“If there’s a way to do it better,  find it.”  – Thomas Edison

All organizations have the same desire: produce higher revenue and faster growth at a lower cost. Marketing automation helps achieve those objectives; however, many organizations struggle with effectively utilizing all the capabilities marketing automation platforms offer.

By definition, marketing automation platforms (MAPs) help marketers automate repetitive tasks, enable more sophistication, and add precision in execution. However, it’s not uncommon that some marketers may experience initial success only to be frustrated as their marketing maturity and usage advances. While initial efficiency was gained as the team shifted manual processes to automated ones, the team has since plateaued or is spending too much time on seemingly simple tasks. As a result, marketers settle for fractional efficiency, which hinders their capacity to scale and the department’s ability to maximize return on investment.

Calculating Your Base Costs

Let’s start by calculating your base cost of operating your marketing automation platform. Estimate the number of emails, webinars, gated assets, and events you do each year, the number of hours it takes your staff to create them, and multiply by the average hourly rate of your staff. That’s your base operating cost.

Number of program builds x hours per build x hourly rate = operating cost

As an example, if your organization is producing an average of 3 campaigns (webinar/event/content/email) per week and the average time spent per program is 3 hours and you’re paying an average staff rate of $55/hr, your calculation would look like this:

156 programs per year x 3 hours = 468 hours per year on programs x $55 an hour = $25,740

Again, this is the cost to use your marketing automation platform, beyond your licensing fee.

Now let’s explore options to reduce your costs.

Improving Marketing Operations Efficiency

Efficiency in marketing operations (MOPS) is defined as the resources needed to do an activity vs. the output of that activity. In other words, getting the most out of your program build and execution time while putting in the least amount of resources. Efficiency improvements have a direct impact on your operating costs and therefore, your bottom line. Additionally, marketing operations wants to spend more time on higher-value activities, so the trick is to ensure your team is operating efficiently and with increased aptitude, which then enables your organization to grow, scale, and innovate. (and keeps your staff engaged!)

Some of the more common culprits for consuming staff time include setting up a webinar, creating forms for gating content assets, and creating event programs. The build process for each of these campaigns involves multiple steps. However, as you dissect the steps, you may notice repetition or other inefficiencies. These are the items you’ll want to address, as inefficiencies can ultimately lead to delayed or missed service level agreements (SLAs), staff frustration, and increased time and cost to execute.

Time Savers: Tokens & Templates

When asked the question, how can marketing operations improve efficiency, a common time-saving tip is to use cloneable campaigns or program templates with editable variables, (such as tokens), which can reduce program build time by as much as 50%.

“One of the most efficient ways to cut down on build time of a program that remains pretty consistent from month-to-month is creating a folder and building a program template for each type of program you build on a frequent basis—whether that’s a newsletter, webinar, or live event. On top of that, and to really increase efficiency, you can add program level tokens that can include anything from an email address all the way to the email body copy. Editing these at the program level in a token allows you to edit everything in one place and never really have to worry about going directly into the asset itself to edit,” remarked Anna Leary, a seasoned marketing operations pro and digital strategist.

Lindsay Khan, a solutions architect, recommends using program templates for programs where you follow a repeated process. “Tokening the assets in your programs will speed-up asset creation and edits,” she advises marketers. “Landing pages and email templates are also easily updated when tokens are used vs. the manual process of updating across your assets.”

Of course, these comments are coming from the assumption that the platform you’re working in has cloneable programs and tokens— but not all systems do. And of course, those that do not will naturally come with a higher operating cost.

Leveraging Global Forms

Let’s look at another area of potential inefficiency: forms. Most organizations have more than one form; after all, your demo request form shouldn’t be the same as your unsubscribe. Instead of creating a new form for every email, webinar, subscription, product information request, (you get the idea), and risking variations in data points, use a global form instead. Global forms allow you to collect the information you need in a standard way plus they can be used over and over again. Need to make an update? No problem— make it once versus on every single form.

However, this is a more sophisticated feature in marketing automation platforms. It’s not uncommon for marketing automation platforms that appear simple to operate, to lack the more advanced features that allow technology to scale with you.

Calculating Opportunity Costs

Opportunity costs are used in nearly every business decision. If you know your base operating cost includes efficiencies outside your control and could be reduced if you had a more sophisticated marketing automation platform, that’s an opportunity cost— money you’re spending to continue with inefficiencies and time not spent on revenue-driving initiatives.

Using the above-mentioned reduction of 50% in program build time, run your calculations again.

While this might seem like a pointless calculation, your goal here is to understand the opportunity cost of your current platform versus migrating to a new, more efficient platform.

To do so, subtract your efficiency savings from your operating cost, which equates to your opportunity cost, or the additional time and expense your staff is spending on repetitive tasks as opposed to higher-value activities.

Operating cost – potential efficiency savings = opportunity cost

Using our assumptions above, let’s recalculate.

Base operating cost: 156 programs per year x 3 hours = 468 hours per year on programs x $55 an hour = $25,740

Potential efficiency savings: 156 programs per year x 1.5 hours = 234 hours per year on programs x $55 an hour = $12,870

Difference= $12,870. This is the incremental cost each year of inefficient processes and continuing with manual workarounds vs. more sophisticated automation capabilities. But there’s more to consider with this equation.

If you could save 1.5 hours per program or 234 hours per year, how would you spend this time? What opportunity are you missing out on because you currently don’t have the resources to execute?

Remember, by definition, marketing automation should help automate repetitive tasks. If it does not, the long-term value of your system should be reevaluated, as it will be difficult for your organization to scale efficiently.

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