10 Tips for Successfully Implementing Marketing Automation
While marketing automation is beginning to approach critical mass, implementing marketing automation successfully is still something many companies struggle with. There’s a lot of hype that still surrounds these products, which is fueled by the word “automation.” Oversimplifying the benefits and value of marketing automation creates a dangerous overconfidence that undermines a successful implementation. A company’s state of readiness requires the same — if not more — thoughtful and disciplined planning that went into launching your customer relationship management (CRM) system.
If you haven’t yet launched a marketing automation system (MAS), or you have recently launched one and it hasn’t been as effective as you’d hoped, don’t give up. Start with or go back to the fundamentals. Here are 10 of the most important things you can do to implement MAS successfully.
1. Define Marketing Automation Success
Marketing automation is a big investment. Know exactly what your organization is hoping to accomplish and make sure you understand the total cost of ownership (TCO). “77% of CMOs at top-performing companies indicate their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to grow revenue.” Marketing automation is capable of driving revenue, creating a more seamless and personalized customer experience, facilitating the buying process, shortening the sales cycle, generating more qualified leads and providing insights that help inform everything from the development of content to selling strategies.
2. Align With Business Strategy
Not enough can be said about aligning very closely with business strategy long before you to attempt implementing marketing automation. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, six to 12-plus months would not be an exaggeration of the time it takes to prepare adequately. Marketing, Sales and IT must be unified philosophically, strategically and operationally around your organization’s business strategy to fully leverage the power of marketing automation. While many organizations have started to address the digital transformation of their enterprise, if your business still operates in silos, alignment will be more challenging. You’ll need to appeal to each stakeholder group as you would a customer and provide compelling reasons that appeal to the self-interests of each group.
3. Don’t Underestimate the TCO
The annual subscription fee is just one part of the total cost of ownership. Even if you have very skilled talent to manage your MAS on a day-to-day basis — creating and activating campaigns, integrating it with the rest of your MarTech stack, and reporting on results — you are going to incur costs with other external vendors. You’ll want to reserve a pool of funds for project-based consulting from your marketing automation business partner to use on an as-needed basis. Highly skilled MAS talent is still hard to come by right now, and even vendor-certified experts may still need to lean on the consulting expertise of your partner, especially during the first year of implementation.
4. Don’t Underestimate Content Requirements
Underestimating how much content — fuel — you’ll require to take full advantage of your MAS is very easy to do. Marketing automation systems are very hungry beasts, challenging to keep satiated. First, collect all your branded content from across your enterprise — no small feat in itself. If you use a digital asset management (DAM) system to centralize and archive your marketing and packaging content, great. After you have collected everything, you’ll want to perform an audit (internally or using an external resource) and content analysis to determine what’s valuable and current, what’s no longer relevant, and what you may need to create to fill nurture streams. At this stage, you’ll begin to identify clear gaps in content. It helps to view the audit process from a forensic perspective and not as a simple content “dump.”
5. Drive for Content Production Efficiency
Assuming you have a clear content strategy in place, you’ll need to figure out the smartest way to produce a ton of content on an ongoing basis. When you take into account all the variables including the volume and frequency with which your content will be consumed, you’ll appreciate the need for making the production process as efficient as possible. Even with basic analytics, you should have some idea of which content is resonating most strongly. And if you’re not thinking about this already, knowing which content delivers the greatest ROI and which does not is something you should consider before green-lighting your content production resources. A hyper-efficient content production engine can help you unlock funds that can be reinvested in more valuable activities.
6. Agree on Lead Scoring Criteria
Gaining the confidence of Sales is usually pretty easy when they understand that Marketing is seeking to deliver more qualified, sales-ready leads as opposed to just more leads. It enables them to focus their time on leads that have the greatest potential. Doing this requires establishing lead scoring criteria that both groups agree to. Score for “fitness” (demographics) and “engagement” (behaviors). Leads that don’t meet the fitness criteria may be dealt with in any number of ways that don’t require the attention of Sales. Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) that are not considered sales-ready by your Sales team can be placed into a lead nurturing stream and nurtured automatically with specific content until they are theoretically ready to buy. Industry sources estimate that “businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects see a 451% increase in qualified leads.”
7. Work With, Not Against, Your CRM
While your MAS provides data-based insights into how individuals are responding to your marketing, you’ll need to integrate it with your customer relationship management system to close the loop on Marketing’s influence in creating new revenue/growth opportunities. Involve your CRM administrators at the earliest stage of marketing automation discussions. They will play a key role in helping you close the loop and maintain data integrity. It will be especially important to evaluate the current state of data hygiene in your CRM and your back-end lead management processes early on, determining which leads are assigned to whom for initial follow-up and how this data gets appended to your CRM records. Take any steps required to ensure compliance with processes to avoid losing out on potential revenue opportunities due to process cloudiness.
8. Make the Most of Your Discovery Workshop
If you haven’t yet implemented an MAS, know this: You cannot overprepare for the discovery workshop that your marketing automation vendor will conduct with you. This will require the full and active participation of Marketing, Sales, your CRM admin and IT. You’ll need to provide all the nitty-gritty details regarding your business strategy, marketing strategy, organizational structure, processes, roles and responsibilities, CRM system details and more. Be fully transparent about challenges and fears so your marketing automation system vendor can establish an effective implementation strategy and project plan that works for you. In the more idealized world of technology, this is where many companies are forced to confront legacy back-end processes that impede implementation progress. This presents an opportunity to reset these processes.
9. Know Your Needs
Successfully implementing marketing automation starts with selecting the system that’s right for your organization. It’s very easy to overbuy. Research studies show that “almost 60 percent of companies that have adopted marketing tech do not fully utilize the tools they’ve implemented.” There are a few reasons for this: (1) overconfidence surrounding implementation, (2) little or no comparative historical information within the organization, (3) underestimating the specialized hybrid talent required, (4) underestimating the volume of content required, and (5) a complex user interface that impedes adoption. All things being equal, choose the system whose interface is least intimidating to your Sales and Marketing teams. Even the most advanced, feature-rich system has no value if your teams struggle to use it. Focus on defining your needs for today and in the near future. Plan too far out, and you run the risk of overbuying. Studies show that “the most commonly used marketing automation features are email marketing (89%), lead nurturing (84%), integrations with other software (CRM, mobile, social media, etc.) for centralizing customer intelligence (80%) and cross-channel campaign management (82%).”
10. Review. Refine. Reset.
The unfortunate use of the word “automation, suggests that you can “set it and forget it,” when it comes to marketing automation, and nothing could be further from the truth. We live and work in a near-constant state of disruption today, making and managing changes on an ongoing basis. Take the time throughout the year to periodically review the rules and processes you’ve set up. Refine and reset criteria based on learnings over time. Also check with Sales and IT regularly to make sure you all remain aligned. Changes in growth strategy, organizational structure, management, people and your CRM typically necessitate a re-evaluation of rules and processes, the scope of which is determined by the scope of the change to the business.
A better way to think about marketing automation is to think of it as marketing intelligence management.
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For more than 25 years, Patti Soldavini, Global Marketing Director, at SGK, has pushed the boundaries of marketing and creativity to connect brands with consumers, using leading edge technology to drive results. Working on both the client and agency sides of the business across the entertainment, retail and pharmaceutical industries, she has served in marketing leadership positions for the New York Cable Marketing Co-op and IMS Health and in creative leadership positions for HSN and Anthem Worldwide, prior to joining SGK. She is passionate about the intersection of creativity, technology and psychology.