Exploding marketing automation myths for real results

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Statistics show that marketing automation—or more specifically, a revised lead-management process—can increase revenue, improve sales efficiency and drive ROI from lead-generation dollars. A revised lead-management process that incorporates marketing automation technology is the driving force to success. Many of us lived through the early CRM days, when the promise of automating the sales force was a silver bullet to increase revenue. But failed attempts left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, with the majority of failures attributed to hard-to-use, over-engineered applications. Another issue was the lack of a process to utilize the technology effectively. It's important to know that you can implement marketing automation successfully without an overhaul of your entire organization. But if marketers don't pay close attention, they will see themselves reliving the sins of the past. Buying has changed and, to succeed, marketing and sales must evolve. If you are thinking about marketing automation, that's good. It can help your organization become more effective, from both marketing and sales perspectives, by saving money and driving additional revenue. Visibility and new metrics about your prospects' interests can increase the number of qualified leads. However, just like any complex business application, it requires structure. What's needed before organizations start using automation is a well-defined lead management process. Part of the requirement for success is your ability to take small, digestible chunks of a new process and implement them to help prove success to management and get the needed sales buy-in. Let's review some specifics:
  • Set realistic goals. The first step is to define short, mid- and long-term goals. These can be as simple as increasing click-throughs or conversions via better-targeted email marketing programs or they could entail implementing a nurturing component within an existing campaign to see what effect it has on the quality of outbound calls.
  • Get sales to buy in. In theory, you'd want to make sure you have sales buy-in before starting the implementation. Sometimes, however, that's not going to happen. You can continue to send sales all the leads that you do today, but with additional intelligence, alerts and other items that provide more information for warmer calls. Then as time goes on and you get the needed sales buy-in, you can start sending only sales-ready leads to sales.
  • Identify your initial campaign. It's important to evaluate where to start. Where can you get some immediate value without consuming the entire marketing department or missing current planned activities? It depends on current activity and what you can facilitate. Some companies start by better segmenting and targeting prospects with their e-newsletters. Other companies implement an approach to track and nurture inbound leads from their AdWords campaigns. Keep it simple, yet focus on benefits you can realistically achieve.
  • Examine the lead-to-sales process. How do you want leads to pass to sales as you grow into your lead management process and system? Some companies choose to keep their processes the same initially—for example, by moving all leads to sales. Some companies choose to implement basic scoring and only move those leads to sales that meet basic criteria.
  • Develop metrics now—and later. Upgrade your thinking about analytics and lead visibility. Now you can track not just opens and clicks but also ongoing behavior and marketing effectiveness. Maybe you start by tracking the increase in conversions by campaign. Later, you begin tracking the number of sales-ready leads generated by a campaign and the revenue it generated. You'll need to test, measure and refine.
Marketing automation systems are not a silver bullet; they require careful planning and thoughtful processes. However, you don't have to reorganize your entire organization to gain some value. Plan and implement in small phases and, over time, there's no question you'll begin seeing the benefits. Lisa Cramer is co-founder and president of LeadLife Solutions (, a provider of on-demand lead management solutions. She can be reached at
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