A Guide to Marketing Automation

While marketing professionals understand marketing automation can streamline essential processes, many do not leverage these systems to their full advantage. 

Oftentimes, this is due to a lack of strategy. Read any “how-to” guide, and 9 times out of 10 the first step is something having to do with planning or strategizing.

Whether it be getting key stakeholders on board, or simply deciding which tasks are going to be automated, jumping right into anything without carefully thinking it through will make any marketing professional cringe. 

Marketing automation is beneficial. But if you feel like you’ve fallen into the category of companies who have marketing automation platforms, but are not using them to their fullest potential, we’ve got you covered. 

What is Marketing Automation, And Why is it Important? 

For those who aren’t familiar, marketing automation tools are exactly what they sound like—tools that automate certain marketing practices. 

These tools not only perform day-to-day marketing functions like email, social media, and website updates but they also provide valuable insights into the types of campaigns and content that resonate with their audience. 

In an ideal world, marketing automation can help you engage with your prospects and customers efficiently and effectively.

How Does Marketing Automation Work?

The great thing about automation platforms is that they can be as involved or uninvolved as you’d like. We now know what marketing automation is, but how does it work?

Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty complexities of it, marketing automation campaigns send specific content (that you’ve programmed) to leads based on certain behaviors and data. The ultimate goal? Closing more sales. 

Now, this is a very broad overview. Let’s look at an example: You send out an email to leads encouraging them to sign up for a webinar. Those who fill out a registration form can be automatically segmented (by your automation platform) into a new email list. This new email list will send out thank-you emails, and then encourage them to download a case study. 

Ultimately, your marketing automation platform can guide leads through the marketing funnel, setting them up to eventually make a buying decision. 

Biggest Obstacles to Marketing Automation Success

Though marketing automation platforms have become more popular, modern marketers are still not sure how to fully leverage their capabilities to see optimal results. Below are 4 of the biggest challenges: 

  • Data decay: If your database is out of date, you could be including the wrong contacts in your marketing campaigns. And as it turns out, about 27% of business leaders are unsure about how much of their data is actually accurate. 
  • Partial profiling: Reducing the number of form fields can improve conversion rates. Yet more submissions often come at the expense of greater segmentation. 
  • Poor customer acquisition: Marketers can find themselves sending email after email, with very few responses in return. Why? Because without personalized, relevant content, marketing automation falls short. 
  • Slow time to action: Sales teams spend a lot of time looking for contact information, which cuts into the time they have to actually make a touchpoint with a potential customer. Automation works, but only as fast the sales rep can identify the correct person to reach out to, and how to contact them. 

Tips for Marketing Automation Implementation

As with many things in life, jumping in without a strategy is rarely a recipe for success. Below are a few steps to take in order to set your marketing automation platform up for optimal achievement. 

1. Establish goals and KPIs.

The main goal of any marketing automation platform is to nurture potential customers with personalized content—ultimately guiding them to make a purchase.

But marketing automation goes far beyond sending a few emails. Before you even draft your first email, it’s important to identify the specific goals and objectives you’re looking to achieve with your new automation platform.

To determine your goals, consider your overall company objectives. For instance, is lead generation a priority? Increased revenue? Brand awareness? Make sure your goals align with these high-level objectives. Ask yourself, is my goal specific, measurable, actionable, and realistic?

Once you’ve established your goals, assign each a specific key performance indicator (KPI) and a time period in which you’d like to achieve each goal. This will help you determine whether or not your new technology is living up to expectations. Some sample KPI’s to look at include:

2. Find the right tool.

Sixty-eight percent of businesses use automation platforms in some way. Yet not all marketing automation platforms are created equal; success often relies on which tool you choose. Once you’ve established your goals, it becomes easier to select the tool or vendor that will best help you to achieve them. 

Here are three considerations to keep in mind when selecting a vendor:

Feature set– Begin your selection process by analyzing the features each platform offers. Keep in mind the goals you previously established and determine which platform offers the right requirements to meet them.

Usability– Remember, marketing automation platforms are supposed to simplify your marketing processes – if a tool isn’t easy to use, then it probably won’t help your case.

Support– No matter which platform you select, your team is guaranteed to run into a few problems during implementation. As you do your research, identify which vendors are known for providing the best customer service.

3. Get the right people on board

Successful marketing automation implementation requires that the right personnel be involved from the start. Far too often organizations will appoint one person to execute automation efforts. Although having a point-person in charge of implementation isn’t a bad idea, the process is often too much for one person to handle.

In order to be successful, your company will need to take a collaborative approach to implementation. Here are the individuals necessary for a successful implementation:

  • Email marketing specialists
  • CRM managers
  • Sales leadership
  • Content teams

Prior to getting started, discuss your collective goals and outline any new responsibilities. Consider lead routing, personalized content creation, lead scoring, email segmentation, and more.

4. Prioritize sales and marketing alignment

In order for your marketing automation(MA) implementation to be successful, it is imperative that your teams are aligned – especially sales and marketing. According to research from Marketo and ReachForce, sales ignores up to 80% of marketing leads. So what would be the point in generating more leads with MA, just for them to fall flat due to misalignment?

One of the greatest benefits of marketing automation is that lead management processes become streamlined. However, when sales and marketing teams treat leads in different ways, misalignment becomes a huge obstacle standing in the way of implementation. 

To ensure success, sales and marketing should work together to develop an implementation strategy. For a more detailed look at sales and marketing alignment, check out the following blog posts:

5. Invest in training.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s often the most neglected step in marketing automation implementation. 

These platforms are often a big investment for your organization – be sure you make the most of your purchase and ensure your employees are able to properly use them. Professional training may seem pricey, but ultimately, this step will save your organization in the long run.

Luckily, most vendors offer training as a part of your original investment. Be sure to ask about different training options before committing to a vendor.

6. Prioritize Data Hygiene

As we said earlier, data hygiene can be one of the biggest obstacles to success when it comes to automation. Establishing a hygiene process early on can help your business reap the rewards of marketing automation much faster. 

Avoid these issues by cleansing your marketing data regularly and implementing the proper controls to keep your data clean.

Closing Thoughts on Marketing Automation

Marketing automation can change the game for your marketing team—your efforts will be unified, easier to track, and more cohesive. But it’s important to take the implementation process seriously—otherwise, your new platform will be a wasted investment.