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Marketing Automation: Planning, Alignment and Content Spell Success

According to Q2 Insights (formerly Focus Research), marketing automation software – including popular platforms like Eloqua, Marketo, Hubspot, and Pardot – is showing the strongest growth in the $4 billion CRM market. Sirius Decisions predicts that 50% of B2B organizations will use marketing automation by 2015, up from 20% in 2012. The same research tells us that businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads.

Marketing Automation InfographicWant more numbers? Check out the infographic to the right (click for full size) to familiarize yourself with the benefits of marketing automation.

And yet, all too often we see these tools fail. If marketing automation is so great, how could it possibly fail? The infographic (and my [insert vendor name] sales rep) told me it wouldn’t, right? And we all know infographics and sales reps don’t lie.

If you’ve read this far, you may think I dislike these tools, or have an axe to grind. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth – we work hands-on with these tools and when used correctly, they can provide incredible ROI and amazing insights – just like the infographic promises.

However, like anything else, the proper pieces need to be in place to realize these benefits. I’ve seen too many clients license the software, pay significant fees for months and still stumble to get things up and running. Software that could provide a strong return on investment instead sits idle as a worthless expense.

With that in mind, here are the three common marketing automation traps I’ve seen companies fall into, as well as some tips on how to prepare for them and set yourself up for success.

Trap # 1 – No Marketing Plan

Getting the most out of any marketing channel necessitates a plan (even more so when adding in sophisticated software). Too often, I’ve seen companies go in with the blinders on, see the possible ROI numbers and fall into the trap of:

  • Step 1 License Software…
  • Step 3 Become Millionaire…

…while missing critical pieces of everything that happens in between. The same way you wouldn’t start building a home without a blueprint, make sure you have a plan in place for how you are going to build programs that generate leads, what your lead nurturing cycle is, and other key components. By mapping this out ahead of time, you will be able to flesh out where you have gaps and make sure to fill them before you find out you’ve licensed a tool you aren’t yet ready to use.

Trap # 2 – Lack of Alignment Between Sales, Marketing, and IT

Each of these groups will likely play some role in the setup, configuration and deployment of your automation tool. Marketing automation often sits at the intersection of sales, marketing and IT.

Most organizations will want to make sure it syncs with a CRM system, which will often require some level of IT involvement for initial configuration and deployment. IT will also likely be involved somewhere in the evaluation process, because it is software, after all.  More complex integrations may require some ongoing IT support. And in many companies, as much as it may pain marketers, IT still “owns” the website (though fortunately this is continuing to evolve).

Likewise, sales and marketing will need alignment on topics like what constitutes a lead and what still needs to be nurtured, what those touches look like, etc. The good news is that, if done right, automation tools and content marketing can serve as The Turning Point for the Sales & Marketing Relationship.

Trap # 3 – You Mean This Thing Needs Content? 

In order to function effectively, your marketing automation tool needs content. Content to draw people in, content to get people to fill out a form and identify themselves, content to nurture prospects until they are sales-ready, and content for loyalty, retention, and cross-sell/up-sell to existing customers.

Pro tip: You can’t just create a ton of mediocre content – your buyers probably won’t be dazzled by mediocre and nothing will kill your brand like weak content. Your marketing approach is hungry for content, and implementing an automation tool only serves to magnify the hunger. Make sure that you plan out the content your buyers will need at each stage, and have the right internal resources or external resources to execute a smart content marketing program.

Avoiding these three major traps should have you on the road to marketing automation success – and realizing the value of your investment.

Like this post? Get easy-to-digest tips and more detailed content marketing approaches from Right Source and other industry experts in our free content marketing eBook: How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.

Learn even more about creating a successful content marketing approach in the webcast: What if You Build It and They Still Don’t Come?

Marketing Automation Infographic

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Right Source Marketing helps organizations build their marketing strategy, organize the structure to accommodate that strategy, and deliver the specific services to execute that strategy. We do this through a unique model that provides senior level strategic consulting as well as specific services that cover every area of an organization’s marketing plan.

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