Marketing automation can make your team even more productive and help drive more sales. You can save on time and resources and be more proactive in communicating with leads and customers. It’s great! However, you need to take a step back and make sure you’re ready before you pull the trigger on a purchase. After all, it’s an investment — and you want to get a return on that investment, don’t you?

Do You Have a Documented Content Marketing Plan?

According to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, “53% of the most effective marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.” If you aren’t taking content marketing seriously, you may not be ready for a full-blown investment in automation software just yet. Content marketing, after all, is a big part of what drives visitors and leads to your website.

If you haven’t documented your content marketing strategy, make that your first commitment. Set up a plan that helps you generate content for your target personas. Make sure your content speaks to personas at the various phases of their buying journeys. Once you set that content plan, your team can begin generating content while you begin the implementation.

Do You Have a Marketing Technologist?

While it’s true that automation software and other marketing technology has become much easier to use over the past few years, you still need to have a specialist who “owns” the marketing technology. This may be a person on staff or you may choose to outsource management of your marketing technology. If you have a small team, you may be tempted to spread responsibility across a couple of team members. That might work, but it might not be as effective. The 2015 Marketing Automation Performance Report from Autopilot states, “. . . companies with dedicated owners produce on average five times as many leads (5,600 leads per month) as those who instead share responsibilities across teams (1,100 leads per month).”

The best case scenario is having a dedicated resource whose responsibility it is to set up your automation solution and handle the day-to-day tasks associated with it. This person can help troubleshoot, develop reports, create web forms, set up your lead nurturing workflows, ensure your marketing software “talks” to your sales team’s CRM software, etc. If you don’t have someone who knows the technology inside and out, everyone will become aggravated with slow time to implement changes and slow period to realize a return on investment.

Do You Know What You Want to Accomplish with Marketing Automation?

A third issue to really consider before making any marketing automation purchases has to do with your expectations and goals. Are you trying to save time? Are you looking to reduce or keep headcount low? Do you want to increase website visits? Do you need to do more with the leads you already have? Determine your key areas of need to find a solution that can help you meet your needs and reach your goals. In some cases, you may require more than one solution to accomplish all of your goals. Here are some of my favorite solutions for automating various parts of the online marketing process. You may need only one of these depending on the size of your budget and immediate needs/goals. Most likely, though, you will need a combination of solutions to manage your marketing effectively.

ServiceDescription
Lead LiaisonLead Liaison is a great marketing automation solution for B2B organizations that want to 1) know what companies are visiting their websites, 2) what specific prospects are reacting to email marketing, 3) what pages prospects are viewing, and more. Lead Liaison is a full-featured marketing automation platform that we use ourselves and on behalf of clients. Favorite
WordStreamWordStream provides you with tools that take care of a lot of the heavy lifting so you can make better decisions managing your Google AdWords PPC campaigns. Favorite
MOZWhile Moz doesn’t “automate” SEO, it does automatically update insights and reports to help you with your content and search engine optimization.  Favorite
Constant ContactConstant Contact is a great email marketing solution that can help you build your email opt-in list and deliver lead nurturing emails via simple autoresponders. Favorite
Hootsuite ProYes, I’m a Hootsuite Ambassador and Jackson Marketing Services is a Hootsuite Solution Partner. However, I was a Hootsuite Pro customer before all that! It’s a simple but powerful social media dashboard that can help you automate certain social media tasks. Favorite
CoScheduleCoSchedule is an awesome content marketing calendar that works great with WordPress. We use it here to schedule our posts, analyze headlines, and schedule social promotion of content. Favorite

Are You Automating Your Marketing?

Are you putting marketing automation to work for you this year? What challenges are you facing in making the most of automation? If you need a little help getting started, be sure to check out our Selecting Marketing Technology Guide!

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