Four Things to Consider Before You Buy Marketing Automation

Well, we’re in the dog days of August.  However, for many B2B marketers, 2012 planning is right around the corner and usually starts right after Labor Day.  And for many of you, one of your goals will be to finally implement a marketing automation tool. Unfortunately, too many marketers begin this process with the question, “Which automation tools should we look at?”  Not only is this the wrong question but its not even close to where you should begin.  To have a successful marketing automation implementation start with this question and this question alone: “What does our lead management process look like and how can we automate it?”  If you don’t have a solid lead management process in place than a marketing automation platform (MAP) will only automate a broken process. What’s the point of that?

Instead reviewing your current lead management process, making improvements where they are needed, and finalizing a plan and map for the improved process will have two effects. First, you’ll become more efficient in your marketing and sales efforts.  Second, defining the process ahead of time will help make selecting a marketing automation tool easier because you’ll now have process requirements which will guide the technology selection.

So before you go lining up demos consider these four stages for lead management process development.

1. Review Your Current Process

You can’t begin to automate processes you haven’t defined. And you can’t define those processes you haven’t reviewed. So the first phase in lead management process development is to do a deep review and discovery of your existing processes (you may even call it an audit). This process should be jointly conducted with marketing, sales and other appropriate stakeholders. If you can’t find an internal objective source, consider bringing in an outside consultant. What is the goal of this review and audit? To define the current process, identify gaps, and create a new lead management process that fills those gaps. This process should cover areas such as data management, lead qualification, lead routing, lead nurturing, and metrics.

2. Obtain Executive Buy-in

So now you have a newly defined process. However, implementing it throughout the organization will go nowhere unless you have executive buy-in. Executive teams today are revenue-driven and ROI-focused (if yours are not, you might want to start dusting off the resume), so management will often look at marketing automation as just another expense. It’s imperative to present the need for a new lead management process, supported by automation, in terms of revenue. To see how this can work, go to “Myth 5” in this example.

3. Implementation Is More Than Just Software

Once you have the new process in place and the approval of management, you can move on to implementation. But remember, we’re not just talking software here. This is the implementation of a new process for how you obtain, manage and close sales leads. The best way to achieve a successful process implementation is to give authority and responsibility to an “independent” project director. This person will lead the cross-functional team in implementing the new process, and selecting (based on the process) the new automation platform.

4. Monitor, Tweak, Enforce, Repeat

Nothing would be worse than to spend all the time, effort and resources on implementing a new process only to have everyone revert back to old behavior. The new process will not run on its own. Long lasting success requires ongoing monitoring, tweaking and enforcing the process changes you’ve implemented. Like the implementation phase, this is best achieved by identifying the resources that will have the authority and knowledge to ensure the new process is being followed. They will spend significant time reviewing the process, analyzing metrics, monitoring technology use, and interacting and communicating with the various stakeholders. If your organization is not committed to this kind of long-term role, then you may want to consider investing company resources in something else besides marketing automation.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Marketing automation is not easy. It requires time, planning, process and patience. But for those ready to take this approach to the journey, the returns can be exponential.

This post originally appeared on the PointClear blog.