The FUDs of Marketing Automation

The Scream. A painting by Edvard Munch represents Fear Personified
The Scream. A painting by Edvard Munch represents Fear Personified

The Scream. A painting by Edvard Munch represents Fear Personified

I was chatting with a prospect the other day. An intelligent man who began his career 30 years ago as a sales rep for a Canadian manufacturer, and who is today the same company’s VP of sales. He uses a computer routinely but he’s not a Digital Native. He is the epitome of the old school; he has been successfully using the same techniques to sell his solution for so long, why would he mess with success now? He represents, for us marketers, the challenge we face in undertaking the changing of the guard.

I’d done a virtual presentation to his team the week before (we’re based in two different cities so a personal appearance was out). In this follow-up call I asked him to please list his Fears, Uncertainties and Doubts about using Inbound Marketing Automation for his company. He said, reading from his prepared list:

  1. Social Media is not for his company. He was terrified at the thought that anyone could voice a negative opinion of his company on Facebook and that it would then be there forever.
  2. His company’s information and knowledge were its secrets to keep, not to release to the world at large, and especially not to his competitors.
  3. His team was not replaceable by a machine – the loss of personal touch would reduce revenues, not increase them.
  4. People will leave the website rather than fill out a form. No one, he said, gives up personal information just to get a brochure.
  5. The whole thing is too expensive and too time-consuming. Not only was my estimated price for the first year more than they spend to attend a Trade Show, but his team would spend way too much time publishing fresh information on the website. Time better spent selling.

He stopped at this point and waited for my reply. I said, “Before I respond to these issues let me ask you: “If you don’t hire us to do anything what will be your biggest concern then?”

He paused and then he said, “The company wants me to grow revenues this year. With the economy the way it is, I don’t even know how we’ll keep them steady.” With this useful lead in, I started responding to each of the above concerns.

1. Social Media Marketing

This is, unfortunately, not something you can control these days and in many ways, you really don’t have a choice. Just because you do not have accounts on Facebook and Twitter does not mean people will not use these platforms to talk about your company and its products and services. If they wish to complain about something in these public places, they will. And to know that the complaint was lodged and thus be able to respond to it, you do need an account on the platform and you do need to monitor it.

While we were talking I emailed him a slew of research studies on the use of Social Media in B2B marketing and selling. Forrester research, for example, has conducted studies on the topic (the ones I know about, anyway) in 2007, 2008 and 2011. The trend to use Social Media Marketing is inexorable. By 2011, they reported, 86% of people in the USA had adopted social networking services. In Canada, it's 88%, and in Poland, 95%. Urban areas of China are at 97%.

You cannot ignore this trend and remain competitive. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Social Media platforms are monitored automatically using Google Alerts and other, free, software tools. If these tools report the presence of a negative comment, your designated official goes to the platform on which the comment appears and responds on behalf of your company. This demonstrates that your company takes these things seriously; that you are prepared to fix the issue. This approach turns potential problems into opportunities: People expect problems with their suppliers – no one is perfect – but they respect suppliers even more when they accept a problem as their own and fix it quickly and competently.

By not using Social Media officially for the company your own people (all those young Digital Natives), will open Twitter accounts anyway as they perceive them to be part of doing business today. If you don’t stipulate policy on what’s tweetable on Twitter and what’s not, or on what can and should be on the Facebook page, you will not be aware of and thus not in control of anything which happens there: You can’t control it entirely – that’s no longer possible. But you can monitor and leap in when issues arise in ways which do regain respect and build loyalty because they show you care.

2. Trade Secret Information

In the design stage of your Inbound Marketing Automation system, your team decides what goes on public display and what goes behind a registration form. Typically, companies with IMA systems make much of their content available to anyone; lock some of it behind a registration form; and control some of it by using lists of competitors, clients and others to “suppress” or treat differently in terms of what they are allowed or encouraged to see. But the key here is that the use of every item of content is a conscious decision on the part of the design team – nothing is left to chance and nothing “pops up” accidentally. Nothing is viewed by people, unless you want them to see it.

3. People are not replaceable by a machine

Actually, they are for certain tasks and activities. The trick is to pick the right ones and any Inbound Marketing Automation system designer worth her salt knows instinctively which ones. Routine, repeated tasks? Automate without compunction. Unpredictable tasks like answering Social Media comments or talking to a sales-ready, “hot” prospect? Assign them to people. And then teach the marketers and sales people how to interpret the data in the system and allow and encourage them to leap in at any time and take over from the machine if they see a way in to the prospect which is not being used by the IMA system.

4. People will leave the site rather than fill out a form for a brochure

That’s almost certainly true, but then a well-designed Inbound Marketing Automation system is not providing brochures. It’s handing out valuable, thought-leadership content. Content which helps the person advance to the next stage of his or her buying-cycle. True, there’s a drop off when one asks a person to complete a form – see our post on this for more.

But the Trade Show analogy works for me. If a person at a trade show won’t hand you his card after your chat, is he a good prospect or a really bad one? Conversely, if a person completes your form with real information, she’s probably a good prospect. Bottom line? Registration works – if it didn’t produce results, would all those sites be using it?

5. The whole thing’s too expensive and time consuming

We always try to use ROI to justify the expense of designing, installing and operating an Inbound Marketing Automation system. The Return on Marketing Investment calculator on our site enabled me to walk my prospect through the calculation it suggests by following its 11 steps (easily understood because of the built-in help and Best Practice guidelines). It showed his ROI would be around 1,000% – a number we see quite frequently when the site's solution is popular enough to generate sufficient traffic.

As for the time element, the automation frees up a considerable amount of people time. Time which was spent prospecting, qualifying and managing leads, sorting out the chafe, responding to routine inquiries and so on. The Inbound Marketing Automation system focuses attention on higher quality leads so that the amount of time a sales rep spends on each sale is reduced. Compared to these savings, the time spent creating new content, a task which can be shared by many of the company’s people, is fairly easily found.

While it’s too early to tell, the above resulted in a Request for Proposal. And based on that I felt it was worth sharing. Feel free to use any of the above and our ROMI calculator to help do the same for your next pitch.

Bit-by-Bit #58 from Eric.

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