How to Set Yourself Up for Success with Marketing Automation

A strong lead management process requires B2B marketing professionals to respond to each prospect within the buying cycle. However, as your business grows, understanding and responding relevantly to a buyer’s interest is almost impossible to do manually. To ensure that your marketing efforts are targeting customers and prospects with the right messages at the right time, integrating a marketing automation platform into your website is key.

As more and more companies are looking to adopt automation to manage their leads and prospects, they are quickly realizing there is more to making the move to automation than just a technology purchase.

For many marketers, purchasing this type of technology is uncharted territory. So, it’s vital that they understand what they’ll need in order to make their technology investment successful.

Here are five things every organization should consider before investing in a marketing automation service.

1. Consider: Your Lead Management Process (Is There One?)

Even with the staggering statistics around the adoption and benefits of marketing automation, other research shows that many organizations have not achieved a level of process maturity and therefore are not getting the full value from their automation investments.

I’ve personally talked with numerous marketers that are currently paying for automation services, yet using the technology at a low capacity. It’s like having a smartphone, but only using it to make calls.

Organizations need to consider analyzing and developing a lead management process. This alone will help you to get the maximum return on your investment. I encourage you to whiteboard your process out and then formally document it for all involved departments to review.

You should consider:

  • Identifying your leads. Develop your buyer personas and what their buying questions are.
  • Creating a scoring/grading structure for your leads. What would make a prospect an “A” lead?
  • Mapping out nurture campaigns for your different personas. (Start small then grow it.)
  • Identifying when marketing will pass leads to sales. A good place to start is once a prospect hits a certain score/grade.

Once these process areas are developed, automation will be easier to set up. Conversely, not having these processes in place before purchase leaves you with very little to automate.

2. Consider: Your Team’s Skills

Growing a team of marketing automation specialists who can run an efficient marketing automation platform is no easy task. The skills needed to be a marketing automation superstar – someone who can hang with the technical folks but also speak marketer “creative” language – can be difficult to find, particularly among professionals with a more traditional marketing manager background.

Here are a few skills I’d consider looking for when building your marketing automation team or if you are a small business looking to hire one person to run your marketing automation efforts:

  • Marketing: to know and understand audiences and users; to communicate value propositions; to manage campaigns and messages
  • Sales: to understand customers; to understand the buying cycle; to help with lead scoring
  • Analytics: to have a deep understanding of web analytics and an ability to make sense of all the data that will be gathered; to evaluate the metrics and make recommendations
  • Managerial: to pull it all together — and in the case of larger companies, manage the diverse staff of specialists (i.e. working with the design team to create visually compelling presentations, web sites, emails, landing pages)

Leaders, remember too that many of these skills can be developed on the job. You will just want to make sure that your new hire has the sense of urgency and the passion to grow their marketing and technology skills.

3. Consider: Your Content Strategy

You can’t automate marketing if you don’t have anything to send to your leads, so it is imperative that you have relevant content that will foster dialogue along each stage of the buying cycle.

In a recent conversation with a fellow marketer, I asked what type of content he was sending to his leads. His reply was “a quarterly newsletter is our biggest send.” At the other extreme are companies who are sending lots of emails but have no content strategy or framework. Consequently, their results are falling quite flat.

Quality content not only shows your customers that you know your business, it also creates a sense of trustworthiness, increases your rank in search engines, and, if done right, helps “fill the funnel.”

My suggestion is to start simple — don’t overcomplicate it. Start with a few pieces of relevant content and set a goal (and keep yourself accountable) to build out more in the coming months.

4. Consider: Your Overall Goals & Objectives

One change that has occurred in this new era of B2B Marketing (that I love) has been a shift from art to science. Marketers are no longer looked to as the team that only provides fancy brochures, trade show swag, and powerpoint presentations. Now, organizations are looking to their marketing teams to help drive revenue — yet many marketing departments have not yet adopted this frame of mind when looking into marketing automation.

Before you purchase marketing automation, be sure to determine the goals and objectives of marketing from a revenue perspective. Once the implementation occurs, use the solution along with your CRM reporting to track, benchmark, and report on these metrics.

5. Consider: All of the Above

As you consider an automation platform, take a look at the maturity of your marketing efforts. Buying an automation platform is only as good as the people, content, and processes you’ve put in place. Otherwise you’ll be paying for a service that you’re not using — but you should be!

There are a lot of considerations when it comes to selecting the right marketing automation solution. If you know your target leads, are collaborating with sales, are producing content to educate your audience, and have a team that sees revenue generation as a key aspect of their job, then you’re on the right track for successfully automating your marketing efforts.

Finally, if you’re in Atlanta and using or considering Pardot as your marketing automation platform, join us for the user-led “Coffee Club” on Thursday, March 5. It’s a great meet-up to bring questions about the projects you’re working on, discuss best practices with other users, share ideas, and get technical help. Hope to see you there!