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6 things to consider before implementing marketing automation

By: Evie Cousineau

Marketing Automation has been around for several years and is very much a part of an integrated marketing strategy. However, depending on the size of your business, your industry and your geographic location, you may still be in the early stages of your marketing automation journey. From my experience of advising, selecting, and implementing marketing automation strategies for clients, I hope you find the following 6 tips and advice useful for you and your team.

1. People and Processes.  Marketing Automation is a great technology platform which provides a single view of how customers and prospects respond and interact to your business communication. It is not the solution of all marketing challenges and should never be perceived as such, you need to be realistic and set expectations from the outset. Too often it is viewed as an opportunity to reduce headcount without recognizing that the skill set required to operate this technology just shifts. If you are looking to implement marketing automation, two essential ingredients for success are (1) the right people with the necessary skills and understanding to implement and manage the tool and (2) robust, well thought out business processes - how does the platform integrate with existing processes and if there are no existing processes then these need to be identified.

2. Data.  Make sure it is clean. Marketing automation platforms are engines and just like any other engine, you have to feed it with the right oil (Data) or it just won't run efficiently and effectively. Targeting the right persona is key to any successful marketing campaign. Insight into buyer persona data is already at your fingertips. The process by which existing prospects have been converted to a customer provides valuable information to use during the marketing cycle. If you review your data and ask yourself what makes a great customer, then the findings can be aggregated into stereotypes - perhaps 4 or 5 different categories of character 'types' who are willing to engage.

3. Content Strategy.  The implementation of a marketing automation platform provides a mix of technology and tactics to have a single view on customers, prospects, and channel partners and to be where customers are at any given time in their life-cycle. However, to keep these stakeholders moving through the life-cycle you must provide relevant content, information, and offers in a segmented or personalized way.  A variety of content adds interest.  Be aware at all times of buyer demographics - different media will appeal to different age groups and gender personas, so ensure a mix of video, infographics, topics, webinars white papers . The more engaging and relevant your content, the more likely your prospects and customers will be to continue to respond to your content and invest time in your brand.

4. Integration.  Marketing automation platforms are great for centralizing marketing information but to take it to the next level you must integrate your platform with your in-house systems, particularly your CRM system and auto sync as much as possible.  Without integration the platform will just become another technology silo. The whole purpose of investing in marketing automation is to save time and money - integration supports and streamlines information between marketing, sales, account management, and customer service and puts the prospect and customer at the center of communication. Take your time in rolling out marketing automation within your business.  Make sure you select the right platform for your business needs. The most expensive platform does not mean it is the right fit for you. Consider features, ease of use, integration to existing technology, product development ,and support as well as pricing (up front cost, add-ons, terms & conditions).  Review Gartner's Marketing Automation Report for a review of some of the leading vendors.

5. Monitoring & Reporting. Marketing automation provides a lot of information, so does your CRM system. Decide from the outset the information you require from your systems and how that is presented to you in a report format which will make it easier for you to provide analytics and metrics to shape your future business strategy.  It is important to be consistent with the information you are using in order to measure on-going success.  In order to report on success you must agree to a definition of the stages of your sales process.  When does a prospect become a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), then a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). The criteria of each is defined within the marketing automation platform.  The ability to 'flex' these criteria is crucial.  Continuous monitoring of your systems and results will help to determine if your criteria is accurately set.

6. Training & Communication.  How will the implementation of marketing automation impact the business?  Make sure you communicate to the business on what you are doing and make everyone aware of the benefits.  It is important that this is not seen as 'just another technology initiative' - make it work and make the business and users raving fans. This is a positive investment with quantifiable results.

Evie Cousineau is the Head of Product Development for Excelerate America, a community-driven business accelerator that helps small businesses excel and grow in the digital economy.

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