Marketing automation can be a great way to reduce costs, improve efficiency and increase conversions in your marketing program. In my last article, “Introduction to Marketing Automation,” I explained some of the basics of what this is all about.
One thing I have learned, though, is that many people mistakenly think that “marketing automation” means that everything about the program will automatically happen for them. But the reality is, successfully implementing a marketing automation program requires quite a bit of planning and advance work.
Here are seven things that you should do before your marketing automation project is launched:
- Determine if marketing automation is a good fit for you. Be sure you’re not just “doing marketing automation” because everyone else is “doing marketing automation.” Get a good understanding of what marketing automation can mean for your organization, your expectations for it, your desired outcomes and whether or not making this happen is actually feasible.
- Ensure you’re starting with a clean database. Marketing automation can be used for both prospects and existing customers. Before you upload your database of existing customers into the system, though, you should take the time to ensure this database is complete and accurate. See my previous articles, “Customer Analysis: Are You Getting the Complete Picture” and “Solve Your Missing Customer Data Problems,” for information about how to do this.
- Segment your customers & prospects. A huge benefit of marketing automation is the ability to vary what you send and when you send it based on pre-defined criteria. This requires segmentation. And what I’ve seen in the field is that people get very frustrated with their marketing automation platform because they don’t have the segmentation done.Of course, in order to segment your customers you need to really understand them. Taking the time up front to study your customers and develop customer profiles and personas will make a big difference in your program’s success.
- Create rules for scoring your customers & prospects. You need to identify ahead of time what makes a “good” prospect (based on the actions they take combined with any other information that you happen to have about them) and what the scoring should be. Which leads should go straight to your sales people, and which will need to be nurtured over time?For example, if someone comes onto your site and downloads a generic article about surveys, they’re probably not a “hot lead.” This is most likely someone who can be put into your drip marketing campaign to gradually receive additional information about surveys. But if someone comes onto your site, downloads three articles about specific aspects of surveys, requests your free e-book about surveys and then clicks on your Contact Us page, you might want to label them a “hot lead” and act accordingly.
- Create rules for taking action. What actions will your marketing automation system take, at what intervals, based on what criteria? You need to map it all out, in detail.
- Develop high quality content up front. You can have a highly complex marketing automation system with amazing capabilities, but if you do not have content to feed into this system the content will not magically appear on its own! After you segment and score your customers and prospects, and create rules for taking action, you need to create all of the content that the system will send. If you really want your program to succeed, I strongly recommend that you create this content (or at least a few months’ worth of this content) before your program launches.As part of this effort you may also want to create a series of email templates that you will use to send this content. From the graphic design standpoint, this can mean creating branded templates with a different “look and feel” for use with different types of information (such as videos, case studies, infographics and white papers).
- Do a soft launch to test the system out. A soft launch is the “walking before you run” phase…and it’s a step that you absolutely do not want to skip. The soft launch will let you start testing your marketing automation system to see what kinds of results you get. Test the system’s capabilities. Test the reactions. Look at your scoring system. Make sure everything is working the way you want it to work.
Need help getting all of this in place so that you can launch a marketing automation system at your organization? Give us a call. We’re here for you.