So you think you want ‘marketing automation’ do you?

Now, there are some merry old games of CRM bulls**t bingo being played around town, and ‘marketing automation’ as part of the ‘marketing cloud’ (or ‘cloud marketing’) is tipped to be very important to SMEs in 2015, along with its close relations, CRM and email marketing. There are various marketers making decisions about what software they need for these functions – and they diligently apply filters like b2c vs b2b, cost, scalability, features, support, integration with other marketing software, finance software, project management software, HR software etc. They typically identify a business or marketing problem they need to solve (so better lead conversion, contact management, customer retention etc) and then start to think of the kit they need to do so. They then start ruminating on whether they need a marketing automation tool AND an email engine AND a CRM tool, or maybe one of the more extensive offerings that comes 2 or 3 of these functions in one etc. But are they missing a step?

Possibly too few of them have stopped to think – not vaguely but EXACTLY – what are they going to do with the technology they buy? Some have, but often they only reach a level of requirements like ‘I need to able to send value-added information relevant to the prior product purchase of a customer.’ What they tend to end up doing is parroting back the features of the products they’re researching, and it becomes the tail wagging the dog. Have they thought through in DETAIL what their requirements are?

My advice, before you even start looking at comparison grids of products or ‘taking tours’ or downloading demos, is to write use cases – LOTS of them – eg ‘Person buys product (a) in month 1. On purchase date + x weeks, they receive an email linking to a blog about the general business problem of blaa which extols the virture of the category of and is indirectly connected to product (b)’. Once you extrapolate this out, how many segments does that give you? Do you have enough data on your customers to identify all these segments in numbers that make the exercise worthwhile? How many content items across what topics and formats does this add up to? Do you have this content, or how are you going to get it, from whom, by when and at what cost?