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Why Building a Marketing Automation Strategy is a Lot Like Building a Home

I grew up on jobsites.

Single family custom homes designed and built specifically to the desires of a homeowner. Every aspect of design was intentional, just like the process that went into translating those dreams into reality.

For the past thirteen months, I’ve had the great displeasure of watching a custom home being built right next to mine. The end product, I’m sure, will be pleasing to the eye and seem to encapsulate all of those lovely details that once resided only on a two-dimensional plan. It will be a dream.

Until it isn’t.

As I mentioned, I grew up around construction. I’ve seen behind the curtain. It’s a cluster f*ck. Nothing goes right in construction and you’re often not dealing with the top brass on a jobsite. You have certain aspects that we simply get to avoid in the business world that you have to deal with daily on a jobsite.

In construction you have a plethora of personal issues to deal with, absenteeism, logistics, scheduling, conflicts – on second thought, maybe it’s more like business than I realized.

In construction, just like any business (and more specifically, marketing), the final product can be propped up and neatly wrapped as the result. But it’s not until a bit down the line is the true quality often revealed. A window leak here, a popped seam there. The crack that appears in your driveway in year two. And where at that point is the craftsman responsible?

In construction you actually have a better chance of tracking that builder down. And, if you had the foresight to work with a licensed and bonded contractor, there is a process to yield a resolution.

But in marketing, 99% of the time, you’re screwed. The average tenure of a mid-level marketing employee is under a year. In business, it’s more than likely that the bearer of those dreams everyone was sold on simply will not be around to file said claim.

Meanwhile, outside my window…

I’ve watched humble foundation give way to studded structure, then bearing walls. But somehow the transparency remains. I’ve seen my new neighbor’s dirty laundry in a way they never will. I’ve seen the process that has gone into building their house, and I’m not impressed.

The builder in charge is a small custom builder and fairly new – building since just 2009. I rarely see a truck with his logo at the site. I see trades come and go. And when they leave, the home remains open and exposed to the elements, despite the fact that windows and doors are now present. I see trash blowing into the surrounding landscapes and streets. I see the missing electrical box and the studs pushing the boundaries of building codes. I see the thin insulation, sometimes none present at all.

I see what no one will for years.

My curiosity is fueled mainly by the fact that this new home is nowhere near where it should be for the length of time it’s been under construction. At this rate, it will be over two years in the making before being finished, a very long time for a home of its size. And such is the same curiosity that I approach the implementation of marketing process.

Many organizations view their strategy to implement best practice technology through the rose colored lens of commodity and trust. The game plan to coordinate people and process into success can only be summarized as a Hail Mary. And only then is when the roof springs a leak and said trust is shattered. The dreams begin to transform into nightmare.

Most marketing teams utilize a strategy of self-led change. Executives and practitioners see new trends and technologies and they self-prescribe them to revolutionize their process. The problem with this strategy is first, it leads to a lot of shiny object mentality.

The fix comes before really understanding the problem because it’s fun. It’s fun to buy, it’s fun to explore – but it’s less fun to create things like governance and organizational change. One of the primary problems no one seems to be addressing is the fact that the “best practices” and success frameworks being read and interpreted as law are largely coming from vendors selling technology. This leads to a very obvious circle of self-serving content.

It’s now month fourteen into the home build filling the morning air with the sounds of hammers beating back the silence of the night as another day begins. The other day one of my nosey neighbors flagged me down to share her distaste for the project as a I pulled into our driveway. I admitted I, too, was not a fan.

With a slight smile, she shared something that suddenly made the issues surrounding the drawn out project all make sense: “You know they’re building that home themselves.”

For those not familiar with homebuilding, a home is not built by one trade, but a series of many coordinated by the maestro-esque wisdom of a general contractor. The GC is incredibly important because without them, the subcontractors essentially run themselves. More often than not, when a homeowner chooses to perform their own GC duties, the project is mired in disaster. Timelines, quality and outcomes all suffer. There’s simply no substitute for experience.

As I pulled into my garage, the parallels between marketing and the terrible home obscuring my views of the southern end of Pinnacle Peak came into focus.

In the long run, what seems like a quick and easy way to save a bit of money turns out to be anything but.

As you’re building your company’s growth strategy make no mistake about it, that structure requires craftsmanship, expertise and experience.

Experience not gained by reading vendor whitepapers or a can-do attitude, these are skillsets acquired through hundreds, if not thousands of builds. In the middle of a storm hope makes a poor shelter from the rain.

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