Getting Ready for Marketing Automation

If you’re thinking about diving into a Marketing Automation project, there are some steps you should work through before you take the leap. When we decided at Dittman that we were ready to take our inbound program to the next level, we started to prep for the journey to automation. In this post, I’ll outline the steps we went through – hopefully they’ll help your journey.

1) Do you have the ammunition?

Marketing automation is a wonderful thing, so long as it’s built on a firm foundation of quality content. We had spent the previous twelve months creating a library of white papers, articles and videos, targeted at our major personas, and aligned to the buyer journey. And we had an established editorial calendar, to keep new material flowing.

Make sure you have enough content to support multiple nurturing campaigns, otherwise you’ll be churning out repetitive or uninteresting emails.

2) What will Automation do for your business?

As with any major investment, you need to know what success will look like. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, this could range from a few qualitative goals, to an ROI analysis full of metrics. We set out with a 12 month plan, including some top level goals focused on the theme “Improve the Quality & Velocity of the Sales Funnel”; a set of funnel metrics to track; and some basic goals for the first 90 days:

  • Send our monthly newsletters out through the system and track responses
  • Move all of our calls-to-action on the website into the system
  • Set up at least one nurturing campaign, based around our most-downloaded piece of content

Recent research suggests that the majority of marketers are using automation as a glorified email program. At the other extreme are companies with dedicated “Marketo mavens” who live and breathe automation, and tweak the heck out of every feature. A clear set of goals should avoid either fate (unless you can afford a team of mavens!)

3) A Mini or a Maserati?

There are a lot of technology solutions that claim to make marketing easier. Scott Brinker, in his  Martec landscape chart, identifies 18 “backbone” platforms (Hubspot, Marketo, ActOn etc) and 80+ pure marketing automation & lead management providers. So which one to choose?

marketing technology landscape jan2015With our list of goals (12 month and 90 day), we ran through many of the contenders, and narrowed to a shortlist. All of them provide either canned or live demos, so we spent some time learning what each had to offer.  It became a Goldilocks challenge. The big-names – Marketo, Hubspot et al – have a slick sales process, and can clearly fulfill any marketer’s wishlist. But they also have a huge breadth of capability, and the inevitable complexity that comes with it. Plus, they’re not cheap.

At the lower end of the spectrum, many of the offerings were bare-bones or only covered one or two of the areas we had identified in our needs.

Act-On, however, found the middle ground – just below the Top 5, with a fast-growing capability set, and the attitude of a plucky contender (remember the Avis“We’re #2, so we try harder” ads?).  Their demo, and subsequent conversations, made them the “just right” solution for us.

4) All for one, one for all

Before we began, the sales team was used to receiving a steady stream of “marketing qualified” leads, pulled through our various campaigns on Linkedin, Google and our website. Much of this would be drying up, as we steered those leads into our nurturing campaigns, and it would be a while before stronger, warmer leads started pouring out the other end.

So we had to explain the longer term strategy, show how it would help with their process over time, and refocus the efforts in the meantime. Plus, we shared our demand gen metrics with the leadership team, to show what success would look like, and how we would measure it.

5) Ready, Set….Go?

Integrating marketing automation is a significant undertaking and for us, as in most companies, it was no-one’s full-time task. Every member of the marketing team would be contributing, but they also still had their daily tasks. We set up a 1 hr daily team meeting for the first two months, with the Act-On dashboard on the screen. Depending on the phase, we used this hour for planning, for working through a problem, or for tracking progress. We also thinned down the editorial calendar, and cleared the decks of any major marketing projects for the launch period. Without this discipline, and support from executive management, I doubt our 90 day goals would have been possible.

So that’s how we got started. And I can assure you that once you’ve used marketing automation, you’ll never want to work without it again.

Published by Steve Cummins

VP of Marketing at Opengear; B2B marketing professional with global experience, specializing in technology products; Digital marketing enthusiast. Opinions are my own.

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