Marketing Automation – Is it right for manufacturing?


marketing automation for manufacturing

The decision to purchase a marketing automation platform/service (MAP) for your manufacturing marketing team is a big one.  Not only is it a big decision because of the monetary investment, it’s a big decision because of the typically large cultural change that may be necessary to support such a broadly invasive tool into your marketing team and your entire revenue generating functions.

There are many companies offering MAP services with price points from a couple of hundred dollars a month to several thousand dollars per month.  The price is usually driven by the size of the database, features and support plans.  One of the good things about these tools is that the pricing is usually posted on the websites for easy comparison.

Is it worth the investment?

When a B2B Marketer contemplates purchasing, implementing and integrating a MAP to their modern marketing tool kit, the concept is usually proposed to management with a supporting business case.   It’s fairly easy to show how MA should improve efficiency of the marketing team and increase sales, but it is very difficult to execute a plan that achieves these results.

My premise begs the question, “is MAP worth it?” and, of course the answer is “it depends”.  Your initial investment in MA will likely cost between $5000 and $40,000 per year.   It’s not a one-time purchase price, but an ongoing subscription.  It is not hard to show a robust ROI on paper based on some rosy efficiency numbers.  However, the danger in determining if MAP is worth the investment is there are many hidden costs that don’t show up in the aforementioned business case nor in the brochures and websites of the MAP companies. Hidden costs may include:

  • Staff man-hours spent on implementation and learning how to use the tool
  • Complexity = hidden cost
  • Vendor cost for set-up and training
  • Outsourced cost for maintenance and execution
  • Opportunity cost (could your time and money be better spent on something else?)
  • Internal selling cost of time and energy, not to mention cost to reputation if the project fails to meet expectations

Suppose you submit to the annual expense and agree to absorb the hidden costs, what is the payback and are you capable of utilizing the tool to realize a payback?  I hear from marketing directors and managers more often than not who have purchased a MAP subscription, excited by the possibilities, but are unable to fully utilize the tool because of lack of leadership, expertise or personnel.  They usually end up using it as an email tool.

On the flip side, those marketing organizations able to fully leverage a MAP show more effective revenue and profitability.  Naturally, this begs the question inherent in any correlation, “Does better performance lead to deeper use of MAP or does full use of MAP lead to better performance?” I don’t have the answer to that question.  What do you think?

One may think that everyone in manufacturing is using MAP and if you and your organization don’t get onboard, you’ll be labeled a laggard and end up missing the rapid growth boat to your more adoptive competitors.  This is not the reality of the manufacturing marketing landscape.  According to the 2012 Marketing Sherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, only 24% of B2B marketers are using MA.  The report further states that of those 24%, at best, 53% have implemented core functions.  Only 30% have fully implemented advanced functions such as report dashboards, lead management, nurturing or lead scoring.  Therefore, only 8% of B2B marketers are fully leveraging their MAP.

More recent data from a 2014 study by Sirius Decisions as reported by AdAge states that only 16% of North American B2B companies use marketing automation.  This report shows a wide range of adoption rates as broken down by industry with the highest rate of 65% with Information Technology companies and the lowest rates with Healthcare, Financial Services and Manufacturing all with adoption rates less than 10%.

Could this be opportunity knocking for your firm to get a leg up on the competition with a shiny new MAP?  Perhaps, but there are some strong indicators of success you can benchmark against to help determine if you and your organization have a good chance to be successful with a MAP.  For the sake of this discussion, let’s define success as increased revenue growth rate as a result of a MAP.

Based on my 6 plus years of experience with purchasing, implementing and using various marketing automation platforms, these are some key success factors for marketing automation:

  1. Make sure your key stakeholders are on board and excited about what a MAP can do for them.  Key stakeholders might vary with your organization, but should start the executive team; CEO, CFO, CMO, VP Sales, etc. and their associated teams.
  2. Have at least a preliminary plan written down and shared.  Note the ‘written down’ part of this step.  If the plan is in your head or someone else’s head, be wary because the details of any plan in the head are usually absent.
  3. Own the owner.  You need to have one person who owns the MAP and is responsible for it’s success.  This person should be on your team and not nestled away in the IT department or the Sales department.  This is your champion and, ideally, s/he loves technology, is curious, fearless, innovative, creative and has a thick skin (shouldn’t all marketers have thick skins?).  Reward this person for success!  If you try to add the responsibility for the MAP on to the litany of other tools the webmaster or other marketing person owns, it will be very difficult to get any traction with your new MAP tool.  It will likely languish as a glorified email tool at best and as a forgotten resource costing you $2 – $3000 per month at worst.  Don’t rely solely on outsourcing for strategy and execution.  Outsourcing is, no doubt, a highly valuable resource and I encourage supplementing your MAP with outsourced of freelance help, but they can’t replace an in-house MAP champion expert.
  4. You will need the expertise of an outside vendor, especially if you plan to integrate MAP to other systems in place like your CRM.  The expertise of outside vendors will speed up your implementation, help get your team up to speed much more quickly and set a strong foundation for future efficient use.
  5. Communicate.  Communicate. Communicate.  Let your whole company know how this tool is contributing to the goals of the firm.  Be careful not to report vanity metrics or metrics that seem to be bragging about yourself or the team.  Talk about how a certain campaign increased sales for example.  Even better, highlight the success of one of the stakeholders because of their use of the tool.  You can’t over-communicate the success of the MAP.  As marketers, you could treat it as an internal product launch with a positioning statement, value proposition and associated messaging.
  6. Measure everything and customize the presentation of results to fit the respective audiences.

Your team should be excited and interested to learn as much about this tool as possible.  Every marketer should be assigned to become an expert in the MAP strategy and technology.  Your team should plan to be using this tool on a daily basis.  Without that kind of interest, your success will be limited.  If you plan to assign everything about the tool to one individual or a very small team of so called ‘Digital Marketers’, your success will also be limited.

Is marketing automation worth it?  No, if you’re strapped for resources and won’t be able to invest in the time and absorb the hidden costs that are incurred to optimize the MAP.  No, if your culture is not eager and ready for a marketing automation tool.  Yes, definitely, if you are able to leverage the power and implement all the core functions to your marketing plan around an energized technically savvy group of marketers.

Note: This post was first published at BMA Colorado blog on November 10, 2015.


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