In the past, marketing has often been viewed as a series of unrelated or disjointed tasks. The focus was on the tasks: website done, product collateral created, trade shows scheduled, SEO goals achieved, pay-per-click programs in place.
Each one of these tasks often generated their own specific set of unique metrics. Many times these metrics looked great from the marketing viewpoint: your website is on the first page of every search, you generated lots of website visits, clicks on ads, contacts at tradeshows, etc.
However, each of these tasks created silos of data that were difficult, if not impossible, to correlate. You could not tell if that same person was engaging with your company in many different ways, or if each task was generating a unique audience. Even worse, there was no easy way to find out if those leads generated by marketing were turning into customers and how much these new customers were directly contributing to the company revenue.
Strategy vs. Tactics
The advent of marketing automation and other marketing technology changes that. Not only can we tie the data from all of these activities together, but we can take a systemic, strategic approach to marketing. This moves us from a task-driven model to a goal-oriented model, and establishing an understanding of how all the tasks are inter-related and how they work together to drive a prospect along the journey from an anonymous website visitor, to an identified prospect, to a marketing qualified lead, then into a sales opportunity, and eventually into a paying customer.
The idea of identifying tasks that need to be done and then executing those tasks is tactical. It’s just like wielding a hammer – see a nail, pound it in. Using marketing automation and technology is a strategic approach. It is more like building a house. And just because someone knows how to wield a hammer, that doesn’t mean that they know how to build a house.
The big difference between a tactical approach and a strategic approach is planning. To go back to the hammer and house model, take a look at The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, Calif. Sarah Winchester, the heir to the Winchester Firearms fortune, thought her family was cursed by the souls of everyone every killed by a Winchester rifle. She was told by a medium that the only thing that would keep those souls at bay was the sounds of construction. So she hired construction crews to work around the clock, and over the course of more than 25 years, she turned her eight-room house into a sprawling seven-story mansion with 160 rooms, miles of hallways, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and six kitchens. It was all done at her whims, with no plans or blueprints. There are stairs that lead to the ceiling, doors that go nowhere and that open onto walls, and chimneys that stop just short of the roof. Even though there are only 160 rooms in the house, it is estimated that 500 to 600 rooms were build and then destroyed over the course of the project. The house was built by people who knew how to use their hammers, but there was no planning behind their skilled labor.
Without proper planning, your marketing automation implementation could end up as an electronic Winchester Mystery House – with landing pages and forms that collect information that is not used to further the customer journey, nurture campaigns that don’t ever generate a marketing qualified lead, or other activities that generate lots of vanity metrics like visits, clicks, likes, and shares that never result in a sale.
The Marketing Stack vs. the Buyer's Journey
It is important to plan from both the marketing technology viewpoint and from the buyers viewpoint. This is the distinction between the marketing stack and the customer journey. The marketing stack includes all the tools that you have in place to acquire, convert, engage, and marketing-qualify your prospects.
Think of the stack as all of the possible roads that a customer can take from acquisition through to sale. The customer journey is the route that they actually take. The hope is that these two concepts are in harmony so that your marketing efforts are delivering highly qualified leads to sales. By looking at the strategy from both sides, you can make sure that you are investing in and optimizing only the roads that the customers are traveling on, and not on every possible technology that might result in the enhancement of the customer journey.
It Takes Hammers to Build Houses
Marketing automation is one more tool available to 21st Century marketers to generate better marketing qualified leads for their sales teams and measure their real contribution to revenue. It does not replace salespeople, nor does it replace any of the traditional marketing tasks. When implemented strategically, it enhances the work of everyone involved, builds the spirit of cooperation between sales and marketing, and enables more effective use of the marketing budget.
Jeff Dworkin is principal consultant of Ghostpoint (www.ghostpoint.com).
Edited by Maurice Nagle