How to implement marketing automation software

By Stellan Björnesjö

How to implement marketing automation software

When it comes to implementing marketing automation software, the focus is often on the software rather than other vital aspects of a successful implementation. There are essential steps to take, questions to ask, and typical hurdles many organisations face. This article aims to shine a light on all of these aspects.

Step 1: Define the business case for automation

The first step of any initiative should be designed as a "gate" to ensure you don't spend more time and money and focus on something than the value you get. Call it a "make or break" step if you will. It is no different with marketing automation.

Questions to ask: Are we doing it manually today? (If not, is it possible?) Why would we want to automate this thing? How large is the potential target audience for this automation?

Typical errors: You spend way too much effort on automating something of small value, which instead could be a task done manually now and then.

Step 2: Define what we want them to do and how to measure

Having passed the first gate, the second thing to do is to agree on what we want users passing through our marketing automation flow to do (the end goal). Shall they register for something, book a meeting with someone, download a content piece, etc. We also want to track the results to prove our assumptions about automating were correct (and optimise our automation over time, see further on).

Questions to ask: What do we want the contacts that go through our flow to do? What is the end goal? How do we measure that success?

Typical errors: Skipping this step.

Step 3: Design the automation flow

With the end goal agreed upon and measurement sorted, the next step is designing the automation flow. How do we best guide the user towards our goal? A good approach is to consider the "mindset" of the user based on the starting circumstances. How we design a flow would be different for users at the beginning of their customer journey compared to qualified ones that "only" need to be tipped over that last hurdle to take the action that we want them to take.

Questions to ask: What "mindset" are users in when enrolled in this flow? What action(s) should they take next? What happens after that action? How many steps do we think we need? Should someone be able to pass through the flow more than once? 

Typical errors: You make your flow too advanced and split it into too many segments.

Step 4: Choose the right marketing automation solution

Now is the time to think about implementing the flow you have designed and its measurement. The first part is to decide upon the right technical solution. Start looking at the tools you already have at your disposal / available in your organisation.

Questions to ask: What solutions are available in our current tech stack? And if we don't have anything that would fit, what platforms already have native integrations with our current tech stack? And often overlooked, what platforms are easy to use?

Typical errors: Choosing features over usability; "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" - well, the spec sheet is the modern equivalent of that saying. Don't think, "if it has more features, it must be better!".

Step 5: Implement and get started quickly

The second part of the implementation is the actual planning and execution. Move quickly, and don't make the project too spread out in time, as learnings come from real-world results, not your assumptions. As someone famously said, "don't worry, be crappy".

Questions to ask: Do I need an expert to review or help me with the setup? Is that person in the organisation willing and available, or do I need help from the outside?

Typical errors: A plan is great