How to Plan Your Marketing Automation Budget

Updated: November 17, 2010

While marketing practitioners increasingly understand the value of marketing automation, many struggle with gathering the right data to rationalize devoting precious budget to marketing automation projects.

There are many different analyst reports quantifying the benefits of automation in terms of conversion rates and increased revenues, but despite the numbers, adoption rates for marketing automation software isn't where it should be. This could be due to many factors, but research from Accenture suggests that marketers responsible for driving corporate growth are being hindered in their efforts by insufficient budgets, skills shortages and inadequate tools.

At the same time, Forrester found that 47% of B2B marketers reported that the biggest obstacle to spending more money is lack of reports that show ROI.

We all know how important ROI is in helping to justify future marketing investment. However, many marketers are faced with the challenge of, "How do I show ROI of my marketing, if I don't have the tools to measure it?"

Marketers have long had to live in Excel spreadsheets to try and get close to calculating ROI, but we all know the pain and effort involved still doesn't give us confidence in the actual numbers. Marketing automation can overcome that anxiety, helping marketers to trust the numbers using calculations that are visible and transparent to sales and senior management so you can have deeper ongoing discussions on the effectiveness of marketing on the sales funnel and overall revenue goals.

But without the automation tools in place, you have to start somewhere. We suggest organizations work to establish a baseline/benchmark reflecting where the current marketing program is, then try to project future ROI based on automating. There are many different vendors offering great tools to help shape these projections. Then, once implemented, it's fairly easy to determine ROI in terms of conversion rates, increased qualified leads and other intelligence that can be gained through better targeting and segmenting.

While ROI is a critical component in making the case for investing in marketing automation technology, there are other critical factors that you should consider including in your plans. For example:

  • What's Driving the Need for Change? - You should be able to effectively describe why there's such a critical need for change in your organization and provide specific examples and details to back up your claims from a marketing and sales perspective;
  • Existing Marketing Infrastructure Limitations - You should know why your existing marketing infrastructure doesn't support newer more modern approaches to marketing that experts/peers recommend. Some of these new approaches include:
    • Personalization of content
    • Time- and event-triggered campaigns
    • Nurturing campaigns
    • Leveraging new channels such as mobile
    • Coordinating across multiple channels from one central datamart
  • Recommendation - Purchase and Implement an Enterprise Marketing Automation System - Describe how purchasing and implementing conversational marketing technology can help your organization in implementing the newer more modern approaches to marketing. Additionally, emphasize that not only will you be able to implement these newer approaches, but also: 1) drive revenue 2) decrease marketing costs and 3) enable objective measurement of results. Third-party validation and hard results from well-known industry analyst firms will be critical in showing the benefits of a marketing automation solution;
  • Cost/Implementation Consideration - You should be able to specify the following considerations in your plan:
    • Hosted or on-premise solution
    • Range of costs based on discussions with vendors
    • Length of time implementation might take, again based on discussions with vendors
    • How you will pay for it - keep in mind elements that need to be capitalized versus those that fall under operating costs
    • Anticipated payback period based on those costs and your anticipated return
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