With a number of marketing automation tools out there many companies are asking, is marketing automation right for my business? It’s a valid question. There could be a ton of benefit. There could also be a ton of cost with little return if you’re not ready.
To really understand when the time is right to implement marketing automation help it’s good to be clear about the real goals and the real purpose of using one, and that is to help you close business. If you haven’t had the time to get familiar with programs like Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua, Optify and the like it may be easy to hear “marketing automation” and picture a glorified scheduler. “I can schedule my tweets, and my blog posts, and my email newsletters, and whatever right from one system!”
And, if you were to think that, you would be partially right. The real benefit however, is not in the centralized login and scheduling. It’s in the ability to jump start online dialogue and nurture leads by providing them with the right information at the right time.
Getting the most from marketing automation while not wasting your time and money requires establishing some marketing foundation.
If your marketing automation tool is the engine than content is the fuel. If marketing automation is the pan, content is the heat. If marketing automation is the pen…..well, you get the idea. It’s the content that makes marketing automation useful at all.
So the main thing you need is content. That also means you need:
Great content doesn’t grow on trees so you’re going to need to make it or hire someone to make it for you. This doesn’t have to be as daunting as you might think. Less isn’t more in this instance but quality still trumps quantity. For most companies they already hold the key to a fountain of information waiting to be tapped and presented in a digestible format. Don’t over think it. Go with what you know.
Now, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a writer and graphic designer on staff. Someone with video experience is a huge bonus. But there are also online resources like freelance writers who will produce blog posts at reasonable prices and freelance designers to create infographics for you. There are also some useful DIY online tools like Visual.ly to help you create solid graphics of your own.
Keep in mind you don’t have to be an accomplished author to write a great blog post. Sometimes all you have to do is find your blog writing confidence. The key with blog posts, like the rest of your content, is to provide useful and/or entertaining information to your audience. The content you produce for inbound marketing shouldn’t read like a sales sheet for your products and services.
Let’s not forget, you’re also going to need a resource to manage your new marketing automation system. Granted, the right tool should put you in a position to consolidate and eliminate some of the tools in your current toolbox.
Though it’s true content can help you build an audience it’s smart to understand the audience you want to build, where they are seeking content and the information that’s important to them. You don’t have to buy a list and blast them with emails. Find related groups on Linkedin and Communities on Google+ and get involved. Create and cultivate lists on Twitter. Find creative ways to bridge in person interactions with an opt-in sign up sheet for your newsletter.
An effective system like the above listed will help you quickly pull together data in a manner that’s easy to read and present. To make that data useful however you should have a framework and understanding of what you’re looking at and why. Be prepared ahead of time so you can customize your new system to deliver only the analytics you need – because you already know why you need them and the goals they’re tied to.
Data you’re unable to act on is just numbers.
A Defined Sales Process
After you get settled into inbound marketing mode, but before you’re ready to implement some sort of automation, it’s important to get clear on how you’re going to identify and classify your leads. Where will you store and interact with this data if your automation platform doesn’t offer those capabilities? When in the nurturing process does a lead get passed along to your sales team?
Having a framework of cues and actions improves the return on your efforts. With this approach you’re spending time talking with the folks who are interested, educating the market overall and not harassing the leads who aren’t ready to hear from you.
For a helpful comparison of the top systems check out the breakdown from Software Advice here.
Are you using a marketing automation partner now? Tell us about what you’ve learned along the way.
photo credit: Stephan van Es