The Secrets to Stellar Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation FactoryIn a classic I Love Lucy episode, the red-headed comedienne and her sidekick, Ethel Mertz, take a job working the conveyor line at a chocolate candy factory. Noting their early success on the production line, the foreman yells, "Speed it up!" Soon, the pair demonstrates everything that can go wrong with automation. It's classic Lucy as well as a classic example of automation gone awry.

Marketing automation done right is a thing of beauty. (Well, to marketers like me, anyway!) Marketing automation done wrong is just speeding up a broken process. Before you know it, you're stuffing chocolates, er, leads, anywhere you can hide your lack of success from the boss.

1. Automate This!

Go ahead: automate. But first, ask yourself, what content are you automating, exactly?

“Companies rarely have enough of the right content to make marketing automation work,” Jeff Ernst, a principal analyst with Forrester Research, recently told BtoB, the magazine for marketing strategists. “The content you need for nurturing needs to be around business problems and tends to be thought leadership about solving those problems.”

Marketers are frequently challenged by how to implement and achieve marketing automation.  It's not only how to leverage the tools that automate their offerings—from email and search to social media—but access to a comprehensive set of resources to develop the type of relevant content their customers need.

If you have the resources to write compelling, effective blog posts or whitepapers, for example, then you are halfway to the successful launch of an inbound marketing strategy with content that will generate leads for the top of your sales funnel and then propagate and nurture those leads through the middle of the funnel. 

If you don’t have the content creation wherewithal, there exists a range of service providers with whom you can work to drive your editorial strategy across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your website, blog, and search engines. 

Using inbound marketing to create content that is useful, that answers people’s questions, that helps them solve their problems and the social media universe will draw prospects to your digital door like flies to honey.

2. Align That!

All too often, a company’s sales and marketing are out of alignment. Adding marketing automation in and of itself does nothing to bring the two organizations into alignment. In fact, it might makes things worse.

The best companies use marketing automation to generate qualified leads, leads with a detailed lead profile which provide insight into the customer about how they got to you, what activities they engaged in along the way, how often, and when.

Marketers that can hand off a lead to sales which tells them, for example, which LinkedIn group the prospect joined, what blog posts they read or Twitter feeds they subscribed to, along with which whitepapers or ebooks they shared with colleagues, gives the necessary lead intelligence to make alignment a reality.

Sales then knows how the customer came to contact your company, what interests them, and maybe what challenges they’re facing right now. Marketing knows which campaigns, offers, and marketing assets drove sales and how much, so each successive marketing campaign can be more effectively targeted than the previous one.

3. Process the Whole Thing

Marketing automation goes far beyond the implementation of a software tool or platform. In fact, the companies that succeed the most with their marketing automation endeavors recognize two things: marketing automation begins long before the implementation of any given application, and it continues long after. Marketing automation is a process, not a single product.

"Organizations are looking to leverage social communities for marketing, but all too often, people just jump into it," Kim Collins, Gartner's managing vice president of CRM and agenda manager for marketing and sales strategies, processes and technologies, told SearchCRM. “Figure out how people want to be communicated with, how often, and where before you attempt to implement a solution.”

Well-executed marketing automation plans start with just that—a plan. “Before you even start looking for a solution, you should start educating your people about the changes that will be coming, of the strategy that’s changing, how the processes will change, and how the solutions will make them more efficient,” Collins said. “By the time you’ve selected the solution, the training becomes more about how to drive value out of the solution.”

With a lot of moving parts: email, search, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, whitepapers, and ebooks, to name more than a handful, each marketing automation component needs to be timely and relevant from the customer’s perspective. Above else, it needs to be integrated with sales to ensure the customer gets what he needs when he needs it and you get what you need when you need it—a sale.

Marketing Takeaway: Whether you’re automating a candy wrapping line or an inbound marketing machine across multiple social media platforms, take the time to plan the work, then work the plan before you decide it’s time to “Speed it up!”

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