Making Marketing Automation Work For You

Earlier this month, I headed out to Boston to attend my very first Inbound conference along with 14,000 other marketers from around the world.   Inbound is HubSpot’s annual 4-day event consisting of training, networking, educational sessions and inspiring keynotes.  While I was amazed by the A-list celebrity speakers that HubSpot secured, what left more of an imprint on me was the powerful movement behind marketing automation and the concept of inbound marketing.

Prior to attending the event, I had no idea just how popular the practice of marketing automation has become for both B2C and B2B organizations of all shapes and sizes.  The movement has grown at an exponential rate and I witnessed this first-hand as thousands of attendees spoke the same automation language with ease.  According to research from the Marketing Automation Insider, over 142,000 businesses are using automation software and have reported a 451% increase in qualified leads. While it’s no longer necessary to prove the use case for this tool, there are quite a few challenges that businesses face when implementing the technology.

Over the years, I have used several automation tools, such as Eloqua, Marketo and HubSpot, and learned some valuable lessons that were reinforced throughout the Inbound sessions that I attended.  The 5 key insights and takeaways that I wanted to share are:

  • Start simple –While it’s tempting to want to take advantage of all of the tools and functionality in the automation software, it’s better to take baby steps for your first campaign and build your automation skills gradually. The tools can be mastered quickly and campaigns will be much more successful in the long run if you are patient and take the time to fully understand how to incorporate automation in your overall inbound strategy.
  • Monitor data integrity – The marketing database that you grow in the tool is one of your most valuable assets. As the old saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”  It’s crucial to understand the sources of your contacts and only invest in ones that actually engage.  As HubSpot’s Tom Monaghan reported, “engagement is 3x better when you use forms over lists.”
  • Use personalization – It’s important to customize emails to your target audience so they are both relevant and personal. With all of the content and noise in the market, it’s difficult to stand out and your messaging can be easily overlooked.  However, there is a clear line between effective personalization and getting too close to the customer. They don’t want to feel like they are being stalked.
  • Earn trust – No one likes to be sold. Now more than ever, people are bombarded with information. Understanding your customers’ problems and providing quality content or thought leadership that provides an actual solution to these issues will help you build a relationship overtime.  If you interrupt someone’s busy day with messaging that is sales-oriented, they will likely be turned off.  Instead, give your audience meaningful content that is not only informative but also relevant.
  • Recognize leads generated – With all of the nurtured leads that you generate in your inbound campaigns, one of the most important steps in the process to close the funnel is to have a business development and sales strategy in place. While that often feels outside of the marketing team’s territory, it’s important to make sure you have salespeople aligned and ready to act on hot leads.  For campaigns to work, you need buy-in from a sales team.

In the founder’s keynote session at Inbound, Dharmesh Shah said “market unto others as you would have them market unto you.” I found this particularly interesting because it’s a simple concept but one that has a huge impact on the success of all of your marketing initiatives, including marketing automation.  It’s important to understand your target audience and how they like to communicate.  The bottom line is that without putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and thinking through how your marketing strategy and approach will be perceived, your hard work may end up in the garbage.

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