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How to Use Marketing Automation with a Small Marketing Team [Expert Interview]

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Meet Laura.

Well, hard to believe, but it’s time for us to wrap up our Summer Camp stories, and we’ve brought in a very special guest for our final post! Meet Laura Horton, Pardot’s very first marketing hire and currently the fearless leader of our content team. Laura’s here to share her experiences in watching Pardot grow from a small startup to a division of a Fortune 500 company — and how she used the Pardot product all along the way.

Laura, take it away.

Laura, you were the first person hired to do marketing for Pardot; can you talk a little bit about those early days, and how you used the Pardot product on a daily basis? Obviously, as a team of one you faced certain limitations; what features did you prioritize? Where did you see the biggest impact — either in resources saved or in results driven?

From day one, we definitely used our own tool for everything! At the time I didn’t know a lick of HTML or CSS, so an area that was really helpful to me was being able to use a visual builder for our emails and landing pages — and then copying those to use again and again. Now, we even have all those templates built in, which would have been really helpful for me as a beginner!

We also heavily relied on Pardot do to our lead qualification. We had a pretty strict definition of what constituted a good fit for our product, so we needed to identify the right leads to send to sales. We even had priority rules based on the offer type someone responded to. Since we had a fairly small sales team at the time (two reps and a manager), this helped maximize their efforts.

Let’s talk a little more about lead nurturing, since that’s one of the topics that our readers most often request. When did you start using lead nurturing, and what did those early campaigns look like?

I still remember mapping out the strategy our first really complex, large-scale nurturing redesign. It involved a lot of different colored sticky notes on a giant white board, and it didn’t happen until about a year into my time at Pardot. Before that we just used very basic, linear tracks, which is totally fine when you are just starting out. We didn’t have that much of our own content yet, so we incorporated a lot of third-party articles and text-based templates “from” our reps.

In the early days we were really just marketing to a single persona, and therefore we didn’t need to get too complicated. You can keep it simple as long as you understand your audience and their needs.

You’ve had the unique experience of watching our marketing team grow from, well, you, to a full team of people with various specialties and focuses. What tactics or strategies do you think have had the most impact on the growth and success of our efforts over the years?

When you are small and growing quickly, hiring smart people with a good attitude and treating them well is key no matter which roles you are filling first. That is a rule we applied company-wide at Pardot. We also hired people who were eager to learn new things, and then gave them the runway to do so. Our marketing team members have picked up all kinds of skills on the job, from pivot tables to video production. Sometimes that means things take a little longer the first few times, but it’s good for the team and it’s good for people’s own professional development.

Oh, I will say that I have no idea how we got by for so long without a designer. I do think hiring someone with design skills (or working with an agency) can make a big difference in your brand early on. It’s been proven that great images can really up your engagement on social and in emails. There are also some neat tools out there to help you fake it, like Canva, which I use for my personal design needs.

What marketing trends do you foresee becoming ‘the next big thing’? What should marketers — and marketing automation users in particular — be shifting their attention towards?

Well, I’m not sure this is “next big thing-worthy,” but one of my favorite trends in B2B marketing right now is that it’s actually becoming more like what we traditionally think of as B2C marketing. It’s as if businesses have finally opened their eyes to the fact that sure, they are selling to businesses, but that business is made up of people. Marketers are getting more creative, finding new ways to break through the noise, pushing the limits of design, and even incorporating humor into their campaigns. Anyone who has worked with me knows I hate “marketing speak” and I am always encouraging us to be more human.

When we talk about marketing automation, it’s important to put people first. It’s actually not about making thing more mechanical, it’s about making things more relevant, more personal. Facilitating better connections. I think at first the excitement was around just automating all the things, but now people are starting to master personalization.

Last one! You’ve done a lot of writing for both Pardot and other projects like About.com — do you have a favorite topic or article that you’ve written?

For a while I was covering restaurant news and gossip for a local alternative weekly. That meant I had to do a lot of digging and try to “scoop” other local reporters. It was so weird the places I’d look for leads — for example, I spent a lot of my time going through local construction permits. Sometimes I’d have to call restaurant owners and confront them about sensitive topics, like rumors that their business was about to shutter. That’s their livelihood, you know? Let’s just say they aren’t usually excited to talk about it. That was a really interesting and challenging experience.

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