There's no one-size-fits-all solution for using marketing optimization to support a strategy that increases customer value. Experts, however, have identified seven steps that are integral to making marketing optimization work:
1. Clean up your mess
Marketing automation vendors express borderline shock at the glut of companies who want to push ahead without having first scrubbed clean their data. "A clean, centralized marketing database is pretty much the price of admission for [marketing automation]," says Don White, executive vice president/managing director for Quaero SpringBoard.
2. Follow the leader
For any project, it is crucial to identify a single point person, rather than an ad-hoc committee of individuals from various arms of the company. The reason for this, says HSBC Mexico CRM Subdirector Gustavo Martinez, harkens back to the cliché about having too many cooks in the kitchen. "If I'd involved my whole team and other people in the company in every decision, nothing would have gotten done." Martinez and others add that the project leader should ideally have the ear of the CEO or the person charged with minding marketing's purse strings.
3. Present a unified front
Experts caution that marketers must coordinate their every move with the IT department. Otherwise, they risk adopting a system that's not a good fit with the company's other tech processes, or worse, getting caught up in a turf war. "The real trouble occurs when IT drives the process without marketing buy-in ahead of time," says Carol Meyers, Unica's vice president of marketing. "The system works great with everything else, but nobody wants to bother with it."
4. Keep your eyes on the prize
Lots of companies head into an automation upgrade in a veritable tizzy. "They want to fix the hair-on-fire issues, and they want it done yesterday," says consultant Elizabeth Weesner, principal of Marketing Transformation Services. Thus, it's imperative to establish both short- and long-term goals, spell them out in minute detail, and communicate them throughout the organization before the project begins. Saying, "We'd like to better understand our customers" doesn't provide much guidance; saying, "We'd like to increase average customer value from X to Y over Z number of months" does. "You have to know what qualifies as a win. Otherwise, you're just running in place," Weesner says.
5. Curb your enthusiasm
Set realistic expectations for all marketing automation implementations. Even the simplest (e.g., a basic campaign management tool) won't be up and running overnight, nor will it show the immediate ROI for which marketers and their bottom-line overlords thirst. "Start slowly," says Gartner Research Director Kim Collins. "You can always pick up the pace down the road, but it's hard to slow down once you've been sprinting from the get-go."
6. Put it down on paper
Quaero's Don White suggests that before starting any automation project, the person in charge should prepare a marketing requirements document. This should contain everything from the type of data that will be needed to an acknowledgement of any constraints on a future implementation. Without a precise listing of exactly what is needed and wanted, a company could either invest in unnecessary bells and whistles, or not invest in what they truly need to support their strategy.
7. Be wary
Nobody doubts that vendors' offerings are smarter and more sophisticated than ever before, but even execs at those firms believe that potential clients must know exactly what they're willing to spend, and what capabilities they need, before making a preliminary inquiry. "Frankly, it's in vendors' interest to confuse the marketplace. Marketing automation didn't evolve because companies were saying 'I have this pain.' It was because vendors came along with a bunch of products," says Jon Miller, Epiphany's vice president, product marketing.
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