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Why your company can’t adopt marketing automation

I was sitting there quietly in this meeting with a dozen other people, all trying to figure out why this company couldn’t roll out the expensive marketing automation suite that they bought. It’s a large company, so there was a lot to discuss. There seemed to be lots of reasons for them to go slowly. No matter where the conversation led, there was another problem that this rollout would cause, and the group labored to come up with solutions for each one. I am the so-called technology consultant, so at one point they turned to me and asked, “How do your other clients do this? This seems impossible!”

And it was impossible, the way they were doing it. They assumed that they had to fix every problem before they could launch. They assumed they needed to make everyone happy. But they actually couldn’t.

I have a lot of experience as a software product manager, and each time a product seems ready to release there are several quarters heard from. The marketing people insist that the product needs one more feature to be sellable. The technology team insists that these four bugs must be fixed or else customers will hate it. The executives insist that it must be launched on time or else the third quarter revenue target will be missed. The beta customers insist that they need the product to be launched so that they can get the support they need inside their organization to roll it out.

No matter what you decide, all of them will end up thinking you decided the wrong thing. I used to say that when all of them are equally upset with you, then it is time to ship.

It’s that kind of cold-hearted thinking that my client needed for its marketing automation rollout. I went to the whiteboard and drew a table with three columns:

  • Who we do this with: These are the adopters for marketing automation that are so critical that they have a veto. If they aren’t happy, it doesn’t roll out.
  • Who we do this for: These are the groups that we really need to win over so that the business value of the project meets expectations. We need to satisfy most of their requirements, train them, and support them to be successful.
  • Who we do this to: This is the hard part. Some of the folks who are happily using the current system (or no system) won’t be happy with the new system, for various reasons. And that’s the problem–the reasons are various, so you need to solve these problems one at a time.  So, you might have do things that these groups clearly don’t like.

There was a lot of debate over which groups fell into which categories. And no one agreed on everything, but these were exactly the hard decisions that had to be made. And you can bet that the groups being “done to” will scream to high heaven, but the truth is that you never roll anything out because everyone agrees. You need to decide which groups really matter and which have to sacrifice for the larger goal.

I don’t know if my client will successfully roll this out–time will tell. But I know that they now at least have a chance, where before they had none.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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