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What's the right mix of people and marketing automation tools?

Finding the right balance between marketing automation tools and personnel can be tricky, especially with so many options popping up. Here's how to do it correctly.

A good marketing department supports the needs of the sales staff. An increased burden on your sales team can result...

in growing expectations from today's customers. These high expectations require a tailored experience during the entire sales process, and clients can quickly become outspoken when things do or do not go their way.

It is these new higher standards that put incredible pressure on sales and marketing staff to be innovative, fresh and current. One method for staying ahead of the curve is utilizing some combination of new marketing automation tools.

But can a properly equipped army of one replace a team of two or three? At what point does the cost of the tools outweigh their gains?

We will look at the benefits of technology vs. human contributions to a marketing team, with an eye toward helping your organization determine the mix that's right for you.

The martech stack

Marketing automation tools turn their monetary value into time savings. For example, using tools like Keyhole to research a hashtag before posting on social media can increase the likelihood of tapping a hidden market or developing new leads. Canva and its competitors can help create attention-grabbing images that increase website traffic and generate activity.

Arguably, the most useful tools synergize the sales and marketing staff through CRM. Automating a trickle campaign can save countless hours and reduce missed opportunities.

The human touch

The benefit of headcount comes in the form of increased creativity. Hilarious commercials, succinct taglines and the ability to captivate don't originate from a single source.

Marketing thrives on creativity, and the best way to consistently achieve high levels of creativity is to engage and collaborate with other people. In addition, sharing responsibility lowers stress and anxiety levels -- two factors that suffocate creative thought.

Just because your marketing team has the latest tools and are privy to the latest trends does not mean success is imminent. Marketing is a field devoted to understanding people. Napoleon Hill reminds us that taking the path of least resistance is not always the best route. If marketing becomes too automated, advertising will begin to sound stale, and there will be an obvious disconnect with the customer.

Finding the right mix

There is a fine line between these two elements. The fact is that the proliferation of these same marketing automation tools is precisely the reason why customers expect so much from the sales experience now. These tools have enabled fast response times and personalized sales experiences that show incredible forethought.

So at what point do tools lose their potential benefit and stop replacing headcount? That exact point depends on the skills of your marketing team and the goals of the company. You need to measure what success looks like before you can make an accurate assessment, and you can do so using the following factors:

  1. Define your marketing plan. Your company's goals need to support one another. The quickest way to set the marketing team's goal is to establish the target for sales and work backward. For example, if your company needs to generate $1 million in revenue, your marketing goals should support that.

    For example, a marketing team plans to increase its conversion rate by 0.8% and increase website traffic by 20% to generate $250,000 in e-commerce revenue given its current revenue per click (RPC).

    This statement is a great SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, time-based) goal that defines where one-fourth of your efforts should be focused.

  2. Assess your team. Responsibilities for a digital marketing department fall into four broad categories:

    • Strategy: Analyze markets and feedback to guide the efforts of the staff.
    • Creative: Design or create captivating material for distribution.
    • Communications: Generate content, manage campaigns or receive feedback.
    • Public Relations: Actively seek out collaborators; influencers; or manage events, publications and social media.

Smaller departments tend to overlap responsibilities based on individual skill sets, while other companies might highly specialize in only one area and share the rest.

Understanding the current accountability structure of your team will help you formulate realistic expectations. For example, telling a group that focuses strictly on the creative design that they are now responsible for strategy and distribution might damage their creativity and make them less efficient. (Hint: This is a sign you should consider hiring a person -- not a tool.)

  1. Competitive analysis. This kind of assessment should be a part of any marketing strategy, and the goal with this particular step is to identify what you can do better than the competitor. For example, is your competition investing heavily in video production? Check their view count. Are they successful? Does your team have the ability to make those videos better, or should you refocus your strengths toward gaining a higher rank through SEO?

Putting it all together

Although the benefit of headcount versus tools might be unique to each business, a general fact remains: If you want to be better at what you already do, invest in marketing automation tools; if you want to do something different or shake things up, invest in creativity and increase headcount.

Next Steps

Marketing tools benefit sales intelligence

Building a martech stack in CRM

Important factors in marketing automation software

This was last published in June 2017

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