Four Pillars of a Strong Marketing Automation Strategy
This article was originally written by our friend Kent Lewis, the President and Founder of Anvil, which is an integrated marketing agency specializing in search engine marketing, social media marketing and analytics. Anvil champions the use of marketing automation, but their internal experience has shed some light on a few misconceptions regarding its potential power.
Marketing automation is sometimes heralded as a cure-all; a magic potion that will bring in business without you having to do anything. There’s no arguments that the technology is powerful and enables you to enhance your outreach and strengthen your engagement, but the tool is only as good as it’s user. There has to be a strong strategy in place before implementation, and dedication to constant monitoring and tweaking once it’s been launched. Kent Lewis has outlined Four Pillars of a successful marketing automation program to help set the record straight so you can set reasonable expectations and get the most out of your solution.
While this may seem obvious to some, people are at the heart of successful marketing automation programs. The best marketing automation platforms in the world are useless without someone competent to manage them. As such, it is essential to find a reliable internal hire with sufficient relevant experience and talent to build, manage and optimize campaigns. Unfortunately, experienced marketing automation professionals are in short supply. In lieu of relevant marketing automation platform experience, look for individuals with sales automation, email or database marketing experience. Even if you manage to find good talent, it can be beneficial to tap specialized agencies and vendors to guide platform selection, implementation and management.
More important than a solid marketing automation team, is the support of the executive management and sales team. Without buy-in from the top, sales team culture typically eschews technology and technically-oriented support teams. The VP or Director of Sales must be a champion of marketing automation and build an incentive system that encourages proactive response to marketing automation leads. One of my clients’ VP of Sales blamed marketing for soft sales numbers, despite their ability to prove his sales team was not following up on qualified leads. In that case, the CEO would need to get involved to ensure alignment between sales and marketing teams.
Process is the second-most misunderstood and under-valued component of a successful marketing automation campaign. Without a well-defined process, even the best people will fall short of their goals. In the above example of a client with misaligned sales and marketing teams, we evaluated their marketing automation platform, process and content. We found their use of the platform was fairly solid, but they lacked process. This created inconsistency across campaigns which in turn, impacted results. Ensure your marketing automation team creates a set of processes around content creation, campaign management and lead flow to the sales team. This typically requires training, proactive management, measurement and refinement at regular intervals.
So you’ve hired a solid marketing automation team, developed a process for management and flow of leads. Don’t pat yourself on the back too soon. The third and most important component of a successful marketing automation campaign is promotional content. No marketing automation campaign can work without content. Your marketing automation team needs to collaborate with sales, marketing and customer support to develop compelling promotional materials that generate interest and action. Start with an overall promotional strategy that maps out content for every stage of the buying cycle, then develop and refine based on campaign performance.
Now that we’ve addressed the three most critical components of marketing automation, we can talk about the platform. The reason I believe the platform is least important is because there are a variety of solutions that can meet your needs and can be set up relatively quickly. On the lower-end of cost, platforms like HubSpot and Act-on are sufficiently powerful and intuitive. Mid-range providers like Pardot and Marketo require a bit more training and customization. On the upper-end, Marketing Cloud, Eloqua and SAP require significant investment and commitment. While there is no such thing as a marketing automation program without a platform, the technology is only an enabler, not the solution itself.
Don’t let yourself get dazzled by the slick marketing from marketing automation platform providers. Focus on building a team of People, create a streamlined Process and develop compelling Content before worrying about the technology Platform and you’ll be more successful with your marketing automation program. For more information, request a copy of Anvil's Marketing Automation Cheat Sheet.