I've been talking to more companies and fellow marketers about email marketing automation this year than I ever have before. I wanted to write a post about what you should be thinking about before you ever get to choosing the actual platform and set of tools that can help you get to the level with your marketing.
This is what you need to think about before choosing a tool:
How are you creating content today?
If you think you're creating a lot of content today then, it's going to triple when you implement an automation tool. Do you have the resources in-house to create content for emails, blogs, landing pages, ebooks, whitepapers and other types of thought-leadership pieces? If you're going to utilize email to nurture and convert potential customers as well as existing customers you'll need relevant, high-quality content. Really think about this, because content is core to whatever platform you choose. Outsourcing certain pieces can help, but you need a plan on what your team is going to execute in-house. It's not just about programming within the platform, content creation is the most important part of what you'll be doing.
What are you doing today?
Take an inventory of all of your existing and wish-list marketing efforts across all channels. Dissect each channel and map out what can be automated and conduct a cost-benefit analysis on each effort. There's no shortcut here. Use excel, roll up your sleeves and get everyone on the team involved. This seems overwhelming, but it's a great foundation for your next step.
What's your overall marketing automation purpose and strategy?
Don't just jump on the bandwagon because everyone else is using email marketing automation. It needs to make sense for your business and your marketing efforts. If you're marketing to several channels and email is a way you communicate already, then tools like Marketo and Eloqua are sophisticated technologies to consider. Defining your purpose and strategy will help you to think about the "why" and how your marketing can make a difference to the bottom line.
Define your goals.
Why do marketers use these types of tools? Maybe your long-term goal is to reduce or eliminate advertising. Or perhaps you want to shorten the sales-cycle, especially if you're in the B2B space, where a sales-cycle can exceed 12 months or more. Cost savings are typical to include as a goal. You probably have offline tactics that can be converted to online. Maybe you're ready to implement a customer onboarding program. Whatever your goals are, define them and create benchmarks so that you can track and measure your efforts.
How long is this going to take, once we choose a platform?
Once you have made a decision on a system, plan for a 90 - 120 day implementation process. You'll have to include your IT team and potentially other business teams depending on what you plan to do. You'll need time to dissect your current conversion times and figure out lead scoring, nomenclature, procedures and processes. Don't fast-track this - you'll have a much better outcome if you put the time in before and during implementation.
It's going to change and that's okay.
After you take the plunge and implement a marketing automation tool, you'll learn more than you thought you would. Your original strategy will most likely shift. You will find yourself thinking beyond what you originally planned and evolving other parts of your business communications efforts. That's okay. It's exciting to learn something new and push your efforts to the next level.
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