Let’s be perfectly clear, marketing automation is not a strategy and it is not a tactic. It’s a tool. Saying marketing automation is a tactic is like saying your business strategy is to achieve double digit growth. For either statement to matter, you must have some thought and action behind the desire.
Regardless of what the MA vendors say, these marketing systems are highly complex. They are akin to powerful image processing programs like Adobe Photoshop or complex accounting programs like Peachtree. These programs require hundreds of hours of use and training before a user is able to be proficient.
This mindmap from Quarry tells the story quite well. The leading MA systems boast about 26 different functions under the four categories of managing the database, managing campaigns, managing leads and measuring results. Within the 26 functions there are myriad tactics to accomplish the functions. Sending emails is one of the 26 functions. Does it make sense to pay for a MA system just to send and measure emails? I would say no. Does it make sense to buy a system just to manage your database? I would say no. How about just to manage an event? Again, no. Each of the tactics and activities under each of the 4 major areas can be accomplished on its own with a much less expensive and less complex tool.
If we agree with the previous statement, is it time to throw up our hands, say ‘uncle’ and give up on marketing automation as a whole? Perhaps that is a wise conclusion or perhaps it is a foolish conclusion. It depends on your particular situation. If you’re short on resources and will not be able to support your team by allowing them time to learn and experiment with the tool, then say no to MA. If you don’t have someone who understands how to leverage the tool to support the marketing plan, then say no to MA. If you don’t have a marketing plan, then say no because you’ve got bigger problems and no business even contemplating a MA system until your marketing plan is complete.
If you do have a marketing plan, understand the engagement power of content and work at a company where innovation and creativity are part of the culture, then say YES to MA! If you have a vision for driving growth with marketing as a revenue engine through engagement, content marketing and meaningful KPIs, then say YES to MA. Yes in any case, must be preceded by a commitment to adequate resources.
Bottom line, marketing automation systems are complex and they do require resources to get to a point where you start to reap the benefits. It takes commitment from the marketing leaders, marketing team and, most of all, from the C-suite to really leverage the power of MA.
Finally, it’s ok to come to the conclusion that a full blown MA system is too complex for your organization and not a smart purchase. There are many tools available and chances are good that you can find the best fit for your situation.