Ed. Note: We are honored with the latest in our Zephyr 47 Expert Guest Blog series that delivers fantastic content on marketing automation, customer marketing, public relations, and content marketing. Josh Stailey is our latest contributor from The Pursuit Group and he delivers practical advice for organizations looking to to succeed with a marketing automation initiative. Josh Stailey is a founder and chief funnel strategist of The Pursuit Group, Inc., an Ohio-based company that provides turnkey Demand Generation services primarily for business-to-business enterprises. Additional content on this subject is available in our latest white paper here.
The 4 Pillars to Marketing Automation Success
The right foundation can make or break your marketing automation initiative.
by Josh Stailey, The Pursuit Group, Inc.
To say that marketing automation is a key initiative for many companies this year is an understatement. “Not implementing a marketing automation solution may be the ultimate career limiting move for today’s marketers,” suggests global technology research company IDC.
Companies are acquiring marketing automation capabilities to maximize their ability to move prospects through extended sales cycles, and optimize their marketing and sales resources.
Unfortunately, many of those companies will focus on the technology and overlook the steps necessary to successfully launch and sustain a marketing automation program. A recent study showed that only a quarter of respondents get full value from their investment in marketing automation, results that parallel the early days of CRM implementations.
And that’s not good enough. Particularly when you consider that doing just a few things right will virtually guarantee a multiple of your investment in higher sales and more cost-effective marketing.
The Four Pillars of Marketing Automation Success
Getting marketing automation right starts with a wider definition than simply an investment in new technology. In fact, technology is just one leg of a four-pillar foundation: technology, process, content and connectivity. Here’s an overview of the other three pillars:
- Process is an efficient routine for every step and stage in the marketing/sales cycle; technology schedules and oversees the actions and reactions in a pre-designed workflow.
- Content is the substance of every outbound and inbound communications between you and your prospects; technology houses and deploys the right communications at the right time.
- Connectivity ensures that all possible touchpoints – e-mail, landing pages, each page on a website – are wired together; technology provides that complex, real-time interlink.
Neglect just one of these and your marketing automation system cannot deliver full value. Neglect more than one and your implementation is likely to fail.
Pre-Automation — Preparing for Technology
Prior to buying a marketing automation solution, or even looking for one, review your marketing/sales assets. Determine which of your assets can be integrated and which need to be revised or replaced. Here’s a beginning checklist:
1. Lists. You probably have more lists than you think. That’s par for the course in marketing and sales, where efforts are often dispersed, disjointed, or even dysfunctional. Where are the lists you have in each of these categories?
- Leads. Most organizations get leads from a variety of sources: trade media, the company website, tradeshows, sales people, etc. Are yours organized with separate fields for first name, last name, phone, address? Do you have email addresses for your leads? What qualifying information do you have about them and is each information element in an individual field?
- Prospects. Also known as qualified leads. Because most companies don’t have a nurture cycle for qualified-but-not-ready-to-buy prospects, these tend to be neglected, if not abandoned outright. What do you know about your interaction with them? These may be your greatest source for future sales…and the hardest to find in your current systems.
- Customers. Because they often disappear from the marketing radar once they come on board, these will also be a major source of new marketing opportunity. What information do you have about them (revenue, purchase cycles, types of products, services, etc.) and their people? Is it organized effectively?
- Don’t worry about what to do with these lists just yet. At this point, you need to know they’re there, and how to get them organized properly.
2. Links. Identify every place your company maintains a digital presence, as each will be a link that needs to be captured and poured into your marketing automation system. This is far more than the “contact us” page on your website:
- Every single page on your website should be able to capture visitor activity, especially if you want to track individual online behavior and use that to automatically customize the next step in the process (e.g., send a particular type of content or alert a sales rep). This is also necessary to add sophistication to any lead scoring system you create.
- Landing pages from various campaigns should be trackable, as well as the web browsing done after.
- Web forms, where visitors register to download white papers or other information. These are perfect tools for automated data capture.
- Emails, including corporate campaigns and the ones your sales reps run on their own.
Chances are, your company has dozens, if not hundreds, of links to identify and move into the marketing automation system.
3. Content. Thanks to the Web and Google, buyers today want at least part of their connection to you to be electronic, web-based and self serve. Which makes content the fuel that keeps the marketing automation engine running.
Most companies have a ton of content that can be sliced up, repurposed and repackaged in a way that prospects want to absorb throughout their buying cycle. So expect to assemble lots of articles, reviews, independent tests, white papers, configurators, technical sheets and the like. And that’s just for your website for reading or downloading.
Then add in:
- E-mails and attachments for long-term nurture campaigns. This is likely to be a surprisingly long list…think one contact every two weeks for a buying cycle that extends over 18 months and branches by segmentation. That’s 35-40 different e-mails, plus customization for each segment, plus attachments. It adds up.
Landing pages, preferably by segment, product line, campaign and offer, plus any other variables.
- Videos and presentations
- Social media posts, including company and individual blogs
- So inventory your content. In our experience, more companies underestimate the content they will need to create or repurpose than any other of the marketing automation “pillars.” This sales-nurture content will be the hardest to acquire or create…and the most valuable in your future nurture cycles.
4. Workflow. This is the sharp edge of process, the way you get marketing automation to integrate links, lists and content into a coherent selling cycle. Leading vendors have built robust workflow creation tools into their software, and good workflow strategists can leverage internal resources twenty-fold with automated – instead of manual – steps in the cycle.
Your pre-technology challenge is to audit your current workflows (if you have them), or, if not, to document how marketing goes about acquiring, qualifying and nurturing leads, and what criteria they use to determine when a lead is ready to turn over to sales. A good way to do that is by using flowcharting and process mapping to show how a lead moves through your funnel and becomes a customer (or not).
Here’s a high-level workflow sample:
The boxes represent activities you take in marketing to leads and prospects: sending e-mails, creating landing pages and webforms, loading and making content available via links. The diamonds represent the options that a targeted lead or prospect has…opening an e-mail (or not), visiting a landing page (or not), completing and submitting a webform (or not), etc. Each of those yes/no decisions yields new boxes in the workflow, which yields new decisions. And so on, until the target buys, opts out, or you decide that enough is enough. For your salespeople, the most important boxes in a workflow are the notifications or alerts, when the prospect is ready to buy and needs person-to-person contact.
The marketing automation system you select is capable of integrating this seething mass of people, process and content into a unified, effective nurture marketing flow. But only if you tell it to. And in order to do that, you need to go through all four pillars to assemble what you have, and identify what you need.
This is not meant to be discouraging. But it’s easy to underestimate what it takes to design, provision and implement an effective automated nurture process. And while marketing automation can yield enormous return on investment, there’s no magic potion that makes it easy.
Josh Stailey is a founder and chief funnel strategist of The Pursuit Group, Inc., an Ohio-based company that provides turnkey Demand Generation services primarily for business-to-business enterprises. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 866-4-PURSUE.