Marketo (2015) state that "engagement is the new competitive advantage" and according to McKinsey (2009) consumers nowadays seek a two-way communication with multiple touchpoints evaluating an increased number of competitors before purchase. To address this change in the purchasing decision, many businesses introduced marketing automation with aim to increase engagement with consumers.
According to Google Trends (2015) marketing automation has had rapid growth in the last couple of years with IDC (2015) predicting that marketing technology spending will grow by 12.4% by 2018.
However, apart from successful testimonials and case studies from platform providers, my own findings so far are far from positive. As a result of this, I must assume that, despite the fact that marketing automation software is now commercially available, even from SMEs, there are great obstacles in implementation. Econsultancy (2015) found out that 88% of small and medium businesses understand the benefits of automation, so why is it that businesses struggle with getting the most out of the software platform?
Limitations in implementing marketing automation
I believe that marketing automation is not a software tool but a catalyst of change which requires businesses to adapt its core marketing and sales processes. Only then, a business can fully embrace the change in the customer decision journey and adapt its marketing activities accordingly.
In order to visually display the connections of a consumer with the brand on the new modern identified consumer journey by McKinsey (2009), the touchpoints in the travel industry, identified by Think with Google (2015) are overlaid in the below graphic which display scope for marketing automation in the evaluation phase. The touchpoints are connected with each other and managed through a holistic marketing automation platform which truly integrates all channels, gathers data and profiles consumers using a linked CRM software.
Skills of the modern marketer
The above graphic not only displays how the two variables of marketing automation and customer decision journey interact but it actually revelas the knowledge modern marketers require to successfully execute marketing activities with support of automation.
New attribution model
Last-click attribution still seems one of the most popular attribution models, due to its simplicity. The main drawback of last-click is that it furthers channel rivalry - i.e. SEO is in tough competition for the clicks with the PPC team. Vincent (2015) states that last-touch attribution has always been industry standard and nowadays, marketers move to more sophisticated attribution models in order to allocate value to marketing activities which take place further up in the funnel. However, Digital Cream (2015) argue that marketers with advanced models are scarce and stories of successful marketing automation are rare.
Marketing automation nurtures leads and increases engagement of consumers who are not ready to buy. A new challenge of the marketer is to establish this relationship with the sales team and discuss that automation is not deviating lead income from sales to marketing but support the overall sales support. In my previous roles, I experienced the at times disconnection between sales and marketing. Breaking down silos not only between sales but also between departments is probably one of the key tasks for a marketer wanting to implement change in the business.
Channel insight across the entire digital marketing mix
Traditionally, many businesses conduct marketing activities right at the top and bottom of the funnel. Budget is allocated for brand awareness e.g. display campaigns or offline and right at the end of the purchasing funnel - the closure. Automation requires the marketer to embrace all opportunities across channel and devices. Customers don't care about channels but conversations! Therefore, integrating the individual channels to one holistic marketing mix is another big challenge for a marketer - especially dealing with long-established channel managers.
The list could go on and on, besides the technical obstacles which I haven't touched upon in this article, the best practise to start with automated processes is to add value to the business with activities which were not expected. This could be a small automated email campaign to existing customers with aim to revive and bring them back to the site. Or automated customer notifications (trigger emails) for confirmations or wrongly-filled in forms.