7 ways to better utilise your marketing automation platform

Gartner analyst shares a range of practical measures B2B marketing leaders can take to lift their utilisation of martech

With fewer than one in three B2B marketing leaders feeling they’ve successfully adopted marketing automation, it’s clear there’s a big gap around how to utilise these platforms more effectively.

During a presentation at the recent Gartner Marketing Symposium Xpo in the US, Gartner senior analyst, Jeff Goldberg, detailed practical advice on better harnessing marketing automation platforms through a combination of technology, environment and team action.

According to Gartner’s research across 400 B2B marketing leaders, only 29 per cent characterise their marketing automation platform utilisation as ‘high’. This is despite one-quarter of respondents expanding martech investments in response to Covid-19. Gartner figures in 2021 showed a hefty 26.6 per cent of marketing budgets were going into marketing technology investments.  

So how do you get to great utilisation? First, it’s important to review the many reasons your martech stack isn’t being utilised well enough. According to Gartner, three key levers drive utilisation: Technology, environment and team.

In the technology bucket, key inhibitors include dysfunctional systems due to a lack of integration across the stack, difficult functionality to use, and a lack of proper documentation. From an environment perspective, challenges include lacking a sufficient risk appetite and culture that doesn’t embrace risks. On the teams front, inhibitors include a lack of dedicated resources for developing use cases from available technology, as well as insufficient skills development and training.

In asking what steps teams are taking to improve utilisation, 56 per cent said they are building new processes or new team capabilities; 43 per cent are investing in workshops and vendor training. The low result on training is a key reason why there is such low utilisation, Goldberg said.

“Martech vendor are often updating not only existing features but also providing completely net new functionality,” he commented. “These changes might range from something as small as the layout on the screen to addition of important features or integration. It’s only by carving out time for investment into training will you resolve the perennial martech literacy issue.”

Gartner’s survey of 400 B2B marketing leaders found the top four impediments to martech utilisation are lack of cross-functional collaboration (25 per cent), a lot of solutions with unused features (23 per cent), lack of a strong customer data foundation (23 per cent) and complexity of the current martech ecosystem (21 per cent).

1. Cross-functional dialogue

When it comes to tackling cross-functional collaboration, Goldberg advised collaborating on a design of success criteria and engaging in targeted cross-functional dialogue.

“Your leadership team can leverage cross-functional input to develop a comprehensive, future-focused and business-centric criteria that enables marketing to select the right business outcomes, the vehicles for achieving those outcomes, and the KPIs for measuring success along the way. By teaming with others, you can arrive at a single perspective you and colleagues can coalesce around,” he said.

“Leaders should drive targeted conversations with cross-functional leaders during campaign ideation, implementation, execution and reporting to increase the org’s awareness and involvement and to limit barriers to success.”

2. Features versus use cases

When it comes to tackling lots of unused features, Goldberg recommended an audit to avoid wasted resources.

“Critically, evaluate your organisation’s martech to prune or eliminate underutilised technology on a consistent basis, while holding your team accountable for expanding martech adoption and use, not just marketing ROI,” he said. “Identify technologies with overlapping capabilities by mapping out your martech ecosystem and communicating that with your team. Compare the estimated cost savings of consolidating two or more platforms with the cost of simply doing nothing and maintaining the status quo. Weigh the non-quantifiable business and risk that such an undertaking may incur with the cost savings you might estimate.”

Another piece of advice from Goldberg is to tap your vendors’ customer success teams and collaborate with marketing operations. “If cost optimisation isn’t viable, uncover new unique use cases or better ways to utilise the platform that drives business value,” he said.

3. Data foundations

With respect to the lack of strong customer data foundation, Goldberg advised accelerating investments and integration into customer data management to make this available to the tech platforms that need it the most.

“When multiple solutions contain and consume customer data, it make good business sense to prioritise the interconnection between those solutions so you can realise the benefits of improved performance and greater measurement insight,” he said.

Goldberg also suggested identifying clear goals for data management within marketing. “You can overcome the risk by building specific competencies around technology, content and workflow that support your overall marketing strategy,” he said.

“Identify the data dependencies of these disparate systems and create a data management framework that covers the acquisition, org storage, analytics and delivery of marketing data in service of your objectives.”

4. Get the roles and structure right

Measuring incremental progress is another must as you work to align the organisation and keep anticipating emerging needs. Three pivotal work streams come into play here, Goldberg said. The first requires you to identify roles and responsibilities and fill gaps.

“Sometimes, I speak with clients that need to rightsize the ship moving in the wrong direction, they consider employing a ‘RACI’ matrix to draw lines of responsibilities and approvals,” he said. This involves determining which role is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed for key step.

For example, who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed for use case development, purchase, deployment, developing the marketing plan, experimentation, analysis and auditing? Is it? Or procurement? Or the BU marketing leader?

In highlighting a typical approach to martech lifecycle, Goldberg showed marketing strategy as responsible for use case development, with purchasing undertaken by the marketing leader. Deployment could then be the responsibility of the marketing automation leader, while experimentation sits with marketing strategy.

Another must is to set goals informed by baseline data and benchmarks. “Your incremental progress is idiosyncratic, in that the trends and specific data patterns are going to best apply to your company alone given its marketing plan and ability to execute,” Goldberg commented.

“Goals with milestones can help sustain team motivation, ensure accountability and keep the organisation on a path towards success that is punctuated with all the right inflection points.”

5. Sync automation and CRM

In ensuring the infrastructure exists to measure success, Goldberg stressed the importance of syncing CRM with marketing automation systems.

“Many clients start with best of intentions but fail to finalise the interconnection between CRM and marketing automation. This last mile integration failure can thwart the best attempts to create an interlock between sales and marketing,” he said. “It can affect not only hand off of leads, but also all attempts to measure how well a demand generation engine is functioning.”

You must then enable the team and stakeholders. “Assess their needs – do you have the right people? Do they have time to work on martech projects? Are they managing this effectively? DO they need training or mentoring on how to troubleshoot a problem?

“It’s also important to have the right analytical skills and lens through which they are viewing and parsing data.”

6. Incremental measurement

Another must is creating a longitudinal scorecard at the get go of campaigns, to show whether a prospect is progressing and lead breakdowns.

“Your scorecard should be replete with columns for next steps and other dependencies. To really maximise its value, it should be able to show trends from at least the last two measurement cycles or quarters for a given criteria,” Goldberg said.

7. Agile workflows

Goldberg also touched on agile marketing as a preferred way to execute and get more done. This flexible approach to managing marketing project uses frequent iterations to test and learn, utilising short work cycles and evolving project plans and goals as customer needs change. The six key pillars are: Iteration, collaboration, empowered ownership, shared accountability, ideation and continuous improvement.

Gartner’s research found more than eight in 10 teams using agile workflow approaches integrated more of their martech versus 40 per cent of those without such processes over a six-month period.

Again, Goldberg stressed the important of setting a cadence for reviewing progress against scores captured on your scorecard. He noted 43 per cent of martech leaders review, update and publish roadmaps of their martech quarterly, an ideal timeframe.

“Avoid confirmation bias by soliciting feedback and socialising what is working and not working with others. Document your hypothesis, successes and failures in a library for future use,” Goldberg added.  

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