The skill required to set up and run marketing automation software is a clear example of marketing’s ongoing redefinition as a technical sport, rather than just an idea factory.
For example, VentureBeat has identified 28 different use cases for marketing automation platforms (MAPs). With more than two dozen ways to use the software, is it really surprising that some 56 percent of marketers feel setting up their MAP and onboarding their personnel is a challenge?
In an era awash with SaaS products boasting about easy setup processes, marketers have come to expect a degree of simplicity with their software. But few — if any — marketing tools require the realignment and infrastructure configuration of automation software.
MAPs demand careful planning because they let marketers engage with prospects over an extended period of time. VentureBeat also found that one out of every three marketers using automation said the software helps them engage with prospects throughout 70 percent of the buyer’s journey.
But that type of sustained engagement comes after you set up the software and all the processes that go with it. To help you get through that epic journey, here are six steps to follow.
1. Get Buy-In from Important People
At a minimum, your automation platform will change the way your sales and web analytics teams work. Most tools track the way your prospects behave on your website and use that information to create multi-touch analytics inside the prospect’s profile. These analytics are powerful, but your web team will need to help you them set up and make any future adjustments.
Sales will also undergo a similar process change because they’ll now have significantly more information about the leads Marketing passes to them. Getting everyone on board can be a challenge, so it’s critical to involve leaders from these departments in the implementation process. This will simultaneously convince those complementary departments to embrace the benefits of automation and avoid having the system work in a silo.
2. Create a Roadmap with Goals for Implementation
An overwhelming 76 percent of marketers say that if they had to install marketing automation a second time, they would use better preparation and build better processes. It’s easy to get carried away with all the great features an MAP places at your fingertips. It’s also easy to get overwhelmed by the depth of the software.
Either way, preparation is everything. If you have a managed account with an implementation specialist, listen to their expertise and follow the plan you set up with them. If not, then set up a plan of your own, complete with goals and milestones.
When you create those goals remember to start small. Define the most important pieces of the system — the ones that you want to use right away — and focus on getting those up and running; then turn to some of the broader stuff, such as integration and so on.
Starting small allows you to slowly build a knowledge base with the system and expand it incrementally, rather than diving into the deep end. It also protects you from any major snafus. Automation is powerful stuff, so if you set up numerous processes without having a solid grasp on mechanics of the software, there’s a good chance you’ll send something out you didn’t intend to.
3. Watch the Training Videos
Seriously, watch the training videos. Even if you have an implementation specialist guiding you through the training, don’t skimp on the self-directed learning.
Are these vendor-made videos entertaining pieces of media? No. Are they the best source of information about the complex piece of software you just purchased? Yes.
Watching the videos and applying what you learned immediately after you’ve completed the training is the fastest way to build up your automation skills — which are sorely lacking from the market, by the way.
4. Develop a Lead Management Process with Sales
The partnership between Marketing and Sales is the most important part of making marketing automation successful. Because MAPs arm marketers with the tools to engage prospects over such a large part of the buyer’s journey, the end result from any of nurturing program should be leads that Sales can’t wait to call.
However, that’s not always the case, which is a consequence of not developing mutual processes and standards between the two departments regarding lead scoring and lead qualification. Without that agreement between the two departments, the automation software will only make marketers more efficient, not more effective.
When the departments do work together with automation software, the results can be impressive. SiriusDecisions found B2B organizations with tightly aligned Sales and Marketing teams achieve 24 percent faster revenue growth.
5. Sync Your Content Creation
Automation software runs on content, so it’s important to integrate your MAP into the way you use and create media.
First, adjust your content creation process to deliver assets that serve multiple audiences. For example, you don’t only want to write an article that targets your blog readers; you also want to produce content you can use to nurture prospects who may be interested in buying your product or service.
Second, use the analytics from your automation platform to inform the topics you choose to send in your nurturing programs. Which pieces did the best from a click-through and conversion standpoint?
There’s also the small matter of creating content specifically for your nurture programs, like an invitation to talk to your sales team or to sign up for a free trial. To make your content and automation team work hand in hand, all of these processes must be implemented and scheduled accordingly.
6. Choose the Right Software
Do you really need all 28 use cases cited earlier for marketing automation?
Probably not. So don’t buy a system that contains an unnecessary smorgasbord of features. The best marketing automation software isn’t defined purely by its features list, but rather by its usability and relevance to your business goals.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done. The marketing automation industry contains some 200 vendors at this point. But if you’re considering automation, then it’s quite likely you have a legitimate business need for the software. So build a list of requirements and conduct due diligence. Then you can turn the huge number of vendors to your advantage by isolating the best options and only choosing from that shortlist.
As with any technology, marketing automation will continue to become more user-friendly as the market matures. However, it’s difficult to simplify the tasks of building internal business processes to make sure the software helps deliver a tangible ROI. That’s up to you.
These six steps are an excellent starting point. Follow them and you’ll be in a strong position to succeed.
About the Author: Zach Watson is marketing operations analyst at TechnologyAdvice. He covers marketing automation, healthcare IT, business intelligence, HR, and other emerging technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.