Top 6 things you should do first with marketing automation
So you finally convinced your boss it was worth it to invest in some shiny new marketing automation tools! Congrats! Now you can just kick back and let the automation do the work, right? Not so fast. Marketing Automation solutions take a lot of work to set up properly, and it is easy to get dazzled by all the shiny features and wake up months later to the realization that you haven’t achieved anything different with your new tool. It’s also common to feel that there’s much more you should be doing.
Here are some of our hard-won marketing automation lessons that have helped us see the biggest results.
1. Set 2 goals
Yep, just two. Ideally these goals connect directly to your company’s business objectives, so you can show direct correlation between your marketing efforts and business results. At Idealist Consulting, our marketing team’s top goals are lead generation and lead conversion and we have goals to hit each month. The best thing about setting these goals is that you can work backwards and figure out how you need to tweak your marketing automation platform to support them: for example, is every new lead coming through a web form? If not, could they be?
2. Connect to your CRM and decide which is the primary system of record
If you are using a marketing automation tool in tandem with a CRM, it is critical to decide which will be your primary system of record with the ultimate data authority. This will inform how you set up your CRM-Marketing Automation integration (which our consultants can help you with if this seems like too much for you to do internally). For example, do you want all new leads to be entered in Salesforce, or only qualified ones that are ready for hand-off to another department? Do you want all whitepaper downloaders and event registrants to add up toward your monthly count in your marketing automation tool (which typically informs your cost), or would it make sense to delete some of the non-qualified ones? These are the types of questions you will need to consider.
3. Set up a lead source hidden field on every form
Tools like HubSpot and Pardot have ways to add “hidden fields” to forms so that you can track data even if the customer does not submit it. Remember the old days of always seeing a field “where did you hear about us?” on a contact form? Those days are largely gone, because now forms can have hidden fields that tell the system where the lead came from. Your steps for implementing this are to first create a Lead Source field in your CRM, then create a picklist for all the fields you want to track (we suggest 5-10 for starters, in categories such as Whitepaper or Event), then make this a hidden field with a set value on all future forms you create. For example, if you download our whitepaper How to Create a CRM Budget, it is tagged as lead source: whitepaper in our Salesforce instance. That way, we can report back on all the leads we generated through this effort. This is the first step toward showing ROI of your marketing efforts. Here’s how to do it in HubSpot.
4. Commit to a regular content publishing schedule
I almost left this out because it really should be done before you buy a marketing automation system, but it bears repeating: you need good, fresh, relevant content in order to go anywhere with your marketing automation solution! All the automation in the world can’t help you if you don’t have anything to say in your drip campaign emails and if you don’t have any calls to action to encourage engagement. The best way to start is to pick a cadence of blog publishing that you can commit to (ideally at least once a week), then stick to it. When in doubt, repurpose old content.
5. Identify your top 3-5 personas and create smart lists for them
The old marketing adage of “Know Thy Customer” is more true today than ever. The content strategy that fuels your marketing automation isn’t about your company, it’s about your audience. So who is your audience? Do some work internally to define your top markets or constituent targets (we have a great worksheet to create donor profiles here). Then map out your ideal customer journey, and figure out what segmented lists make sense for your company. For example, for Idealist Consulting we have a leads, prospects, and clients lists for each of our main sectors (nonprofit and private sector). We created these as smart lists in our marketing automation tool, so we can easily send a newsletter to all audiences, or target individual efforts to smaller areas. Once your core smart lists are established you can easily clone them and add additional criteria like geographic targeting for things like event invitations.
6. Create one drip campaign/workflow
Drip campaigns or workflows (the name changes depending on the tool) are the engine of marketing automation tools, but don’t go crazy trying to automate every aspect of your business: start with just one. Think about what the most important aspect of your role is, and try to build a drip campaign around that. For example, for many marketers it might be lead conversion, so the first drip campaign you build should probably be one that connects from your website’s “Contact” form to an intro email series of several intro messages designed to introduce your brand and nurture the lead toward the next step in your customer journey, whether it’s talking to a salesperson or signing up for an introductory workshop.
These are all steps that a brave marketer can take on their own, but there are also many resources available to help.