Demand generation professionals are increasingly proficient at identifying and understanding customers, selling them solutions and making money. Remarkable tools such as marketing automation and CRM platforms have brought us to a level of sophistication and productivity that was unimaginable a decade ago.
Our laser-like focus on processes, measurements and refinements sometimes distracts us from the single biggest factor behind our success: our people. The technology advancements are useless if smart employees aren’t running the show. We’re not suggesting that marketing leaders ignore human considerations more than other professionals or have dubious intentions; but we do think that the frenzy and intensity of our profession sometimes precludes enough mindshare for our people.
You must never forget that machines, processes and algorithms will never replace these critical human capabilities that are mainstays of demand generation:
- Great judgment. We face choices constantly, and sometimes objective data isn’t available or is insufficient. There will always be arguments about whether judgment is an innate instinct or a skill that can be learned through experience; but everyone can agree on this: Machines and methodologies don’t provide insight and can’t look at the big picture.
- Analysis of data and information. Meaning is often an abstraction and beyond the capabilities of software or methodologies to derive and articulate. (Some highly-paid consultants would have you believe otherwise. Ignore them and save your money.) Only humans can put the pieces together, determine importance and advocate responses.
- Tactical and strategic planning. Only people can develop objectives and goals; and most of the time only people can transform them into concrete steps for the rest of us. We know that incredibly sophisticated tools and processes are available to assist planners, but those mechanisms are useless without great human vision and leadership.
- Creativity. The secret sauce of human brains is unique will and never be replicated elsewhere.
Let’s bring this back to marketing automation. PEOPLE design, run and assess demand generation programs, not computers. Machines run marketing automation platforms and other tools to provide new capabilities, enhance productivity, etc. They are not magic boxes that automatically generate qualified leads. People still:
- Assess the marketplace
- Define goals and objectives
- Define processes
- Decide what to measure
- Implement continuous improvements
- Make decisions
- Educate others
- Provide creativity
How can you assess the value of these contributions? You can’t. It’s not a number you can calculate by adding together a person’s salary and the imputed value of associated benefits. Your best people are worth WAY more to your business than that number.
What’s the practical value of this discussion?
It’s important for demand generation leaders never to lose sight of the fact that they will only be as successful as the sum of the well-managed talent around them. Finding, motivating and retaining great people are your most important responsibilities, aside from hitting your monthly and quarterly numbers. And that means, not surprisingly, that you ought to be “marketing” to your employees and candidates in many of the same ways that you approach prospective and existing customers. You need to:
- Segment based on preferences and needs.
- Design programs to meet requirements of the segment.
- Observe and interpret behaviors.
- Communicate frequently and track interactions.
- Make (or revise) offers.
- Close deals.
This is not a tongue-in-cheek discourse with a wink behind it. We’re very serious. Some organizations we’ve seen are failing miserably in this aspect of their operations. Sometimes otherwise brilliant marketers don’t get it. Fortunately, many in our profession seem to be thinking about the challenge of hiring and retaining good people, especially when it comes to implementing a marketing automation platform. We noted, with great interest, the following graphic based on responses to a survey of 85 marketing departments by the Marketing Leadership Roundtable.
Great leadership means, among other things, having the right people on the team at the right time. Once there, you need to articulate goals and inspire them. These are the most important requirements for implementing marketing automation in a business. Without them, you can’t move forward. You’ll be dead in the water.
If you aren’t doing so already, make the right kinds of investment in people. Doing so is vital for your success.