This is the second in a four-part series by Heinz Marketing Account Director Brian Hansford on the keys to marketing automation success.  Part one focused on designing a better process.

People are the most important resources for any organization in any high value function.  The right people are also critical for the success of a marketing automation initiative.  I am asked weekly to help organizations find people that can take over, create or join a marketing automation team.  Here are the questions I ask and recommendations I make.

Find the Right People

A common question I get asked by recruiters and hiring managers  is who I know that is an Eloqua or Marketo “expert” that can come in and kick start or take over a lead generation or email marketing program.  That question is like asking for a nuclear scientist to coach a college football program while also serving as a gourmet chef at the local four-star restaurant.  There are lots of variables and requirements.  Simply asking for an “expert” on a platform limits the focus.

Here are examples of some recommendations and questions I ask in return to clarify their hiring requirements:

  1. Don’t focus solely on finding someone with a marketing automation background or email marketing experience.
  2. Consider someone with experience or passion around Web content publishing or Web site administration.  Marketing automation platforms are very similar to Content Management Systems and the skills and knowledge are readily transferable from one to another.
  3. If your organization is a small to mid-sized organization, consider recruiting someone from a larger organization.  People from larger organizations move to smaller teams because they will have broader responsibility and their impact can be much easier to perceive.
  4. The definition of an expert is relative.  Do you really need an expert on the platform? Or an expert on business process?  An expert on lead management and lead scoring?  An expert on content marketing?  An expert on business and systems analysis?

Grow Effectiveness and Encourage Positive Results

Once your team is in place either using existing team members or new recruits, I recommend these guidelines.

1. Training, training, training
Most leading marketing automation platform vendors provide decent levels of product training and the best practices for implementing and growing a successful initiative.  Third party organizations such as the Marketing Automation Institute also provide valuable training.  Unfortunately many companies do not take advantage of the training, even at the most rudimentary levels.  The commonly accepted statistic is that over 70 percent of all marketing automation customers are mainly using their platforms as an overpowered email tool.  There are several short-sighted reasons for this such as:

  • We can’t afford to take the time away from batch and send emails.
  • Lead flow will suffer if we stop or stagger operations for training.
  • We can figure it out on our own.
  • Our people read a lot of blogs and they get it.
  • I went to the Sirius conference this year and I can train my people how to set up our system.
  • Training? We don’t need no stinking training! (believe it or not I hear this a lot)

Training helps build the knowledge and confidence of a team to get the most value from a marketing automation solution.  Don’t be the CxO, VP, or Director that undermines the importance of training!

2. Best practices consumption and generation
Encourage the creation, sharing and consumption of information around marketing automation, marketing, demand generation, revenue marketing, content marketing, sales, technology, social media and more.  The more ideas consumed, the better chances your team will innovate ideas that are best for your business.  Don’t isolate your team and regulate access to information and best practices ideas.  Use vendors, blogs, social media, webinars, trade publications – all are great sources of best practices at little to no cost.

3. Organizational exposure
Effective managers support the resources on their team and protect them without isolating them.  Let the people on your team engage with teams across the organization, including (and especially) sales.  The more exposure your team has internally the better the understanding of how the business operates.  This helps build alignment between departments.

4. Industry exposure
Encourage your team to attend local user groups and national trade show events.  These events are great venues to learn new ideas, network, and find inspiration for building successful elements to a marketing automation initiative.  Don’t box your team into a cube.  Great opportunities include user groups, annual vendor conferences, analyst summits and other industry events.

5. Talk to customers!
Everyone in marketing should talk with and listen to customers and prospects.  Join sales calls. Conduct focus groups. Cultivate references and other forms of customer evidence.  When Marketing has these conversations and listens, patterns can emerge on how to support and engage prospective customers in their buying process.

Without the right people and the right support and resources, a marketing automation initiative will fail.  Find the right people.  Support them with resources and expose them to all facets of the business, including customers!