I recently had the pleasure of talking with Josh Hill, a marketing automation master in my estimation, who is a literal pro at showing marketers how to use this powerful technology to its potential so it actually drives lasting results. Without further delay, let’s get to the main course. Here’s what Josh had to say:

How did you get into marketing automation?

Funny you should ask that, I was just speaking with the friend who helped get me started several years ago. In my first marketing role, I was struggling to manage leads and to do effective email marketing at the Economist Intelligence Unit. We wanted better lead scoring, instead of ranking; programmatic routing, instead of manual; automatic de-duplication instead of hand checking. After my friend suggested a few firms that could help do this, I started to research how to make it happen. It took several months of internal selling and going through the buying process and then another six months of implementation. After that, we had a fully functioning Marketo system.

Since then I have worked at a few firms with Marketo and then ventured out to take those lessons to my clients and my website audience. There is still so much to learn about marketing and marketing automation so I monitor blogs and the Marketo Community for new ideas.

What are the top three pain points you’re seeing with people using marketing automation?

1. Not preparing the marketing strategy before selecting a Marketing Automation Platform (MAP).

I have encountered many firms that have not clearly thought about how they should use a marketing automation platform. The vendor sells the vision of a closed loop reporting system and nurturing, but all of that is actually up to the customer. If you buy Eloqua and use it to email blast people once a day with basic segmentation, then you are not using the system as intended. Before you even go into the RFP process, make sure your firm has a marketing strategy, then choose the tools and processes aligned with that strategy.

Remember, it is perfectly fine to keep using ExactTarget or Vertical Response – if that works for you. Not every company needs the same tools.

2. Not preparing the lead lifecycle in advance of purchasing a system.

Along with a marketing strategy, people often forget to plan out the lead lifecycle. The Lead Lifecycle is how leads are acquired, processed, engaged, sent to Sales, and managed until they become customers. This process should be outlined on paper, and then ideally in the CRM before implementing and connecting a MAP.

3. Not using the opportunity to rethink marketing strategy and lifecycle when a MAP decision is made.

Often, a firm will sign on to a MAP without preparing in the ways mentioned above. There is still time, however, to make the key changes before integrating the systems. Most of my clients ask me to rebuild their Marketo instance because their business strategy or processes changed or weren’t properly planned. Remember, the “new” techniques of marketing with content, nurturing, and social sales  mean new tools are required. Plan your strategy first, then choose the right tools.

What’s the biggest hurdle in maximizing the benefit of marketing automation?

People. Not enough people understand how to use MAPs and not enough people understand the strategy that takes advantage of the system to its fullest. A tool like Marketo offers tremendous flexibility to design a business process. Yet, it is entirely  reliant on the cooperation of the people designing and using it every day. For instance, if you have a naming scheme for each marketing program, but the new employee doesn’t follow it, then you risk triggering the wrong automation flows or not triggering anything.

Many firms try to build a playbook or document their system. What works better is a designated marketing automation steward – an administrator – who is responsible for training and correcting errors. That administrator should write (and maintain) the documentation and playbooks.

When you start working with a new client, what are some common mistakes you see people making in Marketo or Salesforce? What are the pitfalls to avoid?

I alluded to this earlier – before you implement a MAP with a lead lifecycle, you need to have the plan ahead of time. Then you need to modify Salesforce first. If at all possible, make sure that your SFDC workflow matches your expected lead lifecycle and that your sales team knows what is expected of them.

Other common pitfalls include:

  • Not using Campaign Influence in Salesforce. This tool is available to everyone and setting it up properly can help you attribute revenue to each touch in a certain time period.
  • Assigning nurturing leads to the Marketo user. This is a special user and no lead should ever be assigned to it and that user should never be used by a real person. Doing so invariably creates confusion over data changes.
  • Not taking advantage of Lead Queues. Quite a few people like to keep non MQLs out of Salesforce. I used to think that was a good idea, but very quickly realized it is hard to do. Marketo now encourages users to sync Programs to SFDC Campaigns, which bypasses other sync flows. Thus, it is better to bucket Leads into Nurturing, MQL, Recycled, and Trash Queues.
  • Not setting up Unread Lead reports by salesperson. This was something we setup well before Marketo. It shows which salesperson is viewing (or at least clicking) on the MQLs they receive. This dashboard is very helpful in identifying salespeople who are avoiding SFDC or even just ignoring leads because they think they are not good. Monitor this and get buy-in from the Sales VP to enforce reading of leads.

What does the new omni-channel customer and their path to purchase look like? How does this impact how marketers should use marketing automation?

Omni-channel marketing, often called multi-channel, means that marketers have to be everywhere at once, or at least that’s what it feels like. The reality is you always need to be where your audience is.

