The right marketing automation partner can help you avoid the avoidable mistakes

November 18th, 2010 by Marcus Tewksbury

On the surface, implementing a marketing automation tool appears fairly simple.  The problem though, is in not knowing what you don’t know.  Implementing a tool isn’t that hard, but getting it setup in a way, with the processes to match, to produce business value is another matter.  This is not an effort you want to go alone.  Like a tile floor, if it’s done wrong you have to rip and replace.

Someone that knows a thing or two about marketing automation, having installed and trained some of the earliest implementation of said tools is Don Dalrymple, President of AscendWorks.  Beyond his deep knowledge of the inner workings of many marketing automation tools, Don is also extremely well versed in training marketing organizations to focus on the customer rather than the process.

Marcus: Don, to jump right into it, can you tell us about the common misconceptions or issues you sense that people have about marketing automation.

Don:   Sure.  Our team at Ascendworks are typically sought-out to implement campaigns for organizations that are just starting out with marketing automation or are looking to retool their existing ones.  Some of the problems that we typically face are that a lack of strategy or understanding how the specific steps in a marketing automation campaign affects the buyer.  We provide a lot of strategy and consulting around what the roadmap and decision tree and cycles are for those buyers.

Marcus: Where do you see that lack of strategy?  Is it a lack of understanding?  What’s the source of the problem?

Don: I think most organizations start from a fundamental difference.  Most organizations are asking, “How do I sell?” and that’s a very different approach from what we do at Ascendworks.  We’re asking, “Why does that person buy?”  So if you have something of value in the marketplace you will have a buyer, but thinking like the buyer is very difficult for most people.  Starting from that one single premise you’re able to make a different type of approach in how you’re going to do marketing and what you should be looking to automate.

Marcus:  What a great perspective.  You’re not trying to sell in the marketplace; you’re trying to locate your buyers.  You need to find the buyers and you need to engage with them and relate to them on their level.  Do you find parts of the organization struggle with this more than others?

Don:  The concept is missing because there’s a gap in the thinking between how the buying experience today works.  It’s completely different from ten years ago, even five years ago.  When a buyer starts thinking about purchasing something, they’re doing something way ahead of time.  They’re doing a lot of research and education and becoming aware.  Putting yourself in a buyer’s shoes; it’s something that I don’t think a marketer is adept at today.  Previously it was more of a numbers game.  They were used to sending out mass mailings or direct mail, contacting people in a very disconnected fashion, where marketing automation is causing a lot more intimacy and thinking through the various steps.

Marcus: So the marketing automation is martial aid for the marketing organizations of the world, or something like that.

Don: Yes, yes [laughs].

Marcus:  Do you find anyone to be resistant to this?  Anyone getting their heels dug in resisting change?

Don: I would say yes and no.  I think that because of the new economy and how it’s structured, buyers are in control.  As consumers, we have all the information we need to make a decision to buy anything we want.  We can Google it, right?  So the rules are completely changed for marketers.  They have to think through, “How do I nurture and convert somebody who is educating themselves and servicing themselves?”  I think that going into an organization and speaking to someone who is speaking in an old mindset and is not realizing that the game has changed- they are resistant.  Some of the old breed are not going to make it.  They don’t understand pain and they are disconnected from the buyer.  We can provide the roadmap to attracting and nurturing that buyer, but it’s up to the individual marketer to upgrade their approach and skill set.

Marcus:   Is this something you can really train people to do?  Can you teach someone how to grow relationships with their customers?

Don:   That’s a great question.  I think typically it really depends on the type of talent you’re dealing with.  I think inherently marketing automation is highly sophisticated.  It’s not something that’s simple, like a general marketing campaign.  You can have a junior level person running that.  It really takes someone who thinks like a strategist, executes, and is a technician as well.  I would use an analogy to mechanical engineering.  The whole space is dependent on the CAD/CAM systems.  They started at $30,000 at one point and you had to have a specialist, and then they moved down to $5,000 at one point, now you can get them for $1,000.  You still need an engineering background to be able to design, but it is way more accessible.  I would say marketing automation systems have the promise of changing the revenue opportunity dramatically but you do need a fighter pilot-type mentality, someone who is able to be fully committed and talented at thinking through the various parts of the buying cycle.

Marcus: Is this all wrapped into one person?  Do these skill sets need to be shared across a team?

Don: Possibly, but for us, we depend on a team.  Ours consists of various skill sets.  There’s a strong project management component, there’s an overarching decision and strategy that has to be driven, and then going down into the tactics, everything from graphic design to software development to analysts who can parse the data to systems integrators, they’re all a part of our team.  You could possibly have that in one person.  I know a few people who could do the whole job, but typically I see that being parsed out amongst a team.

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