Four Essential Implementation Steps for Successful Marketing Automation

shutterstock_88651984We know that marketing automation (MA) platforms present deep potential for marketers to enhance connections with prospects – nothing mind-boggling there. A less broadly accepted concept, though, is that implementing MA for the greatest return takes work – quite a lot of work actually. Fail to respect the challenges MA presents, and your road will be long and possibly end at a large cliff. But follow these four systematic steps during the implementation process and the road to maximizing shiny, new MA technology will be smooth sailing.

Prep the surface: The importance of data cleanliness in your CRM

While cleaning up data in your company’s existing CRM may not seem like a high priority, the old adage, “junk in – junk out” sums it up pretty nicely here. Because the new system is going to use the same data already in your CRM, existing issues of duplicates or incorrect entries will be compounded if not preemptively fixed.

This is also a good time to standardize names and formats going forward. If some customer addresses use “USA” as the country value, while others use “U.S.A.” or “US,” you have a problem. Although those little periods in “U.S.A” may not seem like a big deal, in the world of data it equates to an entirely different value. Fixing issues like this before plugging the data into your new MA will prevent amplifying the problem of having the wrong information, disparate formats, or both.

Take this opportunity to fix inconsistencies and create guidelines or templates for correct entry going forward. This way, the information that goes into your new MA system will be clean, correct and ready to reach the customer. If you haven’t had a lot of database exposure, there are some great online resources providing everything from general best practice overviews through actual best practice templates and tutorials on the exact steps to take.

Prep your people and focus on process

It’s tempting to imagine that as soon as you import your customer information into the new MA tool, it will immediately start yielding strong sales prospects. But like most initiatives, you get out of it what you’re willing to put into it. Spend time training company stakeholders in the specific capabilities of the new system. Put the time investment in so that everyone involved knows what a successful campaign will look like, what it will take to build, and how to use the data revealed for future campaign improvement.

There is a lot of jargon, technical knowledge and best practices to learn about any MA system. It’s a piece of technology, not a magic cure: If you don’t know how to use it, it won’t work any better than marketing without a technology platform. Make the monetary investment to bring in training experts. Be sure to prioritize teaching all associates who will use the tool for their unique roles in the implementation. Marketing professionals will need different training than the sales team, and how C-level executives use the tool will be different than how interns will. Having a tailored, deliberate approach to training will ensure you’re not wasting your technology investment on a tool no one knows how to use correctly.

Back to the basics of buyer personas

Having a specific approach to your MA tool applies to how you approach your contacts, as well. Think closely about what information you’re trying to capture with the new technological capabilities of the MA system. What specific behavioral data are you hoping to capture? What are the pain points of each type of contact to whom you are sending information? What content would those contacts be interested in consuming?

When you begin to think about having a truly tailored conversation with your buyers, you’ll quickly realize how much work it is – various versions of emails, different content delivery, or different imagery. If you have more than six buyer personas, there is likely quite a bit of overlap between them. Examining exactly what is different about those buyers and what they want may allow you to combine a few, saving you time and resources. Writing targeted content is key to successful MA, so make sure you know who you are approaching and what kind of behavior you hope to track for each. This is a very important step in a profitable implementation.

The cliché that matters: Content really is still king

It may seem overly simplistic, but it’s true: Your MA is only as good as the content you have for your contacts to consume. You can’t expect engagement with a blank or sales-laden email. Thinking closely about what each of your buyers is interested in reading and then developing that – even before MA implementation – is the single most important step in seeing a return on your investment.

Many businesses don’t have a content pipeline that spans their complete sales funnel. If a company distributes fact-based benefits analyses on their product for late-stage customers, the casually interested prospect who might want a simpler overview often ends up neglected in the process. If a company has a sleek high-level asset, an opportunity might be missed by failing to also include a data-backed deal-closer. Examining what a prospect might be interested in learning at each stage of the process will greatly enhance your content library. If you only have resources to develop one new content asset, invest in a large ebook heavy with statistics, data points and specific text. You can then pick out separate pieces of this content and data to use in other assets, including one-sheets, infographics, and even social media posts.

Using these four steps, your MA implementation will be smarter, sleeker and better poised to succeed. Remember: it’s technology, not magic. It still requires training, content development and human creativity. But by approaching the tool in a realistic and systematic way, and holding onto appropriate expectations, MA can deliver strong sales and marketing value for your business.

About the Author: 

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Andrea Lechner-Becker is the VP of marketing services at LeadMD. She brings a feisty passion for all things digital marketing. With seven years of managing various CRM and emarketing platforms, Andrea dives headfirst into cutting-edge technology and revels in finding, testing and optimizing the “next big thing.” With a degree in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse and a minor in Art, Andrea brings a unique combination of creativity and hard-hitting marketing knowhow.

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