Best Practices for Success with Marketing Automation Software

So you’ve finally made your marketing automation software vendor selection. Congratulations! While the hardest part might be behind you, generating an ROI on the live system is an entirely different beast.

We recently completed a marketing automation software implementation (I won’t say with whom as we remain fully unbiased) and thought we would share some of the lessons we learned along the way. We could have saved ourselves some headaches (and money) had we known these points ahead of time. While some of the tips are basic best practices for any software implementation, others were specific to the software. New and prospective owners of marketing automation software, take note:

  1. Understand the technical implications of integrating with your CRM system. Our “basic” integration took our developer three months. We thought the project would be easy. But like most development projects, it quickly got more complex and our timeline expanded as we got into the details. The challenges were not with the system’s API or stability; they were with our own requirements definition and prioritization. Of course, our CRM system is proprietary and the integration was not fully routine. Salesforce.com users may not experience the same pains we did. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they do.
  2. Get your content in order. Start developing more ahead of time as you’ll likely need it. You’ll learn that you’ll need an enormous amount of content to fulfill automated campaigns that meet your goals. We had a fair amount of content already created, but underestimated how much additional content we needed to create and how long it would take. Our workload grew quickly. This was the last thing we needed while going through an implementation.  
  3. Start with simple campaigns and grow from there. It takes a while to learn new software, regardless of your level of computer savvyness. It helps to begin with basic campaigns before getting into anything too complex. We found that these campaigns can get complicated quickly and that unexpected challenges arose as we got into them. Trying to manage a complicated campaign as a beginner is likely to be a frustrating experience. Biting off more than one can chew is also a classic culprit for failed implementations. So bite carefully.
  4. Plan to spend a lot of time feeding the system. Just like any software system, marketing automation software requires manpower to fully utilize it. We operate a very lean business and soon found that generating an ROI on the system would require a significant amount of manpower. Ignoring the system while it’s on cruise control is equivalent to burning cash. Don’t do it and be ready to devote time to monitoring it.
  5. Lean heavily on your vendor for best practices. Lead scoring and nurturing are still fairly nascent concepts that most organizations are formally adopting for the first time. We found we had a lot to learn and were grateful for our vendor’s help. Their marketing expertise helped us get pointed in the right direction and was essential in making the implementation successful. So lean on your vendor. It’s their job, their training is free (in most cases), and their success depends on yours.

So there you have it. We’re certainly not experts at implementing software (let alone marketing automation), but following these simple steps should put you well on your way to success with your system. They certainly would have helped us.