You wouldn’t jump in your car to go from the living room to the kitchen or pull out the chainsaw to cut a stick of butter.
Just because it is a more more powerful solution doesn’t mean it is necessary or advisable.
Marketing automation is quickly becoming like the self-driving car for B2B marketing. Led by Eloqua (now part of Oracle) and Marketo (with a very successful IPO last week), today marketing automation companies are collectively worth billions.
But like the self-driving car, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
When Marketing Automation Is Unnecessary
Like anything else in B2B marketing, automation should be an outcome of your objectives and planning process, not an assumption going in.
Here are two situations where marketing automation, with its complexity, learning curve and cost, just isn’t the right solution. Unfortunately, these situations are all too common, even among marketing automation clients.
1. Your Marketing Isn’t Well Established
If you are just building out your first drip email campaign, you can build it in a marketing automation solution but you could also build it in almost any modern email marketing solution.
Marketing automation gives you a way to automate your marketing activity with far more complex business rules.
Are you still struggling with the simplest of rules? If so, marketing automation is a solution to someone else’s problem, not yours.
2. You Don’t Have Scale
Automation makes sense when the effort required to automate is less than the effort required to execute manually.
You would never consider creating rules with complex branching logic to send a followup email to just one person; you would look at the situation and write only the email needed, when its needed. And you would really personalize it to everything you know about the recipient!
The interesting question is, where is the tradeoff? When does automation actually make sense?
In short, it makes sense when you have sufficient scale that an automated solution costs less to manage or delivers a higher return for a similar investment. But finding that point is hard.
Based on the data Egan Cheung of Eloqua shared in this comment, you probably won’t hit that tipping point even with a relatively inexpensive marketing automation platform until you can dedicate a meaningful portion of at least one person’s time to marketing automation (beyond the time spent to write emails, create landing pages, etc). You will need someone with the time and skill to get into the weeds of the system in order to get the full value out of it.
Marketing automation is a great solution for many companies. But despite big acquisitions and IPOs, it isn’t a shiny cure-all for your marketing woes.
Before adopting marketing automation, make sure you are ready to add another level of complexity to your marketing and are ready to make the commitment not just to a vendor, but to the time and expertise necessary to really use the solution you are purchasing.
Do you have any rules of thumb about when a marketing automation solution makes sense? Alternatively, do you have questions about when it makes sense? Please share either one below, or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).