January 28, 2009

New Research: Lead-Generation Automation Use, Challenges, Benefits

SUMMARY: B2B marketers answered questions about their use of marketing-automation software in our recent year-end survey. Here is how they assess their use of the tools, the most common impediments to getting good results, and the major benefits after they achieve expertise.
Marketing-automation software can be a valuable tool for optimizing your lead-generation strategy in a recession. But like all tools, they usually require a skilled user to get the highest quality results.

B2B marketers reported their use of a marketing-automation system, such as Eloqua, Marketo, or Market2Lead, as part of our recent survey with Babcock & Jenkins. They also described how effectively they use those systems, and the primary benefits and challenges they experience.

Only about one out of three (32%) marketers describe themselves as “good” or “sophisticated” users of their marketing-automation systems. The rest acknowledge less success, and point out some of the major challenges they face in making the most of marketing automation.

The three data charts here offer details. We provide advice for understanding the primary benefits to expect from those systems, and for overcoming the challenges many marketers face.

Insight #1. The majority of marketers report room for improvement with marketing automation

Marketing Automation Utilization Chart

More than half (56%) of our survey respondents said they use marketing automation systems. Of those users:
o 39% said they are underutilizing their marketing automation system
o 29% said their utilization is only fair

We suspect these results skew downward somewhat by marketers’ inclination to view their performance with room for improvement. Survey takers frequently interpret such questions by asking if they are as good as they could possibly be in a given area.

These results also shouldn’t be seen as a knock against marketing-automation systems as a whole. We anticipate similar results for the use of other complex systems, such as CRM software.

Results show, however, that many marketers are still working to fully utilize the capabilities of their marketing-automation systems. In many cases, it’s a question of building out a strategy and learning to use the tool to its utmost.

Don’t be too discouraged if you fall into a camp that isn’t getting the full benefits from a marketing-automation system. The fact that most marketers report less than good use speaks to the potential they see in the tools. Knowing you can do better helps you map a path to achieving those results.

Insight #2. Limited time and resources are the major impediments to utilization

Why Underutilized Chart

Marketers who reported fair use or under-utilization of marketing automation described the challenges they face. The two biggest impediments:
o Lack of sufficient time to use the tools by personnel
o Lack of sufficient training for personnel

It’s no surprise that marketers report a lack of time as their primary challenge. In many cases, marketing-automation software is the latest piece of infrastructure that marketers must incorporate into their daily operations, along with Web analytics, CRM software and other enterprise applications.

Survey participants said that having a dedicated team or point-person in charge of the system can make the biggest difference between achieving good utilization and under- utilization. For example, some marketers said that everyone on their team has access to the tools, but no one has an ownership role. That makes it difficult to define the policies and practices that incorporate marketing-automation data into campaign execution.

So, even if you’re a member of a smaller marketing team, try to establish a point-person or committee or outsource the system’s management to an agency or consulting partner. You can then focus your training on the personnel with administrative duties.

Here are two steps to create a dedicated marketing-automation administrator:

Clearly define the roles

Assign the task of administering and monitoring marketing automation to one person or a small team. That person or group can work with full marketing team to provide the information they need to plan and execute their campaigns.

Include the sales team in the process

Cooperate with the sales team to define criteria that will be used to score and qualify leads. Also, establish a policy for closing the loop on leads once they pass from the marketing automation tool into the CRM system.

Insight #3. Marketing automation is about departmental efficiency

Benefits of Automation

Lack of buy-in from top management is the third most common impediment to full use of marketing automation. One way to overcome that challenge is to explain to top executives the benefits of marketing automation.

These execs typically are bottom-line-oriented and want to justify marketing automation in terms of ROI or revenue increases. But marketers describe the benefits of marketing automation in terms of a better-functioning department.

The top benefits cited in our survey:
o Easier campaign management
o Better relationship with sales
o Better identification of quality leads
o Better integration of marketing channels

Note also that a higher volume of leads and higher close rates were cited by less than one-third of the marketers surveyed. It’s a reminder that marketing automation does not simply open the floodgates to new leads and sales. Instead, it gives you the tools and analytics needed to better manage and execute campaigns.

So, set your own team’s expectations for marketing automation – and seek support from top management – by connecting the dots between benefits, such as improved efficiency and better lead qualification, and your department’s ROI or contribution to sales.

Useful links related to this article

Babcock & Jenkins

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