The People Factor in Marketing Automation ROI

Maia Wells
Marketing Automation

The potential impact of marketing automation software for your business is enormous. In fact, 80% of companies that implement marketing automation see an increase in leads and 77% see an increase in customer conversions. What many overlook, however, is what it actually takes behind the scenes to hit such numbers, and achieve positive marketing automation ROI. The bottom line is, benefiting from marketing automation is not just about finding the right software tool. More important by far are the people running the tools. 

People are the most important aspect of marketing automation success, because they can often be the hidden saviors, or the hidden cost of running your system.

The Basics of Marketing Automation ROI

Investing in marketing automation technology can be the best choice you ever made, or it can fall flat. To get ROI, it’s important to have the right tools, and the right people to run them. And with nearly 60% of marketers recently reporting they don’t feel like they are utilizing their automation tools to the fullest potential, optimizing technology and processes is more important than ever. The first place to start is with some basic considerations of marketing automation ROI.

Marketing Automation Investment – The Inputs

Think about all the elements of a marketing automation program, and what they cost. This is the first step in calculating your marketing automation ROI. Though it can be a complicated matrix, getting a return on your marketing automation investment means first considering inputs including time, money, ideas and people. 

Time

Time can be converted into money, yes, but standing up or improving your marketing automation takes literal time, too. Onboarding, training, running the platform day-to-day, creating the strategies, making the content … all of this takes time. 

Money

Of course, one of the most obvious inputs in the marketing automation equation is money. And, at the end of the day, many of the other inputs can be translated into money, and any marketing automation ROI calculation will include capital input. 

Ideas

Less tangible, but still very important, are the ideas that power your overall marketing strategy (not just what you automate). Ideas for what and how to automate marketing processes, which content your ideal customer might love; ideas for how to organize the marketing to sales handoff, and how to best move deals through the pipeline. All of this mental power and expertise could be applied elsewhere. 

People

Often, when there is a problem with marketing automation ROI, it’s because there is a problem with the people side of things. This doesn’t necessarily mean the wrong people are on your marketing roster, but there may be a need for some repositioning, or even a pinch hitter or two. Hiring, training and retaining good marketing talent is an expensive endeavor. Add to that, in some cases, the need for consultants to run complicated software systems. 

Marketing Automation Returns – The Outcomes 

No matter the business type or vertical, when marketing automation is done well, it reaches a large percentage of leads and customers that come into contact with the business. For some companies, 100% of leads and customers touch marketing automation in some way along their journey. From list building to lead nurturing to ongoing customer retention, marketing automation can help to build positive outcomes at all stages of the customer lifecycle. Any calculation of marketing automation ROI also needs to consider the returns.

Time 

One of the most obvious time returns with marketing automation is the time your team gets back on repetitive tasks. Less obvious is the time savings realized by using marketing automation data, instead of guesses, to inform your campaigns.

Speed

With marketing automation, you can reach thousands of people at a time, rather than 1-on-1, and with automated programs, you can nurture your leads through the funnel faster. 

Conversions

Using marketing automation to nurture, educate, track and score before any conversion provides an assist for the sales team, relieving time and energy investment on their end to close the sale. 

Customer Retention

Automatically give customers what they need based on your analysis of behavior patterns or questions. Educate and support customers well to retain their business, and automatically create advocates.

Marketing Automation Platform Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)   

In addition to considering inputs and outputs in general, many businesses looking for answers on marketing automation ROI spend a lot of time thinking specifically about total cost of ownership (TCO). When you’re considering the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your marketing automation platform, there’s more to it than the monthly subscription price featured on a software company’s website. That’s because marketing automation goes much deeper than the tool itself. 

Subscription cost for the marketing automation platform

Before you sign up for a particular platform, look into the details of exactly how its pricing is structured. Does the platform offer a contact-based pricing model, where you pay based on contacts you need to market to, or is pricing based on the size of your whole database?

Migration costs

What will it cost to clean and transfer your contacts data? What about forms, landing pages, email sequences and your marketing media library? Many marketing automation solutions offer a certain level of done-for-you-service when it comes to migration, but be sure to consider your particular needs. You could be adding to TCO if your cost to migrate from an existing solution starts adding up. 

Onboarding and training

Onboarding to your marketing automation platform will take a bit of time and effort, no matter what. Calculate this onboarding and training phase in both time and money to factor this piece into your total cost of ownership. 

Add-ons

Marketing automation platforms offer many different features, but some may hide upcharges for specific options. You may then feel like you have to pay the fee to unlock those features, because you’re already locked into the platform. Some platforms will offer unlimited technical support and training help, while others may offer support only through specific support packages. Consider the overall cost of the platform itself, with all the data, features, and support you really need. 

Content costs

Signing up for a marketing automation platform is a great start, but remember to also factor in the costs of creating the content that powers the automation engine. Without any relevant, well-designed content to power your marketing automation platform, your strategy won’t get very far.    

People costs

And finally, one of the most overlooked aspects of TCO – the people it takes to get the program up, and run it day-to-day. Some platforms require layers of dedicated resources to keep the engine running, and others are easier to operate by people with other roles in marketing. It’s important to consider the people and expertise it takes to run a marketing automation program on any platform. However, when the people needs of a particular marketing automation tool are overwhelming, it may be time to consider the impacts on TCO.      

Why People Are So Important for Marketing Automation ROI

Even if the perfect marketing automation tool exists, it needs the right ideas to guide it, and the right inputs to power its ongoing success. What it boils down to is the tool is not the solution. The people behind your marketing programs as a whole, and automation in specific, are incredibly important. 

In general, the roles on a marketing automation team include:

  • Strategist
  • Writer
  • Designer
  • Developer
  • Videographer
  • Video Editor
  • Automation Manager
  • Analyst

The reason the people factor in marketing ROI can be elusive is that it is hard to quantify in some ways. Whereas one employee in your marketing department might cost $75,000 a year for a particular skill set, another may cost $80,000 with double the skills and a better strategic mind. Even among people with the same job title, one can contribute less or more, depending on experience, mindset and a whole host of other factors. So, as much as it is possible to budget and invest wisely in your marketing team, it is nearly impossible to predict each person’s value accurately.

Add to that differing levels of complexity in marketing automation platforms, and calculating your people budget is even more difficult. Some solutions require an army of consultants to get up and running, and an ongoing team of experts to keep it running day to day. Others are more intuitive for the average marketer, and thus require less expert help to operate. 

While some roles are vital no matter what system you’re using, choosing the right type of marketing automation platform can help you save on certain expenses by automating specific tasks and allowing your team to focus on working to their strengths. There’s sometimes a temptation to ask specific team members to carry out tasks they haven’t been trained to do on smaller teams. On larger teams, you may have more staff than strictly necessary simply because that’s how many people you needed in the past. 

By focusing on finding an easy-to-use marketing automation solution, you can make sure you have the right people on your team to keep driving and improving your marketing strategy.   

It’s Time to Improve Marketing Automation ROI 

No matter how powerful and intuitive your choice of marketing automation solutions may be,  if you don’t have the right team using it, your ROI will never satisfy. If you are trying to improve marketing automation ROI (or looking into automation for the first time), consider your resources ahead of time. Are you committed to finding, training and keeping the right people? Are your current team members ready to improve marketing automation, even if that means shifting roles, or duties? Are you aware of the specific business goals you are trying to achieve with marketing automation, and do you have a specific plan to get there? 

Use our Marketing Automation Buyer’s Checklist as a guide to thinking through the most important marketing automation questions, before selecting (or changing) your provider. And, don’t forget, the power is in the people.