9 Key Takeaways from 20 Marketing Automation Projects

Over the past 5 years, I’ve deployed and managed over twenty marketing automation installs, mostly the top platforms you’d find on any of the popular software comparison sites or in-depth research reports.

During that time, I’ve come across a select amount of recurring complications that I’ve been able to remedy with the following tips:

  1. Plan ahead. Not having a game plan, a blueprint or a checklist to work from is going to lead to a scattered deployment. There will be lost opportunities and lots of future clean-up if you don’t go into it with a solid plan. Work with your team, set goals, create living documents, use a project management software, plan workflows, etc. The more planning and preparation you do, the happier everyone will be with the outcome.
  2. Work closely with sales. Marketing and sales CAN get along – I’ve seen and done it. This works especially well with data-driven marketers who have goals and quotas to work from. Once this commonality has been established, learn the platform together, figure out what data, alerts, reports and prospects are best for success and configure it with the sales team in mind.
  3. Prepare for and fight bottlenecks. There is a lot of work to be done when launching and managing marketing automation and the campaigns that support it. Be prepared for slowness, especially around finalizing necessary content. Create an agreement and schedule with all parties involved in content creation, emphasizing how critical it is to complete the content on time. Send reminders. Use a project or content marketing software to help the process.
  4. Do regular audits. Clean up your lists and leads, your old campaigns, outdated emails, irrelevant scoring rules, etc. Check for new custom fields in your CRM that may require a connection to respective marketing automation. Here’s a quick 90 minute marketing automation audit I’ve previously recommended.
  5. Create a feedback loop. Being able to plan, launch, analysis and adjust is one of the keys to both marketing automation and agile marketing practices. Figure out the best way to define and use this feedback loop. As an example, consider reviewing the progress of a documented plan in daily or weekly stand-ups combined with automating specific reports to stakeholders. Make sure everyone has the data they need and that you have the process in place to make quick decisions and changes on the fly.
  6. Test everything. Every email you create, send test versions and test links, check copy, images, personalization, etc. Triple check that forms work on any and all landing pages. Run advanced nurturing campaigns through test sequencing before launching. Don’t do this in a vacuum, either – get multiple parties involved in testing, especially people who weren’t hands on in the creation of assets or campaigns. Fresh eyes will see things people in the weeds miss.
  7. Feed the engine. Marketing automation doesn’t get you very far without content, prospects and campaigns. Create a good library of content and use it for one-off or nurturing campaigns. Keep or start blogging. Stay consistent. Gate your solid content with a compelling offer and high converting landing page so you can get more people identified and into your database.
  8. Segment, segment, segment. Creating finely detailed segments and lists that can then receive very customized and relevant communications is one of the ultimate differences of success and failure with marketing automation. Use the intelligence of your marketing automation tool, combined with pre-defined profiles or “persona” to create these segments. Be liberal with your segmentation but make sure you monitor your automation rules to ensure contacts aren’t getting mixed or wrong messages. So while deep segmentation is key, it’s also the most complicated to execute with precision.
  9. Supplement your strategy. Email campaigns and organic traffic are going to have limited results on your growth. Consider other strategies like remarketing to people who’ve visited a specific set of pages on your site (site retargeting) or to active names in your database (aka CRM retargeting).  Support co-marketing events with complementary businesses that would share a similar target audience as you. Do digital PR to create more awareness. Establish a social media strategy and stick with it.

These 9 takeaways can help lead you to much greater success with your marketing automation endeavors. Let me know if you have any questions by finding me on Twitter (@michaelshearer). Are you experienced with marketing automation already? I’d love to hear your most important takeaways as well. Share them in the comments below.

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