Marketing automation is an exciting and game-changing opportunity for sales and marketing teams, but are you ready for it? According to a recent study by marketing technology research company SoftwareAdvice, 91% of marketing automation buyers were evaluating marketing automation for the first time in 2013, so there’s no better time than right now (seriously, put down that coffee) to ask yourself, “Am I ready for marketing automation?”

91% of marketing automation buyers were evaluating marketing automation for the first time in 2013.

To answer that question, here’s a look at 10 reasons why you may not be quite there…yet.

1. You don’t have a plan.

Before you begin, you need to have the processes in place to bring marketing automation to its full potential. This includes your vision, goals, audience, metrics, timetable, content, flowchart, messaging, etc. — and the involvement of key stakeholders.

Part of your plan should include detailed diagrams to help relay the big picture of how you plan to use marketing automation. A picture is worth a thousand words, and visualization allows for faster planning and a faster feedback loop.

See a sample marketing automation flowchart by Chiefmartec here.

2. You don’t have metrics or KPIs.

We all want leads and sales out of our marketing automation program, but the metrics that go deeper and beyond those areas are crucial for monitoring. After all, if you don’t know your Open Rate, CTR (Click-Through Rate), and where each opportunity is in your sales funnel, you won’t be able to update and optimize your marketing automation programs for optimal results.

3. You don’t know your audience.

Segmentation of your database and personalization of automated messages is one of the key benefits of using a marketing automation solution. This is why you should start thinking about how your audience data is organized and categorized before you implement a marketing automation platform.

Knowing your audience is the first step to strong segmentation. By organizing your audience database into targeted groups, you can ensure a relevant message that speaks directly to them.

4 .You haven’t collaborated with other departments.

Since this system will touch multiple departments, getting input and buy-in from each team is an absolute must.  Understand their thought processes and incorporate their feedback into your plan for your marketing automation system.

For example, you may have originally planned to send an email to a new customer right after a deal closes, asking them to schedule a training session. However, your customer success team may tell you that’s not the correct point in time to send that email.  Had you gone ahead with your original plan, you would be creating extra work for this department.

5. Your data is dirty.

Data is the foundation upon which your marketing automation system is built, so it is only logical that you pay just as much attention to the data that is going into these systems as the processes and workflows that you’re building around them.

Segmentation, messaging, and reporting crumble if the foundation is not secure, so make sure that you’re paying attention to data normalization, deduplication and duplicate prevention, and whenever possible, data enrichment.

6. You have clean data now, but no plans to keep it clean.

Your data may be clean going in, but 30 days from now, it will start to get dirty as your contact’s positions, emails, and jobs change. Think about this: 75 phone numbers change every thirty minutes.

Dirty data has a way of silently infiltrating your organization, creating frustration, inefficiency, and loss of confidence (e.g. dismal user adoption) in the systems themselves.  It can affect each department and group of stakeholders in a very different way, but unless there is a plan to address keeping your data fresh, or a platform that can do it for you, the problem is not brought to the forefront of the organization’s collective psyche and it’s only a matter of time before this infiltration is no longer silent.

7. You don’t have content.

Nurture programs, one of the key features in marketing automation platforms, are meant to re-engage prospects who have gone cold. One of the requirements of a successful nurture program is useful content that you can periodically send out to these prospects in order to get them thinking about the problem and your solution.

8. You do have content, but it’s not valuable.

Without interesting and compelling content to fuel these nurture programs, you’re not doing much more than consistently spamming these folks. Take the time to plan and budget for content creation throughout the contact’s journey: initial inquiry, hot lead, post-sales, and nurture.

9. You’re not ready to optimize.

Once you hit the launch button, your job has just begun. Now it’s time to monitor the results of your marketing automation program in real time to see how it performs. Changes to your program can happen on the fly or be planned for the next time around. Either way, you need to allocate time and resources to monitoring and updating your marketing automation efforts.

10. You haven’t chosen a marketing automation platform.

There are many factors to deciding on a marketing automation platform, but the most important aspects to keep in mind are the ones that mean the most to your business and your goals. For instance, consider these factors:

  • Functions such as email and landing page creation, lead scoring, etc.
  • Usability (how easy is it to use?)
  • Integration with your CRM
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Integration with other business applications and service providers (such as Salesforce AppExchange)
  • Number of users/access
  • Cost

If you’ve gotten all of these items planned out and under control, then let’s celebrate! You’re ready for marketing automation and all of the opportunities ahead.

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Amanda Nelson

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Amanda Nelson is Director of Marketing at RingLead where she leads the content marketing strategy and execution. She has spent the last three years in content marketing and community management at salesforce.com and Radian6, and has a background in account management for interactive and full service advertising agencies.