How Do I Prepare for Marketing Automation?

Oct 06 2015

This post originally appeared on the Act-On Marketing Action Blog

We’re in the early days of marketing automation. In fact, I believe that marketing automation (MA) adoption is today where social media adoption was in 2004. VentureBeat reported just last year that only about 3% of non-tech companies have adopted marketing automation.

And just as social was confusing to marketing and business leaders ten years ago, MA can be confusing today. Why?

I’ve yet to meet a technology that comes with a strategy built in.

While recent statistics show the amazing promise of properly tuned MA systems, the fact is: without a strategy, the platforms themselves are just technology.

Consider the following: SiriusDecisions, in their 2014 Marketing Automation Report found:

  • 85% of B2B marketers using a marketing automation platform feel that they’re not using it to its full potential.
  • Only 8% of organizations surveyed were using marketing automation for existing customer marketing.
  • 10% of B2B marketers plan to switch MA platforms this year.

So how can we ensure the success of a marketing automation implementation? What does marketing automation “readiness” look like?

10 Critical Steps to Prepare for Marketing Automation Success

At Mambo, we’ve developed a Marketing Readiness Program that’s been well tested and very successfully implemented over the past five years.

Our process isn’t rocket science. In fact, it takes some old fashioned leadership and a whole lot of collaboration beyond marketing to successfully leverage MA. In summary, if you go through the following steps, you’ll be well prepared for MA success.

1. Get your key stakeholders involved.

Depending on the size of your organization, you should have the following business leaders in the room to help define and implement the project successfully:

  • Marketing – typically owns awareness, lead generation, and positioning your products and services in a competitive marketplace
  • Sales – responsible for net new and recurring revenue goals
  • IT – responsible for technology integrations, security, risk management, reporting requirements
  • Business Analyst – if you’re lucky enough to have a business analyst or data scientist in the building, get her involved!
  • Executives – Include your strategic management team so they are clearly informed of the plan and the expected results

2. Set goals and objectives for the business.

We can’t manage what we can’t measure. And we should all be aiming for the same goal. Set aside a half day and talk through your company’s business goals. Capture and socialize them with key stakeholders so that everyone understands every goal.

3. Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each goal.


In your goals and objectives, define exactly how we’ll know we’re succeeding. What are we measuring, and how often? Be specific, and collaborate on these! Often the conversations on measurement are the most important you can have on the team.

However, please note that just because something can be measured, doesn’t mean it should be measured. Spend time thinking about the data you need to provide actionable insights to improve your business.

KPIs for goals should encompass:

  • Marketing – Awareness / Funnel Conversion metrics
  • Sales – Revenue and profitability metrics
  • Customer Success – Retention / Upgrade / NPS metrics
  • Other strategic business goals

Capture and publish your KPIs for the company’s benefit. The more who see them the more who’ll support them. Whether it’s a real-time digital dashboard, or a poster board updated with markers, the external display and communal view rallies the team and helps provide feedback for progress as a motivational tool.

4. Determine the Business’ System of Record.

A system of record is the platform that trumps all others in terms of reporting. It’s imperative to establish a tight integration between your systems to ensure your data is flowing correctly, quickly, and reliably. For example, if your business has a CRM system like Salesforce, it’s often the system of record for a combination of Sales, Finance, and Marketing data. Your marketing automation platform will need to connect to Salesforce (or other CRM / system of record) to contribute essential information to the reporting process; as well as passing data back from the CRM to the marketing automation system.

If you neglect to name a System of Record formally, there will be potential for issues down the road. Name it. Keep it. Respect it. Trust it.

This is where IT can be your BFF. The IT team will help guide you through the process of defining / identifying reporting structures that your business leaders will need to report on KPIs and business results. And IT involvement from the beginning is critical. People tend to support what they help to create. Nurture the IT relationship for your continued success.

Marketing automation platforms can be very complex to setup and integrate properly (because we can connect to so many systems), so if MA platforms are out of your IT team’s wheelhouse, it’s a really good idea to seek out integration experts.

5. With Sales (and your Business Analyst) agree on funnel stages and definitions.marketing_automation_4-1

For B2B organizations especially, this is a critical step. Whenever I encounter issues between Sales and Marketing, it’s generally a matter of semantics.Lead Funnel

Take it from a battle-scarred veteran. You must agree upon the following:

• What is a Marketing Qualified Lead, and when are they passed to sales?
• What is a Sales Qualified Lead, and when does a sales development rep (SDR) pass to a sales leader?
• What constitutes an Opportunity, deal stages, and the probability of each stage to result in a won deal?

