This sponsored post is produced by Peter Isaacson, Demandbase CMO

Now that the majority of the sales cycle takes place long before the hand raise, marketing automation has become as necessary as CRM when it comes to scaling a business. In fact, according to Gartner, it’s been the largest growing CRM category since 2012 and will continue to dominate until 2017. With Gartner also predicting that one third of all marketing budgets will shift to digital marketing spend by 2015, we can expect a lot more growth in the marketing automation category.

But while marketing automation has the power to dramatically impact growth, the challenges presented by the new digital behavior are complex. Unfortunately, many companies are looking to marketing automation as an easy, one-stop solution and it doesn’t always work out – for the vendor or the customer. Recently, VentureBeat reported that several marketing automation companies are losing 50%-100% as many customer as they gain each month.

So what’s stopping companies from selecting a solution and sticking with it? For starters, just like CRM won’t make a difference if your sales people can’t nail the pitch, marketing automation only works if the strategy driving it is sound and if it’s being used correctly.

If your company suffers from any these issues, you’ll want to fix them first, because they can’t be fixed by marketing automation. In fact, they’ll hinder its success.

Poor Marketing and Sales Alignment

Marketing automation promises more conversions, more effective nurture, and better efficiency. Unfortunately, more leads don’t always equal happier sales people. While many companies have a process for qualifying leads, more often than not that process could use some improvement. Marketing Automation is used as a proxy for marketing/sales alignment, but technology alone won’t get you there.

Even with marketing automation in use, too often, marketing and sales are like two ships passing in the night. That’s because sales sells to accounts, while marketing is targeting individuals and personas. Unless both teams are using the account lens, marketing automation will get you lots of the wrong leads. Before you set up your marketing automation system, make sure your goals for acquiring leads align with sales’ strategy for closing,

Dirty and Incomplete Data 

Once you’ve identified mutual goals for sales and marketing, how will you know you’re meeting them? Collecting data is a good start, but the problem is that not all of the data you collect is the right data. Success with marketing automation relies on the quality of your data, especially when it comes to converting, organizing, and nurturing leads. That’s because defining your audience is the foundation of all your marketing automation processes. The better your segmentation, the more successful your efforts. It’s difficult to segment correctly – or at all – if your data is incorrect or incomplete.

Step one is making sure you get the right data. That means considering what you need in order to make your segmentation successful. Marketers need to know the accounts that are important for sales, but they also need to understand the attributes that define those accounts, such as revenue, size, and industry. These are the segments that enable B2B marketers to create targeted campaigns and drive revenue rather than just collecting leads.

Step two is keeping your data clean. You may need to purge and append your records, but once you do, be prepared to have a better process moving forward. This starts long before anyone fills out a form – in fact, you need to build your forms and processes so that your data is standardized and vetted before it hits your database.

Lack of Internal Education and Research

Of course, all the planning and processes in the world won’t make a difference if your team isn’t completely trained and on board. Make sure that all the necessary stakeholders are involved in planning and execution. What are your company’s needs when it comes to customer success and educational resources? Do you have a system in place for clear and transparent reporting so you can track success and optimize your program on an ongoing basis? Or do you need to put one in place alongside your marketing automation system? Make sure you’re prepared to socialize and collaborate by educating your team both about marketing technology and your specific vendor.

Prepare to Grow

Ultimately, you need to be an active participant in your implementation of marketing technology. With all the promise of marketing automation, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and lose sight of what’s required to execute properly. Marketing automation has a huge amount to offer, but in reality it’s just one piece of the puzzle. As marketing technology gets more advanced, that puzzle gets more complicated. Before you rush to implement any solution, identify your goals and have a roadmap for achieving them. Marketing automation isn’t an end in itself, it’s a means to reaching a business goal.

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