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Talent NOT Included: What Marketing Automation Vendors Don't Want You to Know

There are a few disclosures I need to make before I start this blog post. LeadMD re-sells a popular marketing automation platform – Marketo. This is well-known. The disclaimer here is that in our business, it simply makes sense to have that option for engagements that are looking for a software – if they want Marketo we can sell it to them and make a small profit – emphasis on small. Less than 10 percent of our revenue for 2011 came from software sales.

Why? We are not in the software business, we’re in the reality business. In order to support the real, we cannot worry about the nuances of disjointed software systems. For instance, we don’t want to create a nurturing plan and then tell the client they need to build it themselves because we don’t know their software limitations. I want to build the BEST nurturing plan for the client and while I’m doing so I want to formulate how we will string that logic together in a platform we know better than anyone out there.

It means short learning curves and it means success for the client – simple as that. My opinion is not influenced by Marketo. In fact, Marketo and LeadMD disagree on many aspects of HOW to do things – we just happen to agree on what to do them with and that is a robust, flexible, bug-free tool that is easy to use. If you haven’t heard about all of the controversy this stirred up here’s a link.

The second disclaimer is that I DO feel that most of the popular marketing automation tools on the market can be used successfully. If you have a skilled marketer at the helm, you are going to figure out a way to make it work. It may take you some time and you may struggle at first but ultimately you will make software work for your business. Look at all of the businesses that make QuickBooks work for them. There are much more robust accounting platforms on the market with much better integrations into CRM, ERP and support platforms. But a good accountant will make it work. The difference being accounting practices are not only easy to measure in terms of competency but best practices around finance have been roughly the same for a long time. Marketing – not so much.

So to recap (and yes I know my disclaimer is longer than most blog posts in totality but I feel that this is important to get all chips on the table) this post is NOT about software, it is about a message that is creating a problem.

This is what I have issues with.

Last week I received an email from a popular marketing automation software vendor, and that email contained a link to a video. That video explained marketing automation software. It’s most likely an Epipheo, a video created by an emerging company that I love. Its purpose is to explain a business concept, software or service, in simple terms that everyone can understand and engage with. That’s exactly what it does; I think it’s a great piece. It’s a great piece that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to. It sets out to make marketing automation look easy and effective.

I don’t think anyone is arguing against marketing automation any more – at least anyone credible – however marketers have a long way to go before they will be able to use it with ease. This is because marketing is an umbrella that covers many disciplines – web, digital, advertising, PR — and no one yet has become the marketing automation master. Historically, there simply hasn’t been a great way to track returns (ROI) in their totality, so it was easy to scapegoat the entire notion of marketing as being one of art, not science. Those out there that do have marketing backgrounds are often too old or too removed to embrace what marketing has now become. There was a recent blog about the death of the CMO and I find a lot of what is said there to be true. The CMO position was meant as a strategic overlord who designed process and executed through a skilled team of specialists. Problem being, as marketing budgets have been slashed, the skilled team is small, and this leaves the CMO with the responsibility of execution. That makes comfortable executives very nervous.

That brings us back to the point. The modern marketer will need to encompass all of these skillsets. If you look at the marketers really making a name for themselves as masters of the revenue engine you’ll find that they are macro and micro, the alpha and the omega, the yin and the yang. And therein lies the issue – the number of those folks is few and the demand is huge. As we look back at the video referenced here it makes some huge assumptions – the first of which is that you are one of these unicorn type individuals. It also assumes that you have been preparing from marketing software for some time now, and by preparing I mean you have compiled an arsenal of content, your marketing and sales process rocks, you have a well oiled sales staff that uses CRM religiously. It also assumes you know your “funnel” in and out – you know all that easy stuff. So now all you have to do is buy that software and BANG – your master plan is complete.

It’s simply not that easy folks. Add to all of the requirements above the barriers to change, internal politics, company in-fighting and you’ve got yourself a nice little cocktail of problems. That’s not what software providers want to call your attention to – I think that’s obvious and also understandable. They have a job to do after all. The only thing I’m attempting to do is open a few eyes to the fact that in that a one-minute, 39 second video, only four seconds of it is devoted to the only thing that truly makes marketing automation successful — good marketing. The video touches on that at 1:06 to 1:10. “The simple set-it-and-forget-it builder”?? That’s video speak for building intense, engaging conversations with buyers. There is a LOT of work that goes into that. It is not easy, and you do not push a button and make it happen. In fact, ask any marketing automation customer if their software came with any campaigns. NO. You bring the skill, the process and the plan – it provides the platform to execute. As long as we continue to devote the largest amount of time to the gloss and least amount of our time to the grain, marketers will continue to fail. But hey, at least they’ll look good doing it.

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