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Get the Most from Your Platform: 7 Pro Tips for Marketing Automation Success

Whether you’re a marketer who is thinking about implementing a marketing automation tool or a marketer who wants to improve how you are currently using your current tool, one thing is for sure, you want to be getting the most value out of it.

We’ve all seen the companies who are nailing it with their MA tool.  We all know that when done right, marketing automation can you save time, cut costs, and increase ROI by allowing you to stay connected with your target audience.

So whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro, this post is for you! We asked 3 marketing automation leaders to share tips and strategies to help you get the best out of your platform. Here are their responses.

1. In one sentence, describe what a Marketing Automation platform is.

Pro #1: Jennifer Michelle,  President – Michelle Marketing Strategies
Marketing automation platforms help you get the right content to the right person at the right time.

Pro #2: Amy Hamilton, Sr Manager Marketing Operations, Stericycle Communications Solutions
Marketing Automation is the tool that gathers, stores, executes on and analyzes marketing activity and data.

Pro #3: Chintan Shah, President & Managing Partner, KNB Communications
Marketing automation offers two key elements for marketers, sales and leadership:

  1. It is a platform that enables informed, personalized communication with your target audience across multiple channels.
  2. It empowers automated, intelligent communications reducing repetitive tasks and creating more value for your internal team and for the external audiences who you are communicating with. Your audience can meet you where they are, based on what they are interested in.

2. Where is the line between a CRM and Marketing Automation? What should be done in one but not the other?

Pro #1: Jennifer Michelle
An easy way to think of it is that CRMs are where you keep your lead and customer contact information. They are also where you keep the notes from your sales team. Marketing automation platforms are where you keep your forms, your lead magnets, your follow-up workflows.

However, the line between CRMs and marketing automation gets blurrier and blurrier every day thanks to integrations (for instance, between Insightly and Mailchimp), company acquisitions (for instance, when Salesforce bought Pardot) and company expansions (for instance, Hubspot offering Sales Hub).

It’s not so much about what you should do in one that you shouldn’t do in another. Do in either what the tool is designed to do.

Instead, think about permissions. Ideally, the only people getting content from your marketing automation workflows should be those who have signed up for them. When you want to send a cold email to a prospect, your CRM is the better choice. What you don’t want are people getting newsletters they have not agreed to or follow-up information they don’t want.

Pro #2: Amy Hamilton
Marketing Automation tools are used by Marketing Departments to build, design and automate marketing activity. MA tools are also used to manage lead lifecycles and to collect and analyze marketing data. Customer Relationship Management tools are used by Sales, Sales Operations and often Client Services Departments to track the sales process and manage customer relationships. CRMs are also used to collect and analyze sales and customer data. The key to success with Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management tools is Marketing and Sales process alignment. Therefore, MA and CRM tools should integrate with one another, and the people and processes they support should work closely together. However, marketing activity should be automated with an MA tool, and Marketing Departments should analyze marketing activity and campaign success within the MA tool. Likewise, sales activity should be tracked in the CRM, and prospect and customer data analysis should happen in the CRM.

Pro #3: Chintan Shah
A CRM can be an internal tool that allows sales and marketing to measure and organize leads and opportunities for the business. It can also be a powerful tool for interaction with your current customers, to ensure loyalty and show appreciation. As a sales tool, a CRM is often primarily a repository of information that can be reported on and from which insights can be gleaned. Marketing automation is the mechanism through which a company or organization can communicate with its audience. The former may contain less formal notes, intelligence and demographic information while the latter should be professional while matching the organization’s style and tone. A CRM may contain both objective and subjective notes and company evaluations of prospects while a marketing automation platform should emphasize external communication.

What is one thing people can do right now to make their Marketing Automation more effective?

Pro #1: Jennifer Michelle
Marketing moves quickly and campaigns can easily go stale or be forgotten about. So I always suggest people audit their workflows at least annually. That means you go through every ad, every link to make sure your messaging is current from starting point through to the final follow-up email. Check that the landing pages are still functional and up-to-date. Make sure the right people are getting lead scoring notifications. The last thing you want is an unmonitored email from a sales rep who left two years ago getting notifications about your hottest leads.

Pro #2: Amy Hamilton
Get organized! Naming conventions, file structures and defined processes are paramount to successful Marketing Automation. Organized activity, campaigns and operational programs will make administering the tool much simpler. Additionally, organization makes it much easier to build impactful reports.

Pro #3: Chintan Shah
Segment and personalize. Create more specific lists and groups of your target audiences and personalize your content to be more meaningful. No one likes generic emails, social media posts or landing pages. Make every piece of content count and make it memorable for your prospects and subscribers. Show them that you know what they care about and that you can offer them something of value.

What are some add-on tools that can make a Marketing Automation platform more effective?

Pro #1: Jennifer Michelle
Chatbots can be very useful! They give a personal touch and help get website visitors to the right content quickly. They can also be a great way to address FAQs immediately.

Pro #2: Amy Hamilton
There is a tool for everything! Marketing Teams should prioritize the tool that supports their strategy. If video is a big part of your strategy you should invest in a video tool that integrates with your Marketing Automation tool. If webinars are a large part of your plans, invest in a webinar tool that integrates with your MA tool.

Pro #3: Chintan Shah
Workflows (applies to email, forms and CRM), Chat bots, Pop-up lead forms and personalization tokens.

What reports from a Marketing Automation platform do you find most valuable?

Pro #1: Jennifer Michelle
I like to see pipeline ratios. So, website traffic to leads and leads to customers. If your report can show you that information by channel, even better.

Pro #2: Amy Hamilton
Campaign attribution reporting is by far the most powerful report a Marketing Department can build. Campaign attribution reports show which campaigns and channels contributed to sales pipeline, and sales revenue. Attribution reporting helps Marketing Department learn what works, and where their budgets should be allocated.

Pro #3: Chintan Shah
We bring together our website, email marketing, search campaigns, and social media handles together under our HubSpot marketing automation platform. With all of these channels, we could look at quite a lot of data. However, we find that these data points are most telling about our success each month: 1) number of new contacts; 2) lead forms completed; 3) newsletter links clicked; 4) traffic on our blog; 5) traffic on our site overall; 5) impressions, followers and engagement on social media. The key is to set KPI’s that map to your company’s specific goals, and then look at those metrics to measure your progress in reaching those goals. You can customize dashboards to show only the metrics you choose.

What reports or metrics best demonstrate the value or contribution of Marketing?

Pro #1: Jennifer Michelle
Again, pipeline ratios. They are easy to understand and can tell you a lot about the quality of the leads being generated.
In terms of marketing cost effectiveness, I think Cost per Lead is useful, as well as Net Revenue per Channel.

Pro #2: Amy Hamilton
Campaign attribution reporting is the report that clearly defines the impact Marketing has on sales and revenue.

Pro #3: Chintan Shah
This will vary based on each company or organization. However, for us, we look at the growth in the number of our contacts. All of our contacts have opted-in to receiving communication from us. So the larger this network grows, the more people we connect with.

We also look at website traffic, email open and click-through rates, blog traffic and forms completed. The forms are calls-to-action on different pages. When someone completes a form and shares his or her personal contact information, that is a signal to us that they want to connect. No one likes spam email or unsolicited phone calls. We feel a privilege in having someone’s contact information and we in turn endeavor to provide content, information or communication of value.

From a sales perspective, the number of leads, potential value of those leads and overall pipeline is crucial to our business success–so these metrics show the true value of marketing.

We have set up dashboards for our marketing and sales teams and custom dashboards for other data (such as website and newsletters) that we review monthly.

If someone were thinking about switching Marketing Automation Tools, what criteria should they carefully consider?

Pro #1: Jennifer Michelle
I always advise people to look at their funnels. Think about what you actually want automated. Once you know what you need done, it’s easier to listen for those capabilities in a demo. Otherwise, you can get distracted hearing about fancy features you will never use. So plot out your funnels first and figure out what is really important to you.

Pro #2: Amy Hamilton
I would recommend that before an organization considers switching tools that they first do the hard work internally to align sales and marketing people and processes. Once processes have been defined and documented evaluating Marketing Automation tools will be much easier. It is tempting to get excited about bells and whistles when evaluating tools, however, if an organization knows what they need from a tool they are less likely to pick a tool for functionality they will never end up using. I always recommend to be realistic and pick the tool that fits your budget and supports your people and processes. There will always be an add on tool for that bell and whistle when you’re ready for it.

Pro #3: Chintan Shah
First, do your homework and weigh what you need now with what you will need in 6 months, 1 year and 2 years. Balance current need with future scalability. Ensure that ease of use is included in your decision criteria. Second, make sure you have buy-in across the organization. Third, once you have a decision to make a change, get started. Too many organizations take extended amounts of time planning and strategizing and as a result the ROI may take many months or even years to achieve. Fourth, identify a quality partner who is certified in the new automation platform or tools and have them support you. This will ease the burden on your staff and also offer resources from experienced hands. In some cases, you may even be able to leverage their relationship with a marketing automation platform vendor to get a better price!

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

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Brittany Quemby

Brittany Quemby

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