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If you work in the marketing field, you have probably heard of marketing automation—the way Amazon markets their products—and how the trend toward this new system is currently gaining steam. “The marketing automation space is growing rapidly and will continue to do so over the next couple of years, with marketing automation vendors predicting a 60 percent increase in revenue,” says Ian Cleary of VentureBeat.com. But you, being the discerning marketer that you are, want to learn more before jumping on the marketing automation bandwagon.
How do you know if this is a good fit for your company and, if it is, how do you to implement it successfully? Establishing a marketing automation system can require a sizable investment of both time and money, therefore maximizing return on that investment in the form of new revenue and new customers is critical. There are many ways to do this but before you get too far with planning the deployment of your shiny new marketing system, read on to learn how you can avoid the classic pitfalls of this technology.
Understanding Marketing Automation
Unfortunately, the term “marketing automation” has gone the way of “SEO” and “direct marketing,” meaning that it has become a buzz-word clouded by misconceptions of what these systems actually do and what launching and maintaining these systems entails. To clarify, marketing automation refers to software and strategies designed to leverage personalized and targeted content to nurture new leads, convert those leads into customers, and transform those customers into delighted, and hopefully loyal, customers. Marketing automation software generally boasts robust platforms with a variety of customizable tools and features intended to help companies using the software maximize their return on investment.
Does the Shoe Fit?
While it can be a very useful tool, marketing automation is not for every company. To determine whether it is right for your company, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have an established marketing process and marketing goals?
Before you talk about automating your marketing process, assess whether or not you even currently operate a marketing process capable of automation—many small businesses and start-up companies do not. You have to form a well-organized and tested marketing process before you can initiate a successful marketing automation system. The same goes for establishing goals for your marketing process. Clearly outlining your marketing goals will help to determine whether your shop is a good candidate for this technology, as well as help inform your process building if you choose to move to an automated marketing system.
- Are my staff resources adequate to manage the system?
Launching a healthy marketing automation tool requires a substantial investment of time. You will need to build processes, train staff, set up software integration, and migrate data, all of which take up significant staffing resources. After the launch, you will need staff dedicated to managing the system. To avoid purchasing a system that you don’t have the manpower or expertise to utilize properly, test different software trials and carefully evaluate the tool you’re considering against your current staffing resources.
- Do I have enough of the right content?
Marketing automation systems require a lot of content to run properly. Successful marketing campaigns require carefully designed content to draw in leads. Generating enough of this type of content can be a heavy lift for a marketing team, therefore content production capabilities should be thoroughly analyzed when considering a marketing automation system.
- Are we creating a sufficient number of leads?
Even if your database is exploding with quality leads now, as time goes by your nurtured leads will become customers and your database will start to dissolve as unsubscribes, email address changes, job turnover, and other factors take their toll, making conversion more and more difficult. Without enough leads and a reliable process for generating a sufficient number of new quality prospects to work towards purchase, marketing automation will fail.
Rules of Engagement
If you decide that the marketing automation juice is worth the squeeze, there are some tried and true tactics to help keep you afloat as you navigate through the implementation process. Some current best practices include:
- Leverage your interactions across every available marketing channel, such as your website, social media platforms, emails, etc. This expands your opportunities to reach leads and allow you to take advantage of valuable data about their needs and interests.
- Focus your marketing automation system around the prospect. Inbound marketing automation uses all the data you have on a lead to learn what they want, where they want it, and when they need it in order to make a purchase.
- Take into account the changing needs of your prospects.
- Invest enough time. With marketing automation, you really do get out what you put in. If you want high ROI, be prepared to invest the hours.
- Remember that the software is not a panacea. While it can be a powerful resource when used properly, ultimately marketing automation is just one element of a successful inbound marketing solution.
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