How to get started with Marketing Automation

 

You have heard the benefits of using Marketing Automation before. At the most basic level, it is the execution of pre-defined sequences, based on triggers/actions that can be used for both customer-facing and internal processes. It is minimising the need for manual repetitive and/or time-consuming tasks for you and your team. It improves your personalisation capabilities as well as your reporting. It helps align marketing and sales.

In a nutshell, Marketing Automation is designed to increase sales and maximize efficiency for companies with complex sales cycles by managing prospect interactions and marketing campaigns in one place. For more details see also our previous blog post on marketing automation foundations. In this article however, I will cover where to start with MA.

I have worked with my fair share of different marketing automation technologies over the years, and while there are some differences in how easy, intuitive or capable the solutions are, the prep work for a successful launch is similar.

Set clear goals and expectations early on

Before you schedule demos with marketing automation vendors like HubSpot, Pardot or Marketo (a.k.a. the fun part), have a sit down within your organisation to clearly define your goals and expectations. Once you understand what MA can help you with, see which parts are applicable to your business ambitions. Be as specific and explicit as you can when you write down your list of objectives.

Ask yourself, what are you trying to achieve? What are the business objectives or challenges you are trying to address with MA? What would be some measurable KPIs to show how well your MA setup is working?

Some common goals include increasing the number of leads in nurturing stages, improving your response rates & times, as well as lead scoring/grading related objectives from your handover to sales. Increasing sales is an obvious one, but you should also expect to improve your customer retention and satisfaction. Other specific goals could be increasing your email list by x number or improving email open rates, customer satisfaction or conversions (downloads etc.) by x percentage. Most MA technologies come with useful reporting, so you can always keep track of, and refine your goals later.

Some of the expectations that need to be clear however are:

  • Marketing Automation takes time and effort to set up

  • Is not a once-off project

  • MA complements (but does not replace) your marketing strategy

  • Is dependent on a number of variables to be successful (e.g. content, web traffic, leverage)

  • Is a cross-functional, ongoing initiative that requires resources, skills and attention

Get your team and assets organised before launch

Chances are you have your marketing material in folders. Maybe on your desktop, or hopefully in shared drives. Whitepapers, text templates, your favourite graphics and brand approved logos etc., probably in a few different versions or revisions. Do yourself and your team a big favour by using consistent naming conventions and folder structures. Anticipate growth of your marketing asset library, anticipate growth of your team. The more organised your material is, the easier it is for you and others to navigate and utilise.

When you copy your material into your marketing automation tool of choice, it is critical to apply a logical set up. Maybe you have material for different markets and languages, different core businesses? Different file formats? Different owners maybe? You would be surprised how quickly your library can get out of hands when not managed properly.

As important as the marketing material itself it is also to manage the various permission levels for team members. Who needs access, who can make changes, who can add/edit/delete material? Many of those aspects are managed through various user roles right within your MA tool. Dedicate some time and thought for getting a good foundation in place, knowing that it is easier to make changes later than to start from scratch.

It is worth mentioning here that marketing automation works best when you already have some great content to work with lined up (evergreen whitepapers, case studies, how-tos, industry reports, newsletters etc.). However, by forcing yourself to stay organised, you will also quickly notice if there are gaps in your customer journey touchpoints.

Needless to say your automated email sequences need content to truly nurture and engage your leads. Refer to your customer journey map for content input and remember quality always tops quantity. Brainstorm and draft up use cases that would benefit different areas within your operations, see some examples below:

Some ideas to get your creative juices flowing - use marketing automation tech for…

Some ideas to get your creative juices flowing - use marketing automation tech for…

Technology is (typically) not an issue

Alright, now that we have the foundations squared it is time to talk about technology. If you are a regular reader of our content, you know Peregrine’s approach is process > tech > people. The good news is, with modern marketing automation, you don’t really have to worry about the technology too much. Established players will have similar functionalities and capabilities. All common ones are cloud based SaaS that will not take up any of your server space, bandwidth or other hardware resources. Many also have a variety of out-of-the-box integrations to make your life easier.

Having said that, when picking your MA solution, you will want to make sure the tool fits in nicely with your existing tech stack since the more you depend on 3rd party integrations, the more vulnerable to disruptions your setup may become. When you are narrowing down your options and start talking to vendors, make sure you fully understand the technical requirements on their end and present them to your IT team for input and follow up questions.

It is unlikely (and not recommended) that your marketing automation is an IT owned adventure. But in addition to involving IT in the requirements part of your vendor research, you will need their help later - for instance for placing JavaScript tracking code onto your page(s), implementing iframe code for your web forms, creating CNAME records for tracker domains, and implementing email authentication. Most MA technologies work very similar in that way and provide you with a checklist of to-dos in chronological order that you can almost hand over to IT.

If you have questions around MA and/or what to look for when hooking it up to your existing tools, please reach out. There are circumstances when we would recommend going with (or staying away from) specific solutions, depending on the other tech in play at your company. For the most part though, compatibility issues should not give you much of a headache.

It’s a team effort

Make sure you have leadership buy-in and sponsors/allies up and down the food chain. Marketing automation is not something you just try with a few folks in your marketing crew. If done right, it is as much of a game changer for the entire organisation (Marketing, Sales, IT, CS etc.) as it is a commitment from the entire organisation. This is particularly true when your marketing automation is being integrated with your CRM, social media management, paid advertising, analytics, search engine optimisation, competitor analytics, customer service or any other digital areas of your operational setup.

Promote your ambitions early on, get people excited about your plans, show them how marketing automation can transform and improve their ways of working. Get people involved, then share the work and the fruits of your labour.

Get in touch if you need help with your Marketing Automation selection or setup

You may have a breakthrough product or service, but if your target consumers are unaware of it, your business may not achieve its fullest potential. Successful customer acquisition, conversion and retention are the result of a holistic marketing strategy, which marketing automation solutions are designed to not only support, but scale up and elevate.

While you can implement MA in organisations of all sizes, we typically see companies start talking about it once their lead generation and nurturing can no longer effectively be managed manually. Who has the time or patience to draft up personalized responses to each contact, right? Who remembers important dates (like contract renewal) for an ever growing user base? Who wants to manually invite contacts to your events?

Even a relatively small investment in marketing automation tends to bring solid returns which can seriously strengthen your business. You will not only be able to improve output (and accountability) of your marketing team, but by replacing manual repetitive work with automated rules/campaigns, you can also free you up yourself and your team to focus on other tasks.

And remember, Marketing Automation is not a strategy - it's merely a tactical tool helping you increase the efficiency of your marketing execution as part of your overall digital strategy.

As always, I am looking forward to your questions and feedback.