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12 tips to perfecting marketing automation

The long-range goal for marketing automation?  To completely eliminate internal data silos, using intelligence to create a comprehensive, accurate view of the customer. No spreadsheets, no disjointed information or communication gaps, and a whole lot less reliance on team intel. Plus, a better experience for clients and prospects.

But while this vision sounds incredible, it’s still a ways off. A rising number of Australian businesses may have adopted marketing automation, but we currently aren’t utilising the software to its full potential. Just 12 per cent of Australians are classified as ’modern’ marketers, according to Forrester and Oracle, while 41 per cent would be considered ’developing’ and one-in-three fall into the ’experienced’ category. If you’re thinking there’s nothing wrong with being a little old-fashioned, consider that 50 per cent of those modern marketers reported a 10 per cent increase in revenue in the preceding year.

So how do we bridge the gap and take our marketing automation to the next level? It starts with good habits and a strong understanding of the software.

Unleashing the power of marketing automation

Let’s take a step back and revisit the ’why’ of marketing automation. Why bother? What’s so great about a fancy computer program sequencing my emails and doesn’t this all sound a bit iRobot to you?!

Well, in addition to that 50 per cent boost in revenue, marketing automation can also help your organisation:

  • Plan and execute larger campaigns
  • Boost sales and marketing productivity
  • Increase qualified leads
  • Foster customer loyalty
  • Gather better data (and a lot more of it too)
  • Increase conversion
  • Save on content creation
  • Improve email marketing
  • Nurture leads more effectively

But while marketing automation can help you achieve a lot, the real power of the platform lies in the amount of human potential that can be unlocked. After all, marketing automation isn’t about doing away with people – rather, its aim is to free us from repetitive tasks, allowing us to focus on more pressing, complex matters.

Which leads quite naturally to the first lesson in marketing automation: the software isn’t going to magically work for you. This isn’t a set and forget solution. To see meaningful ROI from marketing automation, you have to approach the platform with the right mindset and adjust your practice as you go.

Ready to get started? Here are twelve tips to help perfect your organisation’s use of marketing automation software.

1. Map out your strategy first

Marketing automation software isn’t cheap and like any major purchase, you need to approach your decision strategically. To this end, ask yourself the following before deciding on any one platform:

  • What does my team hope to achieve with marketing automation?
  • Which features are most essential to our business?
  • Which operational efficiencies could be improved?
  • Which segments of the business are we targeting?
  • How will we measure success? What are our KPIs?

Every platform will have a different suite of tools and features – make sure the program you choose matches your business’ most critical needs.

2. Get buy-in from the entire business

While it may be called ’marketing automation software’, you’ll only see real results if everyone else in the business has bought in to the service. Most notably, this includes sales, but other departments – including IT, customer service and management will also need to be on board. If you anticipate any degree of resistance, make sure you spend the time with these teams to understand their concerns and educate them about the platform. If possible, request a free demo so they can see the software in action.

It’s imperative this all occurs before you’ve launched the program. If others in the business don’t feel heard, the amount of push back could hinder positive results entirely.

3. Train, train and train some more

Whenever you get something shiny and new in the office, it seems like one person always becomes the resident expert. But while this may be acceptable with setting up the TV in the boardroom or fixing the jammed Nespresso machine, it shouldn’t be the case with your marketing automation software.

According to the Econsultancy State of Marketing Report in Australia and New Zealand, a lack of organisational buy-in is typically no problem (affecting only 12 per cent of organisations). Generally, people want to take advantage of automation! What does become a problem, however, is inadequate resources. Simply put, marketing automation is evolving faster than us and thus, a capability gap has formed. Digital marketers don’t have the skills needed to utilise the technology.

Therefore, it’s imperative your business continually invest in skills and training – and not just the marketing. To avoid key man risk, make sure as many people as possible in the business have a solid understanding of your chosen software.

4. Tidy up your contacts at the start

Chances are you’re investing in marketing automation software because you’ve gotten too big to manage your clients manually. And that’s a good problem to have! It’s imperative, however, that you don’t load those poorly organised, inaccurate contacts into your shiny new system. Before launching, clean up your business data. Update information, merge contacts or eliminate double-ups, add missing fields and remove those who no longer belong in the database.

5. Start small and always be on the lookout for repetitive tasks

Yes, marketing automation is meant to change the way your business operates – that doesn’t mean, however, that every change needs to be sweeping. Solve small problems first. If you want to improve email open rates, begin by A/B testing various templates, not unrolling some massively complex sequence. Further, be agile. Constantly be on alert for repetitive tasks that could potentially be automated.

6. Don’t lapse in content creation

Marketing automation can help you send a message and even tell you exactly who needs to hear it. It can pinpoint the perfect time to send that message and even offer a few tips on making it better. But what marketing automation cannot do is create that message – at least not yet.

In its current state, marketing automation is an amplification tool. Producing meaningful content still falls to you. For this reason, don’t lapse in content creation simply because you have a new, powerful piece of software. Allow marketing automation to inform your content creation, but don’t expect the platform to do the job for you.

7. Be personal – and personalise your content

Automation will bite your business in the you know what if you fail to personalise your content. While you may be using software, your customer is still very much a person, so ensure your message reads accordingly. Automation can even help you personalise content based on predictive analysis. A computer helping a human be more human? Strange, but true.

8. Expect marketing automation to change things

Don’t be ’that guy’, clutching at the straws of his disorganised, colour coded spreadsheet when automation starts to mix things up for your business. The right automation software will, in fact, change the way you operate. It will highlight inefficiencies, point out new information and could lead to a seismic shift in your sales funnel. Remember, this is a good thing. While change can be jarring, it’s also a critical ingredient for growth.

9. Take advantage of the platform community

Usually, marketing automation software comes with a suite of tools and extras to help you get the most out of the program. This includes community forums, online courses, video tutorial, webinars, conferences and other resources. Acquaint yourself with these features and incorporate them into your routine training. Simply following the platform on social media or subscribing to their weekly newsletter can help you stay up to date.

10. Share data and report often

Marketing automation software uses machine learning to store mountains of information on clients and prospects. But who’s to say this data needs to stay within the platform or the marketing team?

Your software is hard at work creating a 360-degree view of your customer – share that with the business. Routinely running reports and making them known is an excellent way to overcome barriers and solve problems across every department. Be strategic, however, about what you share. Confusing, nuanced reports may hinder company buy-in.

11. Persist through the growing pains

Bear in mind you may not see ROI from the start. In fact, meaningful change may only come weeks or even months down the line. The important thing is to stick with it and continue along a path of trial and error until you figure out what works.

Often, we quit at the first sign of trouble with new technology. This will lead nowhere. Rather than giving up on your new, expensive software, pivot quickly and try new initiatives when you notice something doesn’t go to plan. When marketing automation software is new, allow plenty of time for your team to collaborate, share successes, offer advice, troubleshoot and come up with solutions.

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12. Have realistic expectations

Even the most powerful software cannot alter the realities of your industry, so be realistic in what you expect from the platform. If you have a six month sales cycle, for example, don’t assume a three email sequence will be able slash this in half. It simply won’t happen. Marketing automation can take your business to the next level, but don’t lose sight of where you currently sit. Conversion rates may improve, but make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Winning a year-long contract for your B2B organisation will still take more work than adding a subscriber to your weekly newsletter.

 

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Natalie Fortier About the author