6. With Sales / Business Analyst, agree on lead scoring definitions.

Behavioral scores are simply how much is your visitor interested in you? Demographic scores indicate how much you’re interested in your visitor? You’ll need to agree on the following, at minimum:

• What are the behaviors we are looking for of our prospects online?
• How should we weight those behaviors?
• How should we degrade those behaviors?
• What are the demographics we are looking for in ideal prospects?
• How will we profile demographic information?
• What systems will we use to cleanse data?
• How often will we cleanse our prospect list?

You’ll likely uncover a wonderful understanding of the sales perspective of the funnel here. This is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate and learn more about your most successful customers, and why they’re so successful for you. And you can use this information to…

7. Define – down to an excruciating detail – exactly whom you’re targeting with your products and services.

Too often I’ve found that marketers (and sales) know more about the products they’re marketing than the people they’re marketing them to…

Your Personas should come alive for marketing and sales, and you’ll get a big bonus if you share persona information with your product or service folks.

Personas should have names, pictures, and personalities. At Mambo, we have three Personas, and we know Tracy, Mindy, and Cecil extremely well. For example, we know: What keeps Mindy up at night? What problems Cecil is trying to solve as he’s reading our blog? What motivates Tracy to download content from us? And how Tracy should feel when passing our content along… (and to whom it goes!)


8. Assess your content. Map it to your Personas and your Funnel stages.

The whole idea of marketing automation is getting the right content to the right person at the right time. You have to review your content assets, and map them to each stage of the decision-making process for each person involved in the sale. Give your content a realistic review:

  • What kind of content will appeal to all of your personas?
  • You can likely use that for top of the funnel, or ToFu, content, but bonus points for creating content personalized to each persona at the top of the funnel
  • ToFu content is usually educational or entertaining in nature and NOT ABOUT YOU! There’s a good chance the visitor doesn’t really know and/or trust you yet, and today’s savvy consumers will quickly tune out “salesy” product-centric content
  • Which content will be valuable enough that you’ll be able to ask for contact information in exchange?
  • This is where things get interesting. You’ll be able to see who’s interested enough to give you something of value (usually at least their email) for something valuable you have to offer.
  • Make sure you deliver on the value exchange!
  • Once you get contact information, how will you continue to engage, entertain and educate your personas – each in their own way?
  • Craft a GAP analysis along the way. Some things to look for as you’re reviewing your content:’
  • Where are you missing content in the funnel?
  • Do you have enough content for every Persona for every stage of their discovery, consideration, and decision-making process?
  • Is your content eminently shareable? (And is worthy of sharing?)

Believe me, this is where the beauty of marketing automation comes in, because it can automate a ton of this nurturing and tracking process – once you have the content and nurture streams set up. But you have to craft the content with your personas and their needs in mind so you’ll have the fuel for the automation engine!.

Your role – to your personas – is to be a trusted advisor and guide, helping your valued future customers navigate the challenging (sometimes thrilling, sometimes scary) journey associated with every new purchase.

This is a unique opportunity to develop a meaningful and lasting relationship by answering their questions, anticipating their needs, and becoming their hero. A hero they’ll tell all their friends about, starting another’s journey … on and on.

9. Craft a content calendar to keep the lead engine primed and running.

A little bit of planning at this point goes a long way. You’ve completed your GAP analysis. You now know where you need to apply pressure to generate content – probably for months. Codify your efforts in a content calendar. You can structure it in a way that you’ll always be assured of a strong pipeline of content, just as your sales will be assured of a pipeline of qualified leads.

10. Plan your first campaign.

We always recommend pulling a few people together in a room with a whiteboard to plan your first campaign. Structure it by determining:

  • Who’s the audience? (Down to the persona.)
  • Where in the engagement process are they?
  • Awareness? Just beginning to educate themselves?
  • Engaged? Willing to exchange information with you?
  • What would be of value to them at each stage?
  • What do we want the campaign to do?
  • What are we planning to test in our first campaign (headlines / CTAs / content pieces – pick one!)?
  • What results do we expect to see?
Use these steps to prepare for your marketing automation readiness, and you’ll be well prepared for the results MA can deliver, when paired with a smart, relevant and thoughtful strategy. Learn more about Mambo Media’s Marketing Automation Readiness Program.


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