For B2B marketers, this could mean having a program that manages several channels and platforms that are relevant to the audiences. There’s no reason to have a Pinterest page if your audience isn’t there. But you should take into account device use and what people use on each device.

For instance, click to call is important for mobile ads or mobile focused email, but not desktop.

Marketers need to think about the message and CTA for each channel and device combination.

How do you manage attribution and tracking, and actually use the data to optimize marketing touch points? 

There is constant talk of making decisions based on data. This data has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is a place we have to trust. Otherwise, we will ignore the data and go with the usual gut instinct session, or what David Meerman Scott calls “MSU,” Making Stuff Up.

So how do you resolve this data collection and trust?

The answer may vary by company. I would couple benchmarking and using marketing automation. First, with a benchmark, I can understand where I start from and who is doing well outside of my firm.

Second, with a system like Marketo I now separate how the lead came into the system versus why they showed up. I call this system “Channel and Offer.” The channel is the source of the lead, and could be “PPC” for example. Think of the channel as how the lead found you.  The offer is the reason the lead showed up. The offer could be “White Paper” for instance. If you track the first touch and last touch for these data points, you can generate a report that clearly demonstrates that White Papers outperform Webinars, but PPC leads are worse than Paid Newsletters. From there, I can then say, “Let’s put more money into PPC ads for White Papers.”

What are the key things that marketing automation doesn’t provide for B2B marketers, and what other complementary solutions should we be looking at?

Marketing automation does not solve your marketing issues. It can be a catalyst for a change in your approach to email marketing. It can be a catalyst for improving relations with Sales. And marketing automation does allow you to improve tracking from click to call, from form fill out to Closed-Won. A poor marketing plan will lead to a poor Marketo system with poor data and poor results.

Marketing automation is a way to implement your strategy, and it should not determine the strategy. Most vendors have taken pains to design the system to be flexible but they generally force marketing programs into a particular way of thinking. Usually that is good, but sometimes you should bend the tool to make your marketing work.

What do you see as the future of marketing automation?

In the future, I expect more firms to merge with CRMs in some way. I believe the very best firms will avoid trying to move up or down the stack and instead use APIs to build an ecosystem. Creating an ecosystem while improving the core system has been a successful strategy in software since Microsoft created DOS. Marketo and HubSpot certainly will, and have, buy parts of that stack, but not all of it.

The key functions I see that require more or better integrations are

  • Website Management (CMS)
  • SEO Tools
  • Financial Management
  • Business Analysis
  • Social Management

There isn’t a single tool to manage a complex business or even marketing. And while we may see a solution that covers more of the stack in one box, it is rare to see a vendor completely dominate the stack. People will continue to innovate concepts as well as software efficiencies leading to new platforms and add-ons to those platforms. The key for a firm like Marketo or HubSpot is how they grow that ecosystem without merging it all together. That is the challenge Windows, MacOS, and Linux faced over the years with varying degrees of success.

For people who want to learn marketing automation, what are some good resources?

There isn’t a single resource for learning about marketing automation. If you want to learn more about MA in general, you can visit the key vendors. However, much of their content is focused on the strategic vision and features, such as sales-marketing alignment, lead scoring, and nurturing. Marketing automation agencies and consultants also produce great content that can introduce you to the world of MA: David Raab and Sirius Decisions come to mind, among others.

If you want to learn how to use an MA system, I usually recommend my site: MarketingRockstarGuides.com, Perkuto.com, and the vendor communities. Eloqua and Pardot have more open documentation and forums, so those are also good places to go if you plan to use those systems.

Josh HillAbout Josh Hill

Josh Hill is Marketo Practice Lead at Perkuto, a marketing automation agency. Josh works with marketers to show them how to use technology to increase traffic, lead quality, and revenue. He writes about marketing automation and demand generation strategies. Josh is a Marketo Certified Expert and Marketo champion.

Amber Tiffany

Posted by Amber Tiffany

Amber has a background in content strategy and brings her passion for writing along with her two first names to the role of Senior Content Marketing Manager at Invoca. Amber began her career as a marketing copywriter and has since gained experience in SEM and content strategy for both B2C and B2B organizations. Amber loves the outdoors, physical activity, especially when it’s competitive, reading and attempting to be musical. She is currently training daily to become the first female champion in Invoca’s Ping Pong League history.


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    […] complete path to purchase and nurture them with intelligent, personalized nurture campaigns. Marketing automation is a very powerful tool, and once you get the framework built for how you’re going to wield it, […]

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    […] complete path to purchase and nurture them with intelligent, personalized nurture campaigns. Marketing automation is a very powerful tool, and once you get the framework built for how you’re going to wield […]

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