales has the opportunity to contribute to each phase of the process, from planning to analysis, everyone benefits. Here are two critical areas:

Sales must contribute to prospect persona research and development. This is a qualitative process designed to gain insight into the people that make the business decisions. We need sales’ contribution to goals, areas of questioning, including potential offers, and analysis. Sales must believe in the list, the people we talk to, or they will not believe in the results.

Lead definition – when is a lead worth the time and effort of a sales person. Everyone in the room gets a vote, but the only vote that counts comes from sales. Get used to it.

Sales integration is a process, not an event. It’s a new way of doing business.

2. There must be shared measurement and reward.

Measurement and reward must be consistent with the goal, the reason for the change. If our goal is shared work for a better outcome, well, measurement and reward must be in lockstep. Both departments must be measured, and rewarded, by contribution to the sale. It’s the only thing that will change the silo culture. Marketing can’t get away with generating leads and tossing them over the wall. Sales must have measurable contribution to generating, and thus ensuring, a high quality lead. Then marketing automation can be accepted as an enabler, and not a hammer.

3. Change only happens from the top down.

Management needs to walk the talk, and periodically, give change a good hard shove, provide both the carrot and the stick consistently and over time. They must make it clear that the train has left the station, and that if you’re not on board, well, you’re not on board. If we fail at this, nothing else counts.

Realizing the incredible potential of marketing automation requires a working partnership between marketing and sales, trust and respect driving cooperation and dedication. It’s the only way to harness marketing automation to seriously improve the prospecting process.

I would point to Asigra, a developer of backup and recovery software, as having implemented a best-in-class, real-world solution. Tracy Staniland, Vice President, Corporate Marketing, provides an overview,

“We are huge supporters of and believers in marketing automation. We have implemented a sophisticated process that integrates the sales and marketing functions clearly and with purpose, starting with a Service Level Agreement between Marketing and Sales. This keeps everyone accountable for responding to Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) in a timely manner.

“Working in tight alignment, the Sales and Marketing teams have agreed upon the lead score threshold (based on multiple criteria) for when MQLs are deemed sales-ready and can be relabeled as SALs and passed to the sales team. Marketing regularly checks in with sales on the status of the SALs to see if they are progressing in the pipeline or if the lead score needs to be adjusted to ensure that the right quality of leads are passed to sales at the right time. Leads that need to be recycled back to marketing are pushed to marketing in a timely manner.”

Now, with all that said, will these same principles work with my daughters? Not a chance. (Can you say “Dad” with a world-weary sigh?)