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Marketing automation made easy

Marketing automation doesn’t have to be intimidating. Columnist Mary Wallace explains how to select the right tool and offers tips for launching a marketing automation project.

Marketing automation, the experts say, is complex. It involves getting segmentation correct, maintaining a clean database and building complex nurture campaigns. Plus, a vast amount of content is needed to make it work.

Given that only 25 percent of Fortune 500 B2B companies have adopted marketing automation, it leads one to believe the experts are indeed correct. But the reality is, marketing automation is quite easy to implement and use.

Understanding marketing automation

Marketer Sheila Kloefkorn describes marketing automation as “the practice of distributing content to a targeted list of contacts, based on predefined actions or scheduled intervals.” The distribution occurs through a software tool that stores contacts, sends emails, hosts landing pages and routes contacts to the next email.

Marketing automation can enhance your company’s relationship with customers and potential consumers by connecting with them as they engage with your content. It empowers marketers to send personal emails to their contacts without having to send hundreds of emails one at a time.

The impact of marketing automation speaks volumes on its business benefits:

  • Marketing automation drives a 14.5-percent increase in sales productivity and a 12.2-percent reduction in marketing overhead.
  • Companies that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience as much as a 451-percent increase in qualified leads.
  • B2B marketers who implement marketing automation increase sales pipeline contribution by anaverage of 10 percent.

Getting started with marketing automation

Selecting a marketing automation tool is no different from purchasing any other product. Start with understanding (and documenting) your business’s needs, budget, processes and staff availability and expertise.

Then take a look at the available options. With 50+ leading marketing automation tools available, it’s easy to find an option that fits.

Before finalizing your selection, ask for a trial account. This is just like test-driving a new car before buying it.

Make sure your selection fits into the culture of your organization. The better it suits your culture, the greater the impact to the business.

A plan for implementing and using your shiny new marketing automation tool ensures success. The plan should include training your team, process modification and organization communication.

Marketing automation success

Start simple. Success doesn’t mean kicking off with an exhaustive list of complex projects. Success is working with the business step by step to better engage and convert prospects by harnessing the functionality that is now at your fingertips.

Here are six tips for launching a marketing automation project:

  1. Select a business need and qualify it. For example, would your sales team benefit from a welcome communication series when a prospect signs up on your website?
  2. White-board the process of what will happen from beginning to end. For example: A new prospect downloads a white paper. Immediately send them a welcome email. Wait five days. If they do not sign up for your product, send them an email. Wait 10 days. If they clicked on your email, send them a message that discusses the topic further. If they didn’t click on the email, send them another message letting them know you’re here to help.
  3. Build out the logic flow in your marketing automation system. Typically, there is more than one way to build out logic, so don’t worry if it’s not exactly what somebody else would do. What’s important is that the logic supports the business flow.
  4. Test your logic by placing data into the campaign logic and watching what happens. Test all the different options to make sure the flow works as expected. Use records associated with your internal team until you’re ready to go live.
  5. Once your logic is solidified, migrate it to where your prospects will interface with it.This might mean attaching it to a website form or uploading leads and prospects into your campaign.
  6. Monitor your program for opportunities to optimize. This might mean changing the copy in an email or modifying the flow of your logic. Keep a laser focus on the optimal engagement of your prospects and how best to lead them to a purchase.

Salesforce found that marketing automation was among one of the most piloted marketing technologies last year. Once implemented, it increases organizations’ efficiency and streamlines both the marketing and sales processes.

Just as important, when used correctly, it can help shorter sales cycles and close deals more quickly.

In many organizations, marketing automation has become the hub around which all other tools in the marketing stack align (e.g., website, customer relationship management).  But that doesn’t mean it has to be complex. What it means is that marketing automation is the key ingredient to very successful marketing organizations.

by Mary Wallace
source: Marketing Land