Marketing Automation Prep: 3 Steps and You’re Ready to Roll

Growing companies often want to make marketing automation part of their lead gen strategy, but success requires the right technology and a clear strategic vision. Learn how to determine whether you need marketing automation and how to deploy it in a way that builds your pipeline instead of clogging it.

Marketing automation can often sound like the silver bullet to solve expansion-stage companies’ resource problems. You automate the tasks that your already-stretched marketing and sales teams have to deal with, freeing up their time and jumpstarting your lead generation machine. What’s not to like?
Well, before you make that dream a reality, you need to ensure that your marketing strategy and your existing technology are ready for this brave new automated world. Here are three steps you should take to help you with your marketing automation prep.

Step 1: Take Stock and Set the Table

In order to get a handle on whether you’re primed for marketing automation, consider the technology your company currently uses. Look at the number of prospects or contacts that you have in your database(s). If you’re using Salesforce.com or SugarCRM, as well as an email service provider, you likely have two separate sets of contacts in each tool. Add in Excel spreadsheets where you cataloged all of the attendees from any recent events, and you are looking at several disparate contact lists.
Marketing automation creates one central repository of contacts from your disparate lists and determines which prospects should be in front of sales. The other contacts are scored according to what they were looking at on your website over a period of time and other criteria that you need to be ready to define. Once scores reach a certain level, they trigger emails to those prospects and alerts to salespeople.
In order for automation to be effective, foundational technology like a CRM tool needs to be in place. Even more importantly, you need to be ready to shift away from a piecemeal approach of tracking and contacting prospects one by one. Remember, marketing automation isn’t about tacking on a new set of activities as much as it is changing the way you carry out your marketing strategy.

Step 2: Define Your Goals by Developing Use Cases

Every company wants to grow its pipeline and bring in more quality leads. But before investing in marketing automation, you need to look beyond broad goals to have a clear understanding of how you will define the success of your new initiative.

Find out how to establish a common lead definition that’s right for you.

qualified sales lead How Should We Define a Qualified Sales Lead?

  • Consider what you want from marketing automation: An easy way to put your finger on it is to develop use cases around how you envision marketing and sales interacting more efficiently with the help of an automation tool. Think about how your teams are executing now, and where there are opportunities to improve.
  • Speak with both your marketing and sales teams to find out how each defines a lead: This may sound like an unnecessary step, but marketing and sales tend to disagree about what a qualified lead looks like. Sales often has very specific criteria around what constitutes a lead, whereas marketing is more focused on filling the funnel and qualifying leads over time. As long as both teams are on the same page about which leads sales should respond to and which leads are better off in a marketing drip campaign, then everyone is aligned and ready for automation.

Step 3: Choose the Right Vendor by Putting Those Use Cases to Use

Armed with your specific use cases and departmental alignment, you’re ready to start evaluating vendors. You will have no shortage of options, so get a sense of what your price point is first and focus on vendors in your budget.
Marketing automation systems range widely in terms of complexity. Consider your current technology and whether you’re ready/willing to take advantage of a more robust system. If all you need is a more basic tool to collect your disparate lists of prospects and bring a process to your pipeline, then look for simpler software that’s better suited to your company.
After narrowing down your choices, go through your use cases with each vendor. Stick to specifics instead of having salespeople demo the entire frontend of their software and everything it can do. If you want to see how a multi-wave, multi-channel campaign that incorporates your website and your content would benefit from a vendor’s automation software, then make that a use case and a point of discussion. Be as specific to your needs as possible so that you come away with a better sense of how each tool will perform expressly for you.

Additional Resources for Marketing Automation Prep

To start familiarizing yourself with automation best practices, and to read some helpful implementation guides, visit vendor websites, such as:

Or for more third-party information, try the following:

What was/is the biggest challenge your company has faced implementing marketing automation?

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