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5 Conditions For Marketing Automation Success

6 min

For anyone who has ever gone through a Marketing Automation project, you know that it can be a journey with many ups and downs. And not unlike riding “Kingda Ka” (a thrilling roller coaster located at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ): it’s either the ride of your life, the scariest thing you’ve ever done – or a little bit of both!


There’s a reason this coaster is known as the “King”. Kingda Ka is quite simply the tallest and fastest roller coaster in North America. This upside down U-shaped track bolts up 45 stories in the sky—that’s 456 feet high! This leaves all other coasters in the dust. And of course it’s going to take some mighty acceleration to get you to the top of it!


On the “King”, you leave the station going from 0 to 128 miles per hour in a jaw-dropping of 3.5 seconds. Actually, there isn’t even enough time for your jaw to drop. You shoot straight up that impossible height so fast that you don’t even have time to think, so you just hang on. Arriving at the top, you immediately plummet right back down in a 270-degree spiral. There is very little that can prepare you for a drop of this intensity—most people just wing it.

Now, your Marketing Automation journey may not be quite as hair-raising, and your initial climb may not cause nose-bleeds like the “King”, but based on our 10-years of experience, the first few moments will certainly set the tone for the rest of your journey. Therefore , if you take the time to get a few things firmly in place before you’re strapped in and leaving the station, it can make a world of difference in terms of your enjoyment of the ride. There is no need for you to wing it!

After the commitment has been made to Marketing Automation, and your vendor partner has been selected, there is often a period of increased productivity and a level of anticipatory excitement – we sometimes refer to this period as “Uninformed Optimism”. Even though no real changes have been initiated yet, the marketing team actually performs at a slightly higher level in anticipation of the new capabilities coming on line.

Marketing Automation Journey

Once the project is initiated and the changes begin to take place, a different and more complex phenomenon occurs. On an individual level, a new learning curve begins (and it may be a steep climb for some of your marketers). This is accompanied by a sharp decline in performance at the individual and team level (and perhaps at the business unit or company level, depending on the scope and scale of the Marketing Automation initiative). We refer to this phenomenon of declining performance as the “Valley of Despair”, which is a natural organizational response to the major changes that frequently occur when Marketing Automation is implemented. The ‘Valley’ is characterized by a steep fall in productivity, followed by a slow rise to previously established performance levels. Minimizing the depth and length of time that the organization spends in the ‘Valley’ is critical to a successful Marketing Automation implementation.

As the organization emerges from the ‘Valley’ and overall marketing productivity rapidly increases, a new form of stress and tension will occur. Similar to a roller coaster experience, people begin speculating that there is another steep decline just over the next rise. The organization may again begin to feel the stress of the unknown and want to close their eyes and duck their heads. Under the right circumstances, this kind of tension can help facilitate creativity and increases people’s ability to change. “Creative Tension” exists when you have clarity about your desired brand destination and your people are fully aligned on the “truth about today”. In other words, the gap is clear and people are motivated to change. We’ll talk more about creative tension in a future article, but for now, suffice it to say that a little organizational tension is not necessarily a bad thing.

“One’s stake in marketing transformation determines one’s level of stress”

When it comes to roller coasters, everyone seems to be a little different. The “thrill seekers” have never seen a coaster they didn’t love and they always clamor to sit in the first row. The “coaster phobics” avoid the ride at all costs. And then there are a lot of people in the middle who aren’t sure what they feel – until they’re harnessed-in and asking themselves: “what was I thinking?” The best advice I ever received about riding roller coasters: keep your eyes open and look forward. Being able to see what is happening actually helps dispel fear and nausea.

With a better understanding of the entire Marketing Automation journey up front, your eyes are now fully open and you’re looking forward. However, there are still some things you must get in place before you strap in and leave the station. If you establish the conditions for success up front, you can navigate the stress points, avoid the pitfalls and generate the creative tension that will help catapult you to the next level of marketing performance.

Picture4Click to enlarge.Up until now, there has been no explicit, formally organized and broadly shared view of what the conditions for success include and what is involved in setting and maintaining them on a Marketing Automation implementation project. It has been strictly a matter of individual project management interpretation, experience and a little bit of art. Our goal at TopRight is to bring greater rigor, discipline and science to help companies assure that the conditions for success are in place before, during and after they embark on their Marketing Automation journey. The TopRight ”Conditions for Success Diagnostic” provides a concrete way to evaluate your current situation and then take appropriate action to create and sustain the conditions for success for a successful Marketing Automation implementation.


The TopRight diagnostic helps you answer five key questions about your Marketing Automation initiative and it recommends a course of action to assure that the conditions for success are in place:

1. Is your marketing automation initiative tied to explicit value for the business?

2. Is your team fully aligned?

3. Do you have sufficient sponsorship and accountability?

4. What is the level of organizational commitment?

5. Are the project scope, team and time in balance?


TopRight research and direct client experience identified five conditions for success in Marketing Automation implementations. Our diagnostic framework should be used with project teams during the initial scoping of the Marketing Automation journey and routinely in subsequent phases of the implementation effort. Here is a link to the online assessment that can be used by your team. A downloadable version of the diagnostic is also available along with some illustrations of the markers of success for each area:


Click to enlarge.


If one or more of the conditions for success are not in place, your Marketing Automation implementation may be at risk. The “Valley of Despair” for your organization may be lengthy, and deeply unproductive. If the conditions for success are ignored, a Marketing Automation implementation may become stuck in the ‘Valley’ requiring remediation to reinitiate the project. By using the TopRight Diagnostic, you can surface the stress points, reveal symptoms and take action to minimize the depth and length of time that your organization spends in the ‘Valley’. Some of the “how-to’s” and prescriptive treatments include:

  • Developing a Case for Action that links Marketing Automation to Explicit Value
  • Securing and sustaining Executive Alignment
  • Generating Accountability in Action
  • Rooting out passive commitment and Taking a Stand for Success
  • Managing the Undercurrents of Marketing Automation implementation

Now, as you strap in for your Marketing Automation journey, eyes wide open and looking forward, you can breathe easy knowing that you have put the conditions for success in place:

  • You made explicit linkages to business value
  • Your executive team is fully aligned and on board
  • Your executive sponsor is highly visible on the front row and taking full accountability
  • Your organization is behind you and actively committed at every level
  • Your project team is proactively managing the undercurrents of expectations, energy and myth

And while you’re on it, don’t forget to put your arms up and enjoy the ride. Simultaneous smiling and screaming is encouraged as you #MoveTopRight!