This post contains older information, but has been left up for historical reasons. For more up-to-date information, please see our Lead Generation Hub .

From vendors jumping into the mix like kids at a wave pool to prospects trying to figure out which end of the pool is right for them, you can’t deny it. Marketing automation is all the rage.

You may have noticed that several lists have surfaced recently which extol the virtues of marketing automation and compare the players in the space. Unfortunately, at this point with Marketing Automation, it’s still very difficult to make sense of the options. Just take a look at the variety in Forrester's fall Lead Management Automation Market Overview ,  David Raab's thoughts on demand generation vendors and Jep Castelein's post Choosing a Demand Generation System . This recent flurry of interest led me to muse over the holiday weekend about what a small or medium business needs to do to prepare themselves for marketing automation. 

What's to Automate if You've Got a Lead Generation Problem? The old adage in computing was 'Garbage In, Garbage Out'.  The same is true for the automation of virtually any process. If your marketing strategies and tactics today are not marketing-automation-or-marketing-transformation delivering the desired results, then automating them is not going to improve the situation.  Automation may just make it easier, and possibly more expensive, to achieve the same lackluster results.

Don't Automate Until You're Happy With Your Tactics. If you’re not satisfied with your current marketing results, then you must reinvent your marketing before you consider automating anything. Move away from traditional tactics, like cold-calling and trade shows. Buy less advertising and invest more time perfecting Inbound Marketing techniques that can deliver more leads at lower costs.  

Only Automate Your Best Marketing Tactics . Once you transform the way you think about marketing, maybe now, you are ready to automate. Start by measuring what is working for your company and automate the best of your marketing tactics. Instead of trying to fix an old and broken machine with automation, you’ve created a new streamlined marketing machine that fills your sales pipeline with qualified leads.

Learn to Crawl Before You Walk. Though I love the concepts that many of the marketing automation players bring to the table, I worry that marketing automation may be coming too early for many small companies that still need to transform the way they do business.

The concepts I listed above form the underpinning of Inbound Marketing as codified by HubSpot in our software and methodologies. We start at the top of the sales funnel by educating small and medium business on how they can Get Found by their prospects . With our easy to use, integrated lead capturing tools, businesses can then Convert prospects into leads and finally, into customers. Content Creation is also crucial to the development and growth of a pipeline of visitors that may turn into customers; our educational material teaches customers how to create and optimize remarkable content that draws in visitors.

Only then do we encourage our customers to use sophisticated concepts like lead nurturing and marketing automation. 

Choose an Automation Software That Can Help You Deliver Qualified Leads . HubSpot has implemented a number of core marketing automation tools to help SMBs engage with their prospects, developing their knowlege until they are 'sales-ready'.  Since we integrate with Salesforce.com and other CRM solutions, we can help our customers deliver the best leads to their sales teams within the scope of their existing processes.

Be Sure That Your Automation Software Can Close the Loop.  We help customers evaluate the whole process from the first touch through to close. Performing analysis across every touch-point in the funnel is something that most traditional marketing automation vendors have to recreate by integrating disparate software tools. HubSpot’s software can provide this type of integrated marketing analysis out of the box .

No matter what marketing automation you use, make sure it allows you to easily identify which content drove the most leads . You’ll soon have enough data to determine which types of content lead to more customers – a nugget of information which is utterly priceless and hard to come by without transforming your marketing strategy, first.

- @ kirstenpetra

So, what are your biggest challenges? Getting Leads? Managing the leads once you get them? Passing the right leads on to sales? Tell us in the comments.

photo by wendalicious

Originally published Dec 2, 2009 8:30:00 AM, updated October 20 2016

Topics:

Marketing Automation