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Marketing Automation Is a Tool, Not A Strategy

Marketing automation technology has transformed B2B companies’ abilities to run and optimize multiple high volumes of complex campaigns. Without it, it would be impossible to scale the kind of detailed tracking and reporting that is necessary for delivering and optimizing customized, dynamic buyer journeys.

But too many organizations put the cart before the horse and assume that accumulating and implementing marketing automation platforms is a replacement for thoughtful, strategic campaign development. It is tempting to believe that automated tools will tell you what to do, but the unfortunate truth is that strategy cannot be automated. Marketers need to build functioning marketing operations practice around strategic business objectives before they can benefit from adopting marketing automation.

To determine whether you need marketing automations platforms to support your strategic goals, marketers need to build a strong marketing operations foundation. This means aligning behind the strategy, processes, and people that will define how your marketing operations team supports your overall campaign development goals.

In Marketing, Automation Should Support Strategic Operations

The most important misconception we encounter about marketing automation platforms is the belief that using them is a strategy in itself. Marketing automations platforms only provide value when they are supporting a greater strategic goal. So, the first step in knowing whether to automate is to articulate the strategic elements of your campaign development programs.

Think about it this way: Marketing automation platforms provide the infrastructure to build strategic, targeted campaigns. And just like architects, design blueprints to provide detailed action plans for construction workers, marketing professionals must provide marketing operations teams with a “blueprint” of each campaign so that the marketing operations teams know what, if anything, to automate.

The following elements will determine the kind of infrastructure your marketing operations team will need to build to support dynamic, targeted campaigns:

  • Audience definition and segmentation: Whom are you trying to reach and how will you segment your audience? By industry? Job title? Do you have personas in place?
  • Channels: Through what channels will the assets in your campaign be delivered?
  • Customer journey: What parameters and triggers will dictate the segmentation and pace of content delivery? How much content will you build into your nurture programs and what topics will you cover? In what format?

With these elements in place, you can set up the bones of your marketing operations strategy: In other words, you organize the people, processes and technology necessary for scaling marketing programs.

Marketing Operations Defined: People, Processes, and Technology

Once you understand your goals and how you want to design your campaigns to achieve them, you will be able to make informed decisions about whether automating certain elements of your campaign development motions is necessary. Ultimately, marketing operations is a mix of the people, processes, and technology that marketers employ to achieve their campaign goals.

  • People: The makeup and skill set of your team will define a great deal of what you can and cannot do with your marketing operations efforts. Designing, implementing and optimizing marketing automation involves consistent fine tuning and requires levels of expertise that are often platform-specific, so it is important to ensure that your company is staffed appropriately to meet your marketing automation goals.
  • Processes: To ensure alignment with campaign strategy, marketing operations teams must enforce a set of processes that outlines the key activities, timelines, and deliverables associated with campaign development. If a team is to adopt a marketing automations platform, they should consider whether the platform will improve upon and/or integrate well with existing campaign development processes.
  • Technology: The complexity of your campaigns should determine what technology you adopt. While marketing automation is an immensely useful technological tool, it is not appropriate for all campaign development programs. Automating prematurely can draw valuable resources away from more efficient ways of managing simpler campaigns. When it comes to campaigns that are relatively simple in terms of the volume, channel distribution and segmentation, it is often smart to stick to more manual tools like Google Analytics and Mailchimp, then grow into more complex tools like Marketo when the circumstances truly demand it.

Before exploring automation, enterprise marketers must build the foundations of an effective, functioning marketing operations practice and define the strategic parameters of their campaign programs. While automation is appealing, technology should function in service of strategic marketing operations goals, not the other way around.

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