Go ahead and tell partners to write 12 blog posts and a whitepaper. I double dare ya!
Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of interest and discussion about marketing automation technology for CPA and other professional services firms.
If you’re one of the firms that’s in the investigation/discovery mode, I have to ask you a very blunt question: are you sure you’re ready for it?
Here’s my take: installing a marketing automation capability and platform for your CPA, consulting, law or AE firm or should the very last piece of digital marketing infrastructure you install, not the first! Sure marketing automation is cool and hip, and is a hot topic today, but lest ye forget, so was CRM a number of years ago and look at the state of CRM deployment in firms today.
I would also challenge you to ask your partners - those folks that control the purse strings of the marketing budget – if they’re aware of the objectives, tools, processes, resource commitment and (gulp!) the value of marketing automation.
Hmmm... You’re getting my drift, right?
You May Not Be Ready for Marketing Automation...
Oooh!! So many bells! Wow! Look at those whistles ... and yow!!! Flashing lights!!
From HubSpot to Marketo to Infusion Soft, you can’t help but be impressed by the cornucopia of features embedded in marketing technology platforms and software. It’s easy to get dazzled and blinded, or to get your partners all jazzed up about what marketing automation software can do.
Making it work in order to pay off the investment? Not so easy.
Here’s a quote from a firm called Net Results that’s pretty insightful:
"For most organizations right now who jump into marketing automation without a sound strategy, process and execution plan they may as well set that money on fire. Because they will fail. Failure in this case is subjective, but safe to say they will not be nearly as successful as they should be."
Before buying marketing automation technology, it may make a whole lot more sense to work on making sure that other parts of your digital marketing program are humming merrily along, particularly your online lead generation efforts.
If you don’t have the strategy, tactics and tools for attracting more website traffic and leads month over month, you shouldn’t be thinking about marketing automation just yet.
If your website visitor to lead conversion rate is low, you might want to focus on better offers, landing pages and calls to action, and put marketing automation on the back burner for the time being.
If you’re not doing content marketing, then don’t even dare to consider marketing automation, because it is an absolute content devouring monster.
If you don’t have a robust email mail platform or even the experience of developing, publishing and promoting a regular newsletter, then marketing automation might just be something for next year’s marketing plan and budget.
Here’s a Few Tips to Get you Started on the Path to Marketing Automation.
I hope I haven’t scared you away from marketing automation because it can be a dramatic game changer for the way you acquire, nurture and close your prospects. There is a lot of marketing automation success stories in the B2B space, and you can see some statistics that Act-On put together, here, on marketing automation that are even quite encouraging.
Hopefully, you’re getting a sense that my guidance is crawl-walk-run, and it is my opinion that firms may be trying to walk and run before learning how to crawl.
If you’re ready to take those first steps, here’s a couple of tips that you might find useful:
- Map your lead flow process, from first touch to closing the sale to get a perspective of where, when, why and how marketing automation can be used
- Have a set of rules for making sure that the marketing department, professional staff and business developers are on the same page when it comes to the goals, objectives and outputs of your marketing automation system
- You will need a ginormous amount of content to fuel the marketing automation process, so you’ll need a plan and the resources to acquire that content
- Don’t underestimate the resources you’ll need – software and people – to make your marketing automation platform and program work
- Understand the art and science of contextual marketing in order to deliver targeted, relevant content at the right time in your prospect’s buying cycle
- The best marketing automation programs are those that will tie your marketing automation platform into your CRM
- A low quality marketing database will spell doom for your marketing automation efforts
- Continually refine and develop your marketing automation efforts using metrics – especially those that deliver insights on conversions to leads and sales
Understand the Scope of the Marketing Automation Journey You’re Taking
The promise of marketing automation is fantastic, but for CPA and other professional services firms, my fear is that the promise overshadows the realities of the ongoing commitment and resources required to do it properly.
In the spirit of looking before leaping, here’s a few links to some educational material that can help you understand the scope of the journey you’re embarking upon:
- HubSpot, What is Marketing Automation?
- Marketo, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation
- G2Crowd, Compare Best Marketing Automation Software
- Customer Experience Matrix, Marketing Automation's Unhappy Users: Trouble in Paradise?
- Customer Experience Matrix, , Marketing Automation User Satisfaction: Clearly, There's Room for Improvement (and maybe a little vodka)
Marketing automation should be part of your plans for installing an inbound marketing program for your CPA or professional service firm, but consider it for a later phase. Get your website into shape, execute a few integrated online lead generation programs, get an inventory of content prepared, and then make an educated decision on the best software for your objectives.
Like many other activities in this new world of inbound/digital marketing, when it comes to marketing automation, it’s what’s behind the curtain that drives successful efforts for getting more visibility, leads and new business.