Marketing automation (MA) refers to the idea of automating repetitive marketing tasks and processes using software. In many cases, marketing automation works along-side a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, where live data can be passed back and forth between systems to share a cohesive understanding of an organization’s customer and prospective contact records.
Just like the relationship between a MA and CRM system, marketing and sales departments need to have a consistent, cohesive alignment to achieve success in today’s business world. This is done by gaining an understanding of not only when a customer or prospect should be communicated to, but also understanding what channel will drive the most engagement. If you’re not sure where to start, below is a broken down seven-step process to achieving marketing automation launch success.
1. Sales Process Analysis
The first step in achieving automation success is to analyze the current sales process of your organization. If you’re new to the organization, we recommend scheduling one-on-one interviews with sales team members and sales executive leaders. If possible, interview individuals with a wide variety of expertise, product knowledge, and tenure. The goal of this is to find out as much as you can regarding what’s working well and what’s not. Be sure to take copious and detailed notes because you’ll want to refer to them as you start to move throughout the rest of the process.
During this step, make sure you consider the different ways a lead can enter your CRM or MA systems, the current sales cycle, and how sales team members move prospects and customers down the buying funnel. Understand your average closing sales cycle and what contributes to lost leads. If possible, have the sales team do a quick rundown of their typical day spent in the office and out in the field. Make notes of processes that can improved through automation—especially tasks that are repetitive and mundane for the sales rep. You want to keep in mind a sales member should spend most of their day selling and building relationships, rather than entering data. Automating data entry will ultimately create sales efficiency and data consistency, which becomes extremely important when building out your communication strategy.
Now that you’ve identified your sales process and gained an understanding of internal pain-points your team faces; the next step is to find solutions that will allow you and your sales team to work more efficiently and consistently. First, take a step back and gain an understanding of your current tech stack. Find out what’s under contract and the capabilities of each tool you own. Many times, marketers are not fully aware of the tools at their disposal, especially tools that are already integrated with the organization’s tech stack. Get a pulse of what problems you have identified that can be solved with solutions already in your arsenal. If you’re not sure, contact product support and use them as a resource to identify unknown capabilities.
From there, identify holes in your tech stack where the current solutions won’t be able to solve your identified problems, and research new solutions that will. You may need to formulate a request for proposal (RFP) process in which you identify key players that offer solutions you are shopping for and allow them to quote their services or product that fit your needs. If this is an important solution to your tech stack, be sure to take your time and clearly evaluate each offering before making a final decision.
3. Define Your Audience
Now that you have your solutions in place, the next step is to define your audience by creating segmentations within your database. Using the notes you created from your sales interviews, start to clearly define your audience into buckets based on where they are in the sales funnel. To start, think about bucketing your contacts based on how much they know about you and how long they’ve known who you are. Depending on your business, you may want to also bucket based on frequency of purchases or the total amount purchased.
From there, develop your content strategy. Each segment should warrant different content communication that can include a variety of different offers or value offerings. Understand your audience does not want to be thrown everything all at once. Content communication should be dispersed based on their level of engagement in a timely manner. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not 100% sure what that perfect cadence is. This will take time and careful evaluation as you begin to learn more about your audience through your marketing efforts.
4. Campaign Architecture
Once your audience is defined, the next step is to architect your campaign strategies. This is where you bring your audience segmentations along with your content strategy to start formulating the who, what, when, and how of your campaigns. These can be different depending on if you’re a B2C, B2B, or both types of organization. You want to make sure you are, at the minimum, completing best practice campaigns based on your organization type.
As you progress and become more confident in your capabilities, step up your skill level by crafting more advanced campaigns. You will want to understand the different mediums in which communications can be communicated through, as there are many of them out there, and how your MA solution can facilitate those automations. If you’re not 100% sure what will drive the most engagement, experiment and test! Use the A/B testing functionality of your MA solution to find what drives the needle. Don’t be afraid to fail here. The learnings you receive from testing will be just as valuable. Be sure you are covering communication for every stage of the buyer journey, from first initial hello or welcome email to long after the customer has made their purchase. Every step is critical in creating loyal customers and contributing to a successful business.
5. System Setup
After receiving approval of your initial campaign plan from your internal team and stakeholders, the next step is to build out your campaigns and segments within your MA solution. Work with your CRM admin or developer to understand how and when contact records are created and updated. Using those field attributes, build out dynamic lists that listen for particular values to become true based on the criteria you created within your dynamic list. This list will then be the starting point to your nurture paths or communication journeys.
After building your segmentations, it’s time to code and build your content. There are many ways this can be completed and ultimately depends on the resources you have and your level of expertise. We highly recommend creating a set of different templates that can be used depending on the type of communication that will be sent. These templates should have a level of drag, drop, and remove functionality to allow for customization that fit your needs.
This is also where the setup of any and all third-party integrations will occur. This can include direct mailing webhooks, coupon generators, text messaging services, or additional reporting tools. As with anything you do inside your MA tool, it is essential to consider a testing plan to be sure your integrations are setup and your content renders properly on all devices and device types such as desktop, phone, and tablet. It is not uncommon for campaigns to not work properly during your first test runs, especially if you’re working with brand new integrations into your environment. Just be patient and work through each issue separately and continue to test after each update until there are no more issues.
6. System Launch
After you have cleared testing on all assets and campaign execution, it’s time to decide on a day and time to launch. Depending on the campaign type and the audience for your business this will vary. Ultimately, you will want to pick a day and time where you will see the most engagement in the first 24 to 48 hours after send. Monitor your campaigns closely immediately after launch to be sure campaigns are being executed as they are intended. This is an exciting time that usually doesn’t involve too many hours of work from you and your team, so be sure to celebrate your launch! This will give you the motivation to keep moving forward with your system optimization as you continue to move the needle and contribute towards your sales pipeline.
After you’ve launched, it’s imperative to measure your campaign success. With every campaign you create you should establish what determines a success. This could be a form fill, email click, content download, phone call, or social share. Although the number of successes is a metric to report on, you will want to understand the conversion rate by taking the total number of successes and dividing it by the total members within the campaign. A successful conversion rate will differ from campaign type but it’s important to establish a benchmark and bump your numbers against that to see how it compares.
There are many reporting tools to use but find one that allows you to create a user-friendly dashboard that you and your team can access to see the latest numbers on where your campaigns are currently reporting at. This should ultimately drive your decisions on what to test and update to improve your results.
There you have it—seven steps to a successful marketing automation launch. Each step is unique from one another but crucial in your overall marketing success, so be sure to take your time through each step and research as much as you can for each stage. Learn from others in the industry, attend as many meetups and networking events as you can, and don’t be hesitant to ask questions. Chances are, someone you meet will be going through or have been through a similar situation you are in. These are often how you can find answers to your questions where research lacks.
If you are struggling with what campaigns to start with, start with basic setups that are known to have high conversion rates and then experiment from there, but always remember to create campaigns that align with your overall business goals and objectives.