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The Single Biggest Obstacle to Improving Your Prospecting: Why Marketing Automation Systems Underperform and What To Do About It

When both my girls lived at home, I had a wonderful idea—let’s have a family calendar.  We’re all bumping knees—I didn’t know you had a swim meet; your aunt’s birthday is next week; yes, Mom’s working Saturday.  This would be a “the week at a glance,” a “sketch of the month” to keep us on track and off each others’ nerves. And if we put it on the computer, everyone has instant access.  Didn’t work.  So I tried printing a blank calendar and putting it on the refrigerator door.  Everyone could just write stuff.  Didn’t work.  For a very basic reason—you don’t get the picture unless everyone contributes.

Same with marketing automation.  Without the participation of each Overcoming Challenges of Automated Marketing Systemsindividual, you’re not going to get it’s really outstanding feature—a window into your prospecting detailing the touch points, in sequence, and the outcome of each.  A fantastic tool to ratchet up effectiveness and efficiency.

There’s a catch.  Sales and marketing barely speak.  And as the quality of sales’ input to marketing automation declines, so does the utility of the tool.  Per recent Forrester research, 50% of marketing initiatives go under because of lack of organizational cooperation.  We’re shooting ourselves in the collective foot.  As Pogo says, “we are confronted by insurmountable opportunity.”

Three Steps to Effective Marketing Automation

This river of this organizational discontent, separating sales and marketing, runs deep;  it’s called culture.  Culture is tradition and history, is deeply ingrained, passed along, and eats change for lunch.  Do not underestimate its power.  Successful change requires persistence and imagination.  I’d like to suggest three strategies that will set the table for a banquet that all will attend.

1.  Sales must be meaningfully integrated into the marketing process now and forever more.

Sales has perspective you’re not going to get anywhere else.  They’re talking to the marketplace every day.  If sales has the opportunity to contribute to each phase of the process, from planning to analysis, everyone benefits.  Here are two critical areas:

Prospect Persona development to gain insight into the people who make the business decisions.  We need sales’ contribution to goals, questioning, potential offers, and analysis.

Lead definition—when is a lead worth the time and effort of a sales person?  Everyone in the room gets a vote, but the only vote that counts comes from sales.

Sales integration is a process, not an event.

2.  There must be shared measurement and reward.

Measurement and reward must be consistent with the goal.  If our goal is shared work for a better outcome, well, measurement and reward must be in lockstep.  Both departments must be measured, and rewarded, by contribution to the sale.  It’s the only thing that will change the silo culture.  Marketing can’t get away with generating leads and tossing them over the wall.  Sales must have measurable contribution to generating, and thus ensuring, a high quality lead.  Then marketing automation can be accepted as an enabler and not a hammer.

3.  Change only happens from the top down.

Management needs to walk the talk and provide both the carrot and the stick consistently and over time.  They must make it clear that the train has left the station and that if you’re not on board, well, you’re not on board.  Occasionally,  they may need to give change a good hard shove.

Realizing the incredible potential of marketing automation requires a working partnership between marketing and sales with trust and respect driving cooperation and dedication.

I would point to Asigra, a developer of backup and recovery software, as having implemented a best in class, real world solution.  Tracy Staniland, Vice President, Corporate Marketing, provides an overview,

“We are huge supporters of and believers in marketing automation.  Sales and marketing have agreed on a Service Level Agreement, including the lead score threshold for when MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) can be relabeled as SALs (Sales Accepted Leads).  We regularly check the system and continuously improve.”

Now, with all that said, will these same principles work with my daughters?  Not a chance (Can you say “Dad” with a world-weary sigh?).

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About Scott Hornstein

International author, lecturer and consultant, Scott Hornstein has worked with clients in all phases of marketing strategy, research, and implementation. b2p partners helps B2B companies significantly improve the performance of their prospecting efforts by moving beyond a product orientation to a prospect focus.

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