Four Ways to Get Marketing Automation Right the First Time

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Getting off to a good start with marketing automation sets the stage for long-term success. However, according to DemandGen Report, 76% of marketers who implemented marketing automation systems said that if they had it to do over again, they'd do more preparation by building better processes and content offers.

Marketing automation provides such measurable rewards that it's well worth taking the upfront planning time to get it right from the get-go. These four steps can guide any organization to an efficient implementation of a marketing automation solution, ensuring a positive launch and ongoing successes.

1. Choose the right time to implement

These five business conditions best set the stage for success:

  • When the business is in start-up mode. You're already making rapid changes and implementing new processes; marketing automation can actually smooth the path and help you get much further – on fewer resources. (Plus, it's never too soon to avoid bad habits.)
  • When the business is making a significant increase in marketing investment. If marketing spending has been on the upswing, the time's right for a marketing automation solution to provide accountability and ensure that investments are correlated with results.
  • When the business finds itself outgrowing manual processes, or needing to get more done without increasing staff.
  • When the business finds itself spending too much time managing varied point tools, and struggling to reconcile customer data from different tools in different formats.
  • When the business is experiencing lead overflow. If marketing activities generate more leads than the sales force can deal with, marketing automation can step in and ensure that good leads aren't left to rot. Large house lists and long delays before first contact even on the highest-rated leads in the funnel are the red flags. Marketing automation can re-engage with these stale leads, keeping prospects involved and engaged, ultimately producing more revenue in less time than the sales force alone could generate.

2. Avoid the main cause of failure

The single most common cause for marketing automation failure is a lack of attention to detail and process in the marketing organization.

So, how do you avoid this? Begin with acquisition. Work with your sales department to determine and agree on your specific business processes and goals before you evaluate and select a system. Not doing so typically results in under-use, rendering your new platform little more than an email system.

Examine the way your marketing funnel functions, and how prospects and marketing activities translate into revenue. Ask the hard questions; the answers will make it easier to apply marketing automation constructively and measure success.

  • What are your most productive lead generation tactics?
  • How do you promote your products, services, and company?
  • How do you qualify leads?
  • Do you know your buyers well enough to assign lead scores to attributes and actions?
  • How are you doing lead nurturing today?
  • How does marketing hand leads off to sales?
  • What does sales do with leads that don't close?
  • How do you measure conversion ratios?

Marketing automation projects benefit from widespread buy-in outside the marketing department, particularly from sales. Sales will embrace and contribute when the system supports their own goals. Delivering real-time prospect activity data will usually rally sales professionals, who thrive on those insights. Seeing that value, they will be more likely to contribute their own outcomes and insights to the shared data pool.

3. Embrace marketing automation best practices

Every company will have unique goals which support its own specific business processes, but there are established best practices which help make the most of your marketing automation system.

  • Develop a formal lead management framework which describes the role and relationship between these six vital marketing tools and processes: data, lead planning, lead routing, lead qualification, lead nurturing, and metrics. Make sure sales and marketing agree on each step, and use the same language to describe it.
  • Align marketing processes and goals with the sales department. Customers are entering the sales funnel later in the decision process than ever before. This is true for both B2B and B2C companies. This means marketing cannot simply hand off verified names to the sales department.
  • The marketing automation library must include content that engages the educated buyer, and the organization must be nimble enough to connect with prospects as soon as they signal intent to buy.
  • Look for marketing automation solutions which emphasize tools and capabilities for marketers, rather than the IT requirements. Marketing automation should be led by marketing professionals, not the CIO.
"Organizations that truly want to get the most value from their marketing automation investments and sales and marketing activities will do the work necessary to define and develop the lead management process. After that is complete, the software can then be implemented to enable the process." Carlos Hidalgo, President,
The Annuitas Group

4. Create a project plan

Success requires a project plan, which consists of three major stages:

  • Planning.In the planning phase, business leaders conduct an audit of existing processes, identify areas for improvement, and clearly articulate the goals and requirements of the marketing automation solution.
  • Vendor selection.In this step, marketing automation vendors compete to earn your business and establish that they can meet the functional and business requirements of the organization. The selection process should include a trial period long enough to verify that the solution meets the goals defined in the planning period.
  • Technology implementation.This step reflects the final commitment to the marketing automation solution, including complete integration with other business solutions such as CRM. All of the lead scoring and routing processes are put into place, and users are fully trained.

If you've defined your processes, chosen your vendor, and are planning your technology implementation, we highly recommend Gleanster Research's "The New Rules of Digital Engagement." This paper includes sound strategic advice about all forms of online marketing, and provides key milestones for the first 30 days of marketing automation implementation.

Learn more about Marketing Automation