Obtaining sponsorship and resources to implement (or replace) a marketing automation solution is no easy task. Your biggest challenge will always be in the executive suite. Depending on the structure of your company, your peers may need convincing as well. A troubled economic environment usually means a harder sell.
These are some of the typical challenges we’ve experienced or heard about:
- Buy-in from and alignment with the sales organization, and possibly with other departments that may be involved peripherally, e.g., Finance and IT.
- Competition from other initiatives designed to reduce costs or increase revenue.
- Skepticism about the value of marketing automation.
- Lack of understanding about marketing automation.
- Lip service and passive-aggressive behaviors intended to undermine you or your initiative.
If you are NOT currently running demand generation processes manually (or using an existing marketing automation solution you want to replace), you may have a difficult time convincing your management that you have the knowledge and skills to implement a new platform successfully. Think about this carefully before approaching the executive suite. Savvy managers generally understand that process mastery is the most important prerequisite for automating any business function or task.
Although there is no guarantee of success when you pitch this kind of transformation, there are things you can do to increase the approval probability. It’s not much different than working a qualified lead.
1. Learn as much as possible about the decision-makers and influencers. You need to know and understand your audience. What makes them tick? What are their agendas? Is there competition for resources? Seek out those individuals and solicit their feedback. The objective is to lay the groundwork for your proposal by identifying potential obstructionists and converting them to allies (or at least neutralizing them). Sometimes you simply need to throw people a bone to get them on your side.
2. Don’t assume knowledge or familiarity. If you are dealing with more than one person AND if you aren’t sure about anyone’s level of marketing automation expertise, prepare a “dummies”-level presentation that explains the concepts, terminology, business benefits, and so forth. You don’t necessarily need to use every slide. Test understanding during a presentation to ensure you’re a not boring or otherwise insulting the intelligence of your audience. Skip over what seems to be redundant, but offer copies of the full presentation for the benefit of those who pretend they know everything.
3. Have your numbers ready. Yes, lots of valuable intangibles accrue to intelligent users of marketing automation. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be about numbers pertaining to revenue and costs. Make sure you include:
○ initial implementation investment (money and people)
○ time required for setup, training and maintenance
○ resources required to produce content on an ongoing basis
○ anticipated measurable results and when they’ll be realized
4. Be candid about risks. You need to be clear about risks and compensating mitigation strategies. Often the difference between heroes and scapegoats is the degree to which expectations were set appropriately. Risk-free projects do not exist, and you need to be prepared before answering questions such as “Can you guarantee results?” Even more to the point: Some risks lie invariably with decision-makers and sponsors themselves. Ensure that THEY understand that their ownership of the initiative can mean the difference between success and failure, especially in the realm of change management.
5. Be clear about how you’ll measure progress and success. The era of “we’ll try it and see how it goes” is over. Unless your decision-maker is a family member, chances are that you’ll be held accountable for proving, in factual terms, your success. Be specific about metrics that will support objectives, thresholds, and so forth. Remember that an increase in sales revenue probably has more significance for executives than the number of marketing-qualified leads in the funnel.
6. Keep quick wins and long term goals separate. People who have short attention spans or a need for immediate gratification need to perceive success early. Don’t mix these short term objectives with longer term, more strategic goals.
7. Use case studies and referrals to bolster your case. Nothing is quite as powerful as documented success, especially if decision-makers can communicate directly with peer-level executives who have been down the same road.
Finally and perhaps equally important: Passion and commitment matter a lot. You may not be able to lock down every detail or answer every question, but smart executives know to trust motivation and focus. Happy selling!