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How to Avoid Marketing Automation Disaster: 6 Essential Pre-Planning Steps

Posted on Aug 13th, 2015
Written by Alexis Hall
In this article

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    As sales cycles increase and buyers become more informed, marketing automation is on the tip of the tongue of almost every marketer you talk to today. In fact, research has found that 79% of top-performing companies have been using marketing automation for more than 2 years.

    Over the past five years, I’ve consulted with clients as marketing automation conversations evolved from “what’s that” to “someday” through to the vendor selection, planning, implementation and measurement of a system. Interestingly, 78% of successful marketers cite marketing automation systems as most responsible for improving revenue contribution, but getting from the “someday” to the “planning” can be daunting.

    In my experience, there are typically two paths that companies go down when exploring marketing automation. On one hand, I’ve seen companies leverage marketing automation systems and effectively use it to nurture and qualify leads to grow revenue. On the other end of the spectrum, kinks in implementation or lack of resources and content has led to marketing automation being used simply as an email delivery system, rather than a system to score and nurture leads.

    When a marketing automation initiative goes awry, the reason can often be tracked back to the first conversations about marketing automation initiatives. It is so important that the entire team is aligned, expectation are clear and resources are readied. So if you are wondering if you are ready for marketing automation, or starting to plan, or looking to ensure the success of your big launch, start by answering these six questions.

    Six Marketing Automation Pre-Planning Questions

    #1 – What is the organizational goal you hope to achieve with Marketing Automation?

    Although the end goal of marketing automation is likely to increase sales, there should be different benchmarks along the way. Prior to launching a marketing automation system, discuss with your sales and marketing team the current pain points and first steps to meeting potential objectives:

    • Increase the number of leads throughout the pipeline
    • More effectively nurture top of funnel leads toward the middle and bottom of the sales funnel
    • Help the sales team efficiently identify and close “hot leads”

    Marketing automation can certainly help achieve any of these goals and identifying your company’s top pain points will help you prioritize. For example, if your objective is to nurture top of funnel prospects, then start by building a nurture campaign targeting prospects that have downloaded content in the past, and feed them content progressively deeper in the funnel as they take action.

    #2 – What is the health of your current database?

    Is your database filled to the brim with relevant, engaged prospects? Do your existing email marketing efforts have average to high deliverability and open rate? Great news! This means that your marketing automation efforts will likely be reaching a targeted user base that is likely to convert.

    However, if your contact list is out of date and you have a high rate of undelivered emails, then it may appropriate to do a database cleanse prior to beginning a marketing automation initiative.

    If you delivery rate is high, but open rates are lagging, then consider evaluating your list segmentation and targeting. One of the first steps is to segment your list by:

    • Customer vs. Prospect
    • Job title
    • Industry
    • Relevant services
    • Engagement

    This step will enable you to develop and launch nurture campaigns, which are highly relevant to your audience and more likely to be acted on.

    If your list is looking a little light, then use this as an opportunity to start building a list of relevant, opted in prospects via promotion on your website, content assets and social channels.

    #3 – What content assets are available?

    High quality content is a critical must-have for exploring a marketing automation strategy. Begin by completing a content audit of your existing assets. Categorize your content by:

    • Target persona
    • Stage of the buying cycle
    • Topics
    • Gated Open

    Once you have completed the audit you will be able to identify areas of opportunity to round out your content mix.

    Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of existing content to drip to your prospects. Dedicate phase one your marketing automation efforts to the segment where you have the most opportunity and the most content.

    Be sure to map content creation into long-term planning to adequately build out subsequent nurture campaigns.

    Look for opportunities to repurpose and repackage content to ease the content creation efforts.

    #4 – Do you have the resources to dedicate to the planning, implementation and measurement of a marketing automation system?

    Marketing automation systems can vary greatly in function, complexity and the amount of support they provide. Regardless, in order to derive the most value from the software provide several team members with the time and resources required in order to train, plan and implement. Plan for marketing automation team roles, including:

    • Strategist/Planner
    • Project Manager
    • Copywriters
    • Web Developer
    • Marketing Technology Administrator
    • Analyst

    If you have a smaller team, then some team members may very well have more than one role, but make sure that each one is clearly defined and assigned.

    #5 – Are sales and marketing aligned?

    One of the primary goals of a marketing automation system is to ensure the sales team is able to identify and close “hot leads”.

    To make this process is seamless, ensure that your sales and marketing team are in alignment in before you launch any marketing automation system. Everyone should know:

    • What makes a good lead?
    • How are leads scored and qualified?
    • At what point in the process is a lead contacted by sales? And how?

    Having these conversations prior to launch will help set expectations across the team, as well as open the door between them. Ongoing communication will be critical as you roll out to ensure the right leads are getting to the right people at the right time.

    #6 – What does success look like?

    In order for everyone to feel good and satisfied with a marketing automation launch, sit your team (sales, marketing, and executives) down to establish what success will look like in 3, 6 months to 1 year. Developing and refining nurture campaigns which turn top of funnel leads into sales revenue takes time. Establish your benchmark prior to launch and then another 3 months later. Use this in order to set goals for the rest of the year.

    Start Planning for the Future

    Marketing automation can be the boost you need in order to accelerate revenue. However, it’s probably a pretty big investment for your team in terms of time and money. So whether you’ve got in penciled into your marketing plan for 2015 or 2018, start planning now.

    What are some of your burning questions that you need answered in order to determine if your team is ready for marketing automation?

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