Marketing automation platforms (MAP) are powerful tools for marketers of all kinds including ad agencies, but its promise is far from realized. 2017 data shows that 67% of marketers currently use some type of marketing automation platform and that number is expected to grow by as much as 30% in 2018. Among the top performers in B2B, 69% use marketing automation platforms for customer acquisition and 50% for retention. About half of all companies continue to have significant struggles in getting their people to use these powerful systems and gain the full benefit.
To be clear, I’m referring to the use of marketing automation for agency business development and not as a tool to support your client’s marketing needs. I’ve posted my thoughts about this before here and here. To be completely transparent I am a SharpSpring reseller because I’ve used the platform, experienced its benefits in ad agency business development, and continue to get great feedback from agencies I work with about how good it is. I’ve also used Salesforce, HubSpot, Act, Marketo, Pardot, and tried many more before I discovered SharpSpring.
It is very telling to find that many agencies who offer marketing automation services to their clients don’t also use them for their own business development. I’ve heard from many agencies who are resellers of such services that find it too complicated and too expensive to use for their own agency. What does that tell you? I’ve tried to make the top brands work for agencies and have never been happy with the effort or result. I promised my management that this investment would pay for itself in no time and had to make excuses for why it didn’t. That is not an experience I want to repeat.
So how do ad agencies fit into this technology conundrum? I haven’t seen any data specific to agencies but do have insight from conversations with a wide variety of agencies. I’ve also used Salesforce, HubSpot, Act, Marketo, Pardot, and others, and tried many more. Each has their unique value as well as price tag. Not surprisingly, it seems that agencies, in general, are behind the curve when it comes to marketing automation adoption. There are a couple of reasons for this both unique to the agency world and universal to this relatively new technology.
MAPs aren't designed for agencies
Agencies struggle to use marketing automation platforms because almost all of the systems are designed for companies that have very different sales cycles and customer relationships. Most are built for a high volume of customers, low touch customer interactions, predictable sales journeys, and linear funnels. Ad agencies have a unique sales process with a relatively small universe of prospects compared to the thousands and millions that the top platforms are built for. Agency sales cycles are typically long compared to the quick turnover that these systems are configured for. The more targeted and intentional the agency growth strategy, the smaller and longer the cycle and the less compatible the major platforms are.
BD people find them hard to use
Agencies like many other businesses fail to gain adoption. That is, the people within the agency who are responsible for using the system, the ones who have the most to gain from it don’t get on board. I’ve asked agency executives about their martech investments, and many have expressed frustrations about platforms that have powerful features but go mostly unused by their team. They have annual subscriptions with Salesforce or HubSpot, and there BD people never get past the Rolodex function. That is a lot of wasted money, especially since HubSpot just raised their price to over $3,000 a month. For a system to be successful, it has to be easy to use, intuitive, and seamlessly blend into the user’s workflow behaviors or it will fail.
Today’s platforms can be powerful tools for prospecting, but too often the way they are implemented makes them overwhelming to ad agency business development teams. The key to a successful implementation is first to define how it can be best fit within the business development processes of the agency and where it should be integrated with the right resources across the agency. When adequately deployed it should become the connective tissue between management, sales, strategy, creative, content, and financial. It should become second nature to the business development team as an invaluable part of their daily functions. It should have a minimal learning curve, ongoing and real-time support, and be configured around the tasks and activities of agency business development.
That's why I am a SharpSpring fan
Of all the ones I’ve used, I prefer SharpSpring. When I first discovered it, I felt it was designed with me in mind. I now use it for my business and every day with all the agencies that I help with business development. SharpSpring is a robust marketing automation platform designed for ad agencies. I found It the easiest to learn, setup, use because it feels like a natural extension of my work style. I have quickly learned what the best workflows are, the best automation, the best reports, and how to tie it all together for the unique needs of agency business development.
When my clients sign up, I set it up for them and configure it precisely for their people and processes. They have a robust system that works right from the start and don’t have to compromise their methods or rethink their entire approach because of a so-called “industry-leading” system that was actually designed for some other company in a completely different business. It becomes a natural extension of their agency, and that ensures a higher adoption rate and a more useful tool. In addition to the setup, I provide training on the functions that are most important to them and coaching on the things that can increase effectiveness and efficiencies for their business.
The agencies convinced me
The feedback I’ve received from ad agencies has inspired me to make this system available to any agency that is considering a marketing automation platform or has one already but hasn’t gotten the value from it. One business development director said that her SharpSpring was her go-to first thing in the morning, even before opening her email. Quite the compliment since she was one of most vocal detractors at the agency. Another swears he’s gotten back hours every day that he puts toward more strategic and impactful activities. A CFO said it used to be a battle for her to get forecasts and estimates from the BD lead but now she clicks, click, clicks and all the info is on the screen without having to ask anyone. It is nice to hear those kinds of comments each day.
The best marketing automation systems are designed to make the platform easy for you to use, provide data that is meaningful to you and supports the tactical goals that will help achieve your agency’s growth objectives. The best platform should be the operational heartbeat of the agency. The truth is, if your BD people are happy and successful, your agency will be growing, you’ll find more prospects, accelerate their journey, and convert more clients and better clients. When that happens, the investment becomes the best you’ve ever made and one that pays dividends long into the future.
An Ad Agency Prospecting Automation Platform
I want to help every agency who isn’t realizing the benefits of marketing automation get up and running on their own fully-featured platform, one I will configure individually for their business development goals. Don’t think of it as your typical MAP. Let’s make up our own acronym. Think of it as your APAP (Agency Prospecting Automation Platform). Together we define your BD strategy, and then I configure your APAP just right for you. No capital investment. No steep learning curve. None of the frustration, confusion, and dissension that typically comes with the other systems. Now you can get your own Agency Prospecting Platform for about 1/10th the cost of the top systems and 100% less hassle. Go here to learn more.
If you’d like to hear more about why I use SharpSpring, I’d be happy to share my experience. I’m always open to a conversation regardless of your needs. If you like this post, click the thumbs up, so I’ll know and then sign up for my new business newsletter. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. #LetsGrow!