These are common issues for those implementing or considering implementing marketing automation systems.

Implementing Marketing Automation is as simple as Crawl, Walk, and Run.

It’s a phrase you hear in a lot of different circles for a variety of reasons. It makes sense that you have to start off on the slowest speed to grow and build confidence. When you start implementing a marketing automation system, if you don’t limit the scope it will be worse than a Golden Retriever in a room full of squirrels. So simplify by limiting the scope and focus on the immediate needs first. Then expand outward as your understanding of your processes and the software grow.

No doubts about it, marketing automation is a great platform for a business of any size to leverage. Marketing Automation can be used to build brand awareness or as a pipeline to drive sales. A recent survey found that businesses using marketing automation increased “Qualified Leads” up to 451%.  But the devil is in the details. How so?  If implemented badly or without solid planning it can sink your business.

The list below is not exhaustive, but will get you started on planning for implementing marketing automation for your business. If you would like more detailed information feel free to comment below or connect with me directly.

How to Start “Crawling” in Marketing Automation

First, define what your company “needs” and “wants” – You might want fancy dashboards and PPC integration, but what do you need right now? How big is your contact list?

How big is your sales team? If you have several sales people, you will need to have lead scoring and lead nurturing. Why? In the digital age, companies need to be able to assess when a prospect is ready to talk or if they are just kicking the tires. It’s estimated that 70% or more of all B2B prospects only call when they are ready to buy. Lead Scoring will lower the amount of time your sales team spends on calling prospects that aren’t ready to buy.

Note that some companies charge you by the size of your database, others by how many unique contacts you send emails to in a month. I prefer the active contact method because it lets you scale your marketing efforts to fit within your business’s cash flow requirements and control costs against what you use. You don’t get penalized for having a huge unused or irrelevant mailing list. When talking to a sales rep about marketing automation you should to ask questions such as:

  • How is the monthly subscription price determined?
  • Does XYZ feature cost extra?
  • What support am I getting for that price?
  • What does “implementation cost?
  • How many users will I get with the service?
  • WILL the marketing automation system work with my existing CRM?

Note: Some platforms have become exclusive to one CRM because that MAS was bought by the CRM company.

Define what success looks like for your company
Have you done a recent marketing audit? Do you know how many leads you are creating in a week? What is the churn rate on those leads? You need to know what your key performance indicators (KPIs) look like before you start.  You will likely end up adding or changing some of your KPIs once you start your marketing automation as you will have a greater awareness of your marketing funnel.

Build an implementation plan
Many companies go into using marketing automation thinking it will turn on and leads will just appear out of thin air.  Keep in mind that “hoping” for something to happen and making a plan to ensure you are making logical decisions in an uncertain environment are two different things entirely.

Budgeting Time
Do not fool yourself into believing that implementing marketing automation will only take a day.  Yes, you can create a cname site and plug in your tracking code to your own website very quickly.  Successful implementation takes careful planning ahead of time. Here’s an example of what happens when a company doesn’t plan well.

For smaller companies, planning and execution require several hours a few times over the course of a week to get everything done. This will keep everything coordinated and not allow any other priorities to drop. A larger firms will want to scope this effort out and make sure all systems are accounted for and connected. It will not require a solid 8 hours a day, every working day for a month of working solely on the system. But it will take time and you need to account for that in your planning.  

Note: If you already have a marketing automation system bringing over contacts and content will also take additional effort.

Document your current marketing & sales processes / touch points
You cannot automate what you don’t understand or know exists. The documentation doesn’t have to be extremely detailed. What is needed is a simple process flow showing:

  • Events that trigger emails to be sent to prospects
  • Phone calls made by the sales team to prospects
  • Tasks that are needed to close deals
  • Content or other items needed

Team Assignment 
Take a moment to consider:

  • What does your marketing team look like?
  • What other major projects are you working on currently?
  • Can you dedicate a team member (several team members for larger marketing automation systems)?
  • If not, can you afford to hire a consultant to come in and build your mailing lists, nurture campaigns, scoring tables, and make sure all the connections are properly established?

Require key team members to take the training and get certified
If it’s offered, get all of your key marketing and sales team members to take the training.  Knowing how your marketing automation system works is a huge advantage for your team. Training will provide major ROI later on when the system is running correctly.

How to start “walking” using Marketing Automation

Leverage all of the resources from the marketing automation company
Does the Marketing Automation Company provide free training or do they outsource it to a 3rd party? Does the company have a customer support center number you can call?  Is it free support or do you have to purchase it as a separate package? Some companies offer free tech support, but the support staff isn’t located in the US.  I find it to be very satisfying to be able to reach someone from the US on the phone that understands the software in 30 seconds without concern of extra fees.

Build one form, one landing page, and one contact list
Don’t make your system complicated out of the gate. One main list will allow you to segment your customers based on activity through dynamic lists.  The key is to get moving by getting it up online and getting new contacts into your MAS. A general contact us form is usually the best way to go unless you have a bunch of content and have been using another system for a while.

Setup the baseline Lead Scoring method recommended by the company
Unless you know Marketing Automation and your own pipeline well, use the baseline system.  There will be so much going on with implementation that you will need time to think and see how your prospects react to content and your website before you make calculated small adjustments.  Remember, small changes over time produce better and greater results.

Develop a procedure to recycle leads
Your Lead Scoring program will not be perfect out of the gate. If you managed to perfect it from the start, you could write a book to teach others how to perfect their system and retire in style. Since it won’t be perfect, you will need to develop a procedure where sales can hand a lead back to marketing to nurture the lead till it’s ready to be tried again.

How to start running with Marketing Automation

Review and revise goals within 3 months of starting operation
Why 3 months? It’s a reasonable timeframe of operation. You should be able see some effects of marketing automation on your process within that timeframe.

Optimize your lead scoring program
Three months after you have completed implementation, you should have enough actionable data to make refinements to your lead scoring program.  You should be able to see what patterns are emerging in prospects that look at certain types of content and then purchase or actions that don’t result in purchases.  The key action here is to create stronger leads and direct those leads to sales sooner by increasing the value of actions that result in closed sales and discounting the actions that don’t. Again, small changes make for better results and higher ROI.

Refine lead nurture program(s)
In the same line of logic as optimizing the lead scoring program, you will want to review and refine the lead nurture program every three months or so.

  • Is the program producing the same amount of leads on a weekly or monthly basis?
  • If so, can you double down and get more leads out of the program?
  • If not, look at what you are offering in content.
  • Review your subject lines (hint – shorter subject lines convert better).
  • Is the content out of date?
  • What time and day of the week are you sending the emails
  • All of these items can impact your nurture program. You should use the data you’ve collected to determine what is important and impacting your programs and what changes you can make to make it operate better.  

Also see this article written by another great marketing mind.  

 Again, I can’t stress this enough, don’t change too much too soon. Drastic changes will negatively impact your ROI.

Refine and build new content to address gaps
You will find that some of your content will become dated fairly quickly and other pieces of your content will continue to work quite well for longer periods of time. You should supplement and create new content as frequently as possible. In addition to the traditional items, the term content includes:

  • Landing pages
  • Forms
  • Images

Talk to your sales team and identify questions that they are getting on a regular basis. Then create content that will address those issues.

That should help you address most of the common issues. If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to send me an email or a connection request.