PeaseGuestPostGuest post by Robert Pease

Having now worked in the marketing automation industry on the vendor side for several years (Salesfusion currently, LoopFuse prior to being acquired by Salesfusion) and spending a fair amount of time in various VP of Marketing/CMO roles prior to that, I like to think I have a pretty grounded approach to what products like this can do and where they fit in the organization.

Over the last several years, the “noise” around marketing automation has intensified and it is now very much on the mind of pretty much anyone responsible for marketing.  There are tips, tricks, and best practice guides plus no shortage of experts, luminaries, and influencers touting the capabilities and benefits of marketing automation.

Make no mistake, the value is huge, the benefits are real, and the path to realizing them pretty well defined.

Marketing departments have not traditionally been purchasers of technology (at least not directly) so introducing sophisticated marketing automation software platforms to organizations that don’t have a methodology or at least a baseline process for technology procurement can, in some cases, lead to frustration and disappointment once a purchase is made.

To remedy this, every marketing organization contemplating purchasing marketing automation should have a process to understand their business needs and to vet the enabling technology designed to address them.

The first step is not to contact every marketing automation vendor out there and request a demonstration or sign up for a trial.  The first step is to focus on where and how in your business you can automate repetitive or inefficient tasks, surface meaningful data and metrics, and ensure proper and timely prospect follow up and engagement through the sales cycle.

Here is a suggested roadmap on buying marketing automation:

1. Define what success looks like
A simple question that may have a complex answer.  Why are you doing this?  Is it right for your business?  If you are lacking visibility to your sales funnel including lead sources, conversion rates, and ROI then achieving that is success.  If you are not properly prioritizing and segmented leads for your sales team then doing that correctly is success. Be sure to articulate the outcome you are seeking at the very start of this process.

2.  Understand your business requirements
Do you have an existing off-line process you want to automate?  A simple automated sales follow up email for any inbound inquiry could be missing in your organization.  Where do you or your team spend huge amounts of time creating reports, updating multiple systems, or researching questions from the CEO?  Focus on those areas, define them, and document them.  They will be key as you begin to evaluate enabling technologies.

3. Create a budget
How much do you want to spend per month or per year on this?  Do you need to hire additional staff?  Take a holistic view of the investment required and know what makes sense to you as a percentage of your overall marketing spend.  We had a previous discussion about this on this post:  What percent of your budget should be spent on marketing automation?

4. Create a timeline
What are you going to do and when?  How much effort is required for each step?  Map out core activities like business process mapping, reporting and metrics definition, and enabling technology review and selection.  Let other members of your team know when and where you will need their input and effort – especially the sales team.

5. Validate business requirements with vendors through a trial or short pilot
In a world of on-demand software, you can quickly and easily see how your requirements are met (or not) with various products.  Taking the time on the front-end to define what you need will allow you to drive the sales process and literally review options with a checklist approach.  That helps the vendor as much as it helps you.

6. Designate ownership
This is an important piece to the overall equation which is who is responsible for the product?  Who will be trained on how to use it?  Do you have the skills on your team currently or do you need to hire someone?  This is not one person’s responsibility.

Marketing automation software can transform how you run your marketing department (and business) so everyone should be included – even if that is just viewing reports or accessing dashboards (hint: your CEO will love all the data you now have).  Most vendors will help with initial set-up and configuration but day-to-day usage is on your shoulders so make sure you understand exactly how you will be using the product you’ve just purchased.

Robert Pease has been both a CMO and a provider of software solutions to help them do their jobs.  He is currently Vice President of Product Marketing at SaaS marketing automation company Salesfusion.