Marketing Automation Best Practices

Updated: July 20, 2010

Marketing automation is hard. Marketing automation platforms have become quite "hot" lately. If you haven't purchased one yet, chances are you will - soon. What's not to love about the idea of marketing automation? Driving more qualified leads to sales, measuring the impact of marketing, managing the marketing funnel - it's the stuff the great business books are written about.

If only it were that easy. While marketing automation can undoubtedly deliver tremendous value, platforms in and of themselves are only part of the solution. To deliver on the promise of marketing automation, companies must put a lot of hard work into developing proper processes and internal resources that can turn vision into reality. Unfortunately, many marketers learn this too late. They purchase the technology first and then try to develop the process around the technology, often leading to a technology and resource quagmire.

Don't get me wrong - a marketing automation application can be intuitive and highly usable, but properly utilizing marketing automation requires a fundamental change in the way you do business, and that's hard stuff.

Marketers need process. Many B2B marketing organizations are the last bastion of chaos, and they often lack accountability within the organization. The best marketing organizations spend time building a process to measure and manage the marketing funnel. They know what constitutes a qualified lead and have clear communications and expectations with sales. It's only through building a process that marketers can begin to effectively use marketing automation. After all, you can't automate chaos - but you can automatically create chaos. As Craig Rosenberg, author of the Funnelholic noted in the The Quintessential Marketing Automation Guidebook, "The marketing automation system is not a magical application where you just start creating better leads; but rather, it's a system designed to support your marketing operations."

Marketing = Sales. Now more than ever, the relationship between sales and marketing has become inexorably linked - why? As Bob Walmsley, principal of Tailwind Strategies explained, B2B buying behavior has changed. Today's B2B buyers are conducting tons of research before picking up the phone to engage sales. This moves sales engagement much later in the decision making process. As a result, buyers initially have more control over the process than sales reps.

Who is influencing buyers before they get to sales? Marketing. Marketers now manage and impact a much larger piece of the pipeline. There is good news and bad news here. When leads make it to sales, they are typically much more qualified, having done a fair amount of legwork on their own to create a short list. The bad news for marketing: You must work harder to get leads more qualified to ensure they make it to sales, with the same amount of resources.

Content is king. SEO, twitter, blogging, lead generation, lead nurturing - all these marketing tactics are highly dependent on developing and distributing compelling content for your target audience. Content has become the lifeblood of successful marketing organizations. Beyond just developing random content, think in terms of buyer personas and the stages of a purchase. What type of content would a CEO need during the interest stage versus an IT manager at the consideration phase? Your content library needs to address the needs of each group to hit the mark. As Sue Hay from BeWhys marketing said: "The more you understand your buyers, the smarter you'll be in your messaging, registration form creation and media selections."

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