With all the (deserved) hype surrounding marketing automation, is no wonder that many companies, startups especially, are adding the technology as a key component to their marketing activities. Problem is, sometimes the rush to get the software installed and running ends up trampling the creation of processes, content planning, and other key ingredients that are necessary for a successful marketing automation implementation.
But let’s say you got approval and have purchased the marketing automation software of your dreams. Now what? Before you jump into it head first and spend countless hours setting up all the landing pages, workflows, and start messing with scoring models it’s best to take a step back and make sure you and all your team are in sync. So here’s a quick “getting started” guide that looks at the marketing automation implementation process from a 10,000 foot view and gets you ready to used what will become your most important lead generation engine.
Getting Started with Marketing Automation
Step 1: Sales and Marketing Alignment and Documentation
If you did your marketing automation purchase following best practices, the sales team (or at least sales management) was involved to help make the selection. If not, stop what you are doing and meet with the sales leadership. Make sure that you have documented (yes, written somewhere so that everyone can see) a few important definitions such as:
- What is a lead (and expand it to include MQL, SQL, SAL and any other relevant lead stages)?
- What does the sales and marketing funnels look like?
- How and in which stage will marketing hand leads off to sales?
- Will leads be saved to the CRM or will they stay in the MA solution until they are qualified?
- How will marketing get feedback from sales?
Step 2: Buyer Personas
If you don’t have your buyer personas documented yet, now is a good time to get started. Make sure to validate with sales and other relevant departments. The personas will help drive your content marketing efforts and your lead nurturing programs.
Step 3: Content Marketing Audit
Conduct a content marketing audit and have an inventory of your marketing assets. Content drives marketing automation, so the best starting point is to understand what you already have. You can then start leveraging those assets with your marketing automation solution while you and your team craft new content.
Step 4: The Content Marketing Plan
Plug the resulting content inventory into a matrix containing the buyer personas and the sales cycle (different lead stages). The resulting spreadsheet or matrix will show you gaps you have in your content plan and also which content will be used in which stage for which type of buyer. This is the framework you will need for your nurturing campaigns.
Step 5: Scoring Model
Lead scoring is a tool that requires constant refinement and that will become a key element in helping you track your leads through the funnel. Scoring will require involvement of sales, and of understanding what piece of content or which demographical information from your prospect is more relevant when qualifying a lead. You can automate the sending of emails all day long but unless you have a thought-out scoring model you won’t be using the MA system to its full potential. You can go back to that content marketing matrix you created earlier and start plugging scores for the different types of content, or use it to guide conversation with sales on how to score leads.
Step 6: CRM Integration
Sure, during the vendor presentation the integration between CRM and the marketing automation solution was shown as seamless and easy. If you have the standard flavor of Salesforce.com with no customizations or if you are a startup just beginning to make use of the CRM system, then integration won’t be a problem. For other companies where the CRM system has been extensively customized, or if you already had different ways (screens, triggers, etc.) of managing your leads then you need to make sure that the marketing automation software won’t mess things up especially with how your sales team operates (another great reason to involve sales early in the process). Basically, make sure you understand how the integration works and how leads will be synced to the CRM and what the feedback loop looks like.
Step 7: Short-Term and Long-Term Marketing Automation
You can’t wait to get started, and that’s fine, but think ahead and create a short-term versus long-term plan. There are many things you can start doing right now, such as working on the registration pages and ensuring all web-based content is being captured by the MA system, leveraging existing marketing assets and start creating simple nurturing campaigns, and take advantage of events and other marketing programs that are around the corner and get your marketing automation system to support them.
As you get started using marketing automation, don’t forget to go back to the content marketing grid or matrix you created and plan for the future. What types of content do you need to create? What messages make sense based on different buyer stages and personas? Map out more complex nurturing flows based on different types of customers, products, and behaviors. Rinse and repeat.
Where to Go From Here
If implementing Marketing Automation seems like a daunting task, then I hope that this short “getting started” guide has helped to break things into smaller, manageable pieces. There are also a few very good free resources on the internet that you can read as you get started, such as:
- 37 Marketing Automation Best Practices, by David Raab
- Quick Guide to Marketing Automation, by Michael Leander
- How to Build and Operate a Content Marketing Machine, by SEOMoz
- Grande Guide to Lead Nurturing, by Eloqua
- Demand Generation: Marketo’s Secret Sauce, by Marketo
- The Definitive Guide to Lead Scoring, by Marketo
- I Have a Marketing Automation System, Now What?, by MarketingProfs