1. Process first.
Make sure you have internal processes that support what you are trying to accomplish with your marketing automation solution. If you don't have processes you will not get the best value out of your marketing automation solution. Technology is nothing without solid business processes behind it.
Some important processes are:
- Do you have a process to produce content?
- Do you have a process for lead hand-off to sales?
- Do you have a process to review marketing automation data and adjust accordingly?
2. Define what is a "qualified lead."
The first thing to do is sit down with sales and make sure you have a common agreement on what is a qualified lead. In other words what criteria's are needed for a lead to be passed on the sales? Criteria's should be demographic (title, age...) and behavioural (visited website last 3 days, opened email x...). This will ensure sales and marketing are in alignment as to what type of leads needs to be generated.
Once sales and marketing have a common understanding on the type of leads you are looking for the rest is easier to put in place. Lead generation, nurturing and scoring will all be based on the "qualified lead" definition.
At first the definition will be at bit vague but as time goes on you can go back to it and refine it until you are satisfied with the type of leads being passed to sales.
3. Work together.
As mentioned above work with other departments. Do not work in a silo.
- Involve sales to define what a "qualified lead" is and get feedback. Sales and marketing should always be aligned.
- Involve Operations/IT to ensure you have internal processes to support the marketing automation software. This is less important for on-demand solutions (SAAS) but still important.
- Involve upper-management and endure they know what is going and the value you are driving from the marketing automation. Most offerings have reports and dashboards that can be used to show the impact of the marketing automation solution on the business.
4. Create quality content
Create content. Lots of it but don't forget quality. Think about what buyers in your market want to hear about. Think about what they need to know to make better buying decisions... Content is important since it will be the base of all you're nurturing and lead generation strategies. Make sure you spend quality time on it.
5. Start simple.
When dealing with automation make sure you understand how the marketing automation tool works before undertaking bigger automation projects. Start with high impact areas and easier processes first (sending out newsletter, basic scoring...). Once you understand your tool better than go for the more complicated processes.
6. Pace yourself.
As mentioned earlier, marketing automation solutions offer a great deal of functionality. Make sure you take your time to learn all these different pieces and how they tie together. You are better off implementing what you know at first and then growing into the rest as you get more and more comfortable. Implementing everything at once will overwhelm you. Take your time, implement programs, analyze the results and then move on to the next thing.
7. Implement lead scoring.
This is probably one of the reasons you bought the marketing automation software in the first place. Implement lead scoring techniques to make sure you are sending quality leads to sales. There are many resources on the Internet on this topic that you can read to ensure you are doing it right. Lead scoring can be complex so I won't try to explain here in one paragraph but you definitely should be doing it.
8. Implement lead nurturing.
This is probably the second reason why you bought the marketing automation software. Implement lead nurturing techniques to ensure you are giving your leads the content they need to move them down your marketing funnel until they reached the stage of sales handoff. Nurturing is very dependent on your business and the industry you are in but one thing remains the same: you need high-quality content to be successful at it.
9. Test, test and test again.
Ensure you are testing variations of your different content and delivery methods. Most good marketing automation solutions offer multi-variance testing in their software, make sure you use it. Test landing pages, test email content, test email subject lines, test everything. Do not change too many variables at once but always try to test something. This will allow you to improve over time and increase your conversion rates dramatically.
10. Understand the data.
Marketing automation tools will produce a lot of data that you can look at. Make sure you do. You will find a wealth of information on prospective buyer behaviours that you can then use to improve your lead nurturing, lead scoring and various marketing campaigns. Try to look at the data once a week and do a deeper dig probably once month.