I recently collaborated with fellow Marketo Launchpoint partner, RingLead, on the Newcomer’s Guide to Marketing Automation. In this ebook, we described some of the lessons we learned while deploying marketing automation over the past few years. Since adoption of marketing automation is still taking off around the world (91% of MAP buyers were evaluating for the first time in 2013, according to Software Advice), there is still much to do before you implement your first system, or even a company’s first system. The most important advice I can offer you right now is to think through the implications of everything marketing automation can touch. However many times I have seen firms “just turn the switch on,” this is almost always a bad idea. Take time to map out existing processes, workflows, teams, and your desired end state. Marketing automation can be a catalyst for change, but successful change requires careful planning.

1. Marketing + Technology

Before you jump head first into a marketing automation roll out, it’s important to assess the skills that are required. Ideally, the Project Lead should have an equal blend of marketing and technology skills. They should be just as comfortable with database administration as they are with persona-building exercises and SEO. An ideal marketing automation guru has been in Sales, Marketing, and Technology, but other skill combinations can be good, such as CRM, Marketing, and Business Analysis. Those skills will be important during planning, cross-team work, and implementation.

2. Automate More than Marketing

Marketing automation is somewhat of a misnomer, as the platform can (and usually does) automate many processes in addition to marketing.  At many of Perkuto’s clients, our marketing automation programs benefit multiple departments – sales, customer success, even billing/collections – so each department, especially Technology and Web, needs to understand how the system can help them and how it can impact their work. One way to learn about other departments’ needs is to ask them about their customer interactions and things they would like to automate. Can you help them save time and frustration in their job? Yes? Now you have a best friend.

3. Collaborate with Other Teams

Since this system will touch multiple departments, getting input and buy-in from each of them is an absolute must. As you begin to map out your implementation plan, make sure that you’re scheduling time with an experienced person from each department. There’s no need to try to compensate for their experience when you can download their knowledge and incorporate their feedback into your planned system.

4. Create Process Visualizations

Instead of verbalizing your marketing automation workflow, create detailed diagrams, which will help relay the big picture to your entire organization quickly and efficiently. Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words, and visualization allows for a quicker feedback loop. Suggested improvements can be discussed with these graphic aids and implemented faster than if you were to explain and re-explain the proposed system to each of the stakeholders. From a simple whiteboard exercise to Visio to LucidChart, I use them all.

5. Prepare for Database Segmentation

List segmentation has been around for decades, so I am sure you already do this, right? Fast, automated segmentation of your database and personalization of automated messages is one of the key benefits of using a marketing automation solution. This is why you should start thinking about how your data is organized and categorized before you implement a marketing automation platform (MAP). Find out from other marketers and sales people how they want to segment and what data points they find frustrating. This is your big chance to help them create automated lists as well as to clean up data issues.

6. Put Data First

Data is the foundation upon which your CRM and marketing automation systems are built, so it is only logical that you pay just as much attention to the data that is in these systems as the processes and workflows that you’re building around them. And by data, we mean examining the following data quality attributes:

  • Correct fields in the system so you can segment.
  • Correct picklist values?
  • Should we allow free text on some fields?
  • Does everyone have an email address?
  • Does everyone have geographic data?
  • Does everyone have firmographic data?
  • How many duplicates do we have?
  • What data should we clean or append?

Do as much clean up as you can before you connect your MAP to your CRM. It will lead to a better system.

7.  Prepare Your Content Strategy

Nurture programs, one of the key features in marketing automation platforms, are meant to keep prospects engaged (or re-engage). One of the requirements of a successful nurture program is interesting, unique and useful content that you can periodically send out to these prospects in order to get them thinking about the problem and your solution. But go further than nurturing – you will need a constant stream of content to promote your expertise, so begin planning how to do that with internal or external resources.

8. How to Choose a Marketing Automation Platform

When deciding on a marketing automation platform, keep in mind what has led to some of the best products and best user experiences. What do the iPhone, salesforce.com, and Marketo all have in common?  The products have a thriving marketplace of apps, allowing clients to customize and enhance the way that the products are used. I would also take a careful look at the RFP documents vendors provide and even a marketing automation RFP checklist. What does your firm need now and what will you grow into? Compare reviews of MAPs as well as Sirius Decisions’ latest guide.

9. Plan for a Slow Roll Out

After reviewing this list, you may feel overwhelmed. Well don’t sweat it, because the beauty of building a lot of these systems is that you can figure out ways to break up your launch into smaller chunks, allowing you to build a program or set of programs, take a breather, do some testing, and then move on to the next block of programs. Turning different aspects on incrementally is how all of the top-dollar marketing automation consulting firms do it, and you can too! Are you preparing to launch a new marketing automation platform? Let us know how we can help. Download the Guide! Newcomers Guide to Marketing Automation