Marketing Automation at Scale: Defined

Marketing automation is a straightforward way to increase a company’s efficiency and effectiveness in demand generation. It helps increase lead conversion rates while decreasing the overall cost per lead. It also helps marketing become a more predictable and measurable revenue producing function.

When using marketing automation at scale, several platform attributes become critical. It’s similar to purchasing a lawn mower. If you’re buying a lawn mower for casual use, to mow a small yard every other week, your needs are significantly different than if you need a lawn mower for commercial use. In a commercial setting, a heavy duty mower designed for large lawns and multiple hours of use every day is required and the features and dependability needed are vastly different. Could you use a residential lawn mower for commercial use? Yes, but your efficiency and effectiveness would be significantly impacted and the overall cost to your company would be higher when you factor in the additional labor you’d need to take on. The same is true of marketing automation.

The five drivers of scale in marketing automation

1. Contacts. The total number of contacts in the marketing automation platform.

As the number of contacts increases, it becomes more difficult to eyeball data, mistakes have larger consequences, and the need to more granularly segment and personalize marketing outreach typically increases.

2. Brands. The number of brands that marketing sends messaging from using the marketing automation.

As the number of brands sent from a marketing automation platform increases, so does the difficulty  of making sure you’re sending to the right person from the right brand. This impacts the look/feel/design of assets, but also subscription management, landing pages, email senders, marketing reporting, and touch governance. Most marketing automation platforms only offer limited multi-brand capabilities.

3. Users. The total number of people using marketing automation.

The more individuals using the system, the more critical standardization and rights provisioning are. At scale, it’s imperative that a standardized (locked-down) process for tactic and program creation is in place to decrease the potential for errors and omissions, drive efficiency, and ensure tactics and programs can be measured and reported on using a consistent (and universal) approach. 

4. Integrations. The total number of systems the marketing automation platform is integrated with.

The greater the number of systems the platform is integrated with (e.g. the number of CRMs, websites, etc.) and the greater the depth of integration, the greater the potential for data quality issues. Along with this comes an increased risk of sending incongruent messaging, such as sending out messages that don’t correlate or which contradict each other.

5. Messages. The total number of messages the marketing automation platform sends out.

A higher volume of messages (primarily email, but also in-app, website personalization, and social messaging) exponentially increases the risks of touch governance problems. It also compounds the impact of inefficient and sub-optimized processes and procedures.

The Impact of Marketing Automation at Scale

Scale in marketing automation impacts multiple areas such as system performance, services and support, platform management, and precision of messaging. Below are the top ten areas our clients cite when speaking about the ways marketing automation at scale impacts them.

  1. System performance. Degradation in the responsiveness and/or capabilities of the system. This is inclusive of spooling (delayed response times) and platform capabilities ceasing to work (such as custom data objects over X million records).
  2. Internal team responsiveness. Bottle necking of activations and responsiveness of the internal team responsible for the marketing automation platform. This is traditionally caused by time zone delays, inefficient work request and management processing, and poor delineation of complex tasks relative to low risk standardized actions (e.g. pulling a standardized tactic performance report).
  3. Tech Stack. Challenges choreographing a contact’s engagement across multiple applications (website, social, phone, email, services, support, etc.). In addition, there is an “ownership” issue when data connections do not work as expected. Do all of the vendors agree to take ownership and responsibility or do the vendors indicate that it is the responsibility of the company and/or the company’s other vendors?
  4. Data management. The specification of how data will be passed between systems, updated, and managed. This includes field-based data winners, data standardization, and data update logic. The higher the degree of scale, the more important and difficult these specifications and execution becomes.
  5. Regionalisms / variations. As system complexity increases, the likelihood of needing to provide variations to reports, workflows, and tactics by region, segment (e.g. SMB v. enterprise,) or product line increases. This impacts messaging, branding, and localization.
  6. Best practice syndication. The ability to syndicate best practices or standard practices across an enterprise becomes more challenging the higher the scale. This primarily is seen with respect to consistency: standardized reporting, lead management adherence, and program/tactic level deployment.
  7. Security & Permissions. Access control and access rights increase in importance when any facet of scale is in play. Partitioning features is key. Data access reporting should be limited by the area the individual is responsible for and the level of individual expertise.
  8. Errors and omissions prevention. The likelihood for errors (such as errant email deployments) and process infractions (such as skipping an approval step or creating a touch governance issue) increases with greater sophistication and greater scale.
  9. Services/Support/Training/Tech Support. The greater the scale, the more important speed to service response, resources outside of North America, and experience in larger, more complex enterprises becomes. All marketing automation platforms offer services and have partners, but as an organization’s marketing automation platform scales, the quality and expertise of a vendor (and the company’s own) services and support capabilities becomes paramount.
  10. Organization. The findability of programs, tactics, reports, and assets (e.g. images, offers) becomes more difficult as a platform scales. This increases the likelihood for errors and omissions, increases the time to complete tasks, and makes it more difficult for a new administrator or casual user to effectively use the system. Elements such as tags, foldering, roles, auto-expiration, and customer fields help to address this issue.

Jay Famico | Co-FounderJay is a recognized thought leader in B2B marketing who focuses on helping companies gain maximum value from their investments in marketing technology. He’s given hundreds of presentations and written dozens of articles on demand generation, lead management, demand modeling, and technology strategy. Prior to starting Capstone Insights and growing his lumberjack beard, Jay was vice president of Client-Focused Technology at SiriusDecisions.