Marketing Automation: A Resolution Worth Keeping

5314636191_3605ff5467_o.jpg

Congratulations! You made it through 2013. It was likely a tough one, with too much to do and not enough time or manpower to do it.

But after a short respite you’re resolved to hit the ground running with a new plan of attack and a desire to make this year the one.

You’re probably wondering if we’re talking about losing weight, or about improving the relationship between your businesses marketing and sales departments. As it happens, the approach for trying to develop a healthy sales funnel isn’t so different than embracing a healthy lifestyle.

For a CMO, whose aspirational resolution is to more tightly integrate sales and marketing through strategies such as content marketing, marketing automation and business intelligence, the whole idea of new systems, vendors and processes seems daunting—almost as much as making it to the gym three days a week. But fear not! With a little preparation and determination anyone can do it.

Get Excited!

The first step of realizing a revolution is to take a look at your motivation. Having an internal drive is what will keep you going when things get difficult. And boy, will they. But you have to think beyond the result. It’s not about the pounds you lose, but how much better you’ll feel. Once you’ve hit that goal, a whole new world of possibilities opens up. Go buy that mountain bike, you’ll have earned it.

The same goes for an integrated marketing strategy. It’s not about which APIs you have, or fancy tools you decide to invest in, it’s about getting to a point where you know what your leads are doing in order to tailor messages to them on the spot. Imagine being able to automatically market to prospects over weeks or even months until they are ready to buy, prospects you would have lost completely otherwise. A whole new set of doors will open.

Great! Now that you’re brimming with excitement, what’s next?

Define a Plan

It’s a fact that 92% of resolutions will fail, but yours doesn’t have to. As with anything worth doing, it’s worth taking the time to be prepared and do it right. Implementing a marketing automation strategy (or improving an existing one) is a complicated endeavor. You likely have some form of tracking such as Google Analytics, but that is probably disconnected from SalesForce and who knows what’s happening on your social media. 

Tying your systems together into a cohesive marketing machine is going to be tough and will take a lot of upfront work before seeing any gains. But once it’s up and running, it will have been worth it.

If you’re new to the marketing automation game, be prepared for a lot of webinars, research, sales demos and speaking with various vendors or consultants. Think of the platform you are choosing like shopping around for a gym. It’s going to need certain features that help you achieve your goal, but probably has a bunch of stuff you don’t need. If you’re just starting out you probably don’t need water aerobic classes, a climbing wall and a cycle track. Likewise, your marketing automation system may not need multivariate email testing, call routing, etc. Think about what’s essential.

Specific Goals

Once you have an understanding of your current situation it’s time to start making goals—and they should be specific. “Losing some weight” is not a specific goal. Neither is “better integrate sales and marketing.” It’s not a simple box that’s easily checked, so go ahead and throw that idea out the window. 

Instead, start by defining goals based on metrics you can measure. How about “Lose 10 pounds in 12 weeks?” That’s pretty specific. Or “increase the amount of qualified leads to the sales team by 5% in Q1?” That works, too. 

The goals you set for your marketing automation should be realistic, both logically and logistically (given time and budget) and they should be easy to report on. In other words, you’ll need to know how to answer the question in order to know if you met your goals. If the aim is to increase qualified leads, for instance, then you’ll have to figure out what a qualified lead is, how it’s tracked, and how you’ll report on it later. 

Small, Incremental Steps

With a plan in mind and a set of goals to shoot for, now comes the hard part: the doing. Imagine your first day at the gym. Do you run six miles or try to lift as much as you can? Sure, you could, but it’s probably not going to help reach your goal in the long run. Nor is trying to plan a 72-touchpoint drip campaign for each of your 12 products across nine user types right off the bat. 

The key to reaching the goals you’ve set is starting small and maintaining a steady pace. If you have an email newsletter, put your list into your new marketing automation system and track each click-through link to your site and the subsequent pages your subscribers viewed. Maybe add a checkbox to a form asking users if they want to be notified when new webinars are being offered, which gives you a whole new list of people to market specifically towards.

Slowly, but surely, data-driven thinking will start to become a habit, just like heading to the gym in the morning before work. You’ll be able to take on bigger and bigger challenges and soon those complex, multi-touch campaigns will seem like nothing.

Make Yourself Accountable

Once good habits are in place and marketing automation is part of your daily life (just like the elliptical you used to dread), you can begin evaluating your goals. The beauty of marketing automation is once the systems are up and running, you’ll begin gathering data almost immediately. What might surprise you is how your goals may change entirely.

For example, if your goal was to increase your pay-per-click conversions by 10%, the new landing pages connected to your paid search campaign may be showing signs of increased conversions. But in comparison, perhaps your organic leads are off the charts and paid search may not be worth investing in at all (despite your progress), thus changing your overall goal.

Reevaluating goals is not simply a pass/fail test, but also thinking about whether or not the goal is still valid at all. Think back to the gym. If your original goal was to drop 10 pounds, but you’ve found running to be not only effective but enjoyable, you may focus on running a half-marathon rather than watching the scale. 

Celebrate The Wins! 

Finally, it’s important to celebrate the wins. A bowl of ice cream after a month of hard work at the gym tastes all the more delicious, and nothing will be as sweet as seeing real-time ROI numbers start to flow in. As you hit more and more of your marketing and sales goals, take a minute to stop and revel in your success. Don’t worry about spending too much time smelling the roses, however, once the cycle of decision, action, data, revision is fully engaged you’ll find it difficult to stop.

Just Do It Already

So what are you waiting for? A New Year’s resolution can be difficult, whether it’s to drop some weight or to develop a new integrated marketing approach using marketing automation. But don’t let that stop you. With a little bit of planning, time, and a lot of dedication you can make your resolution a reality. 

Banner image courtesy of Flickr user Emily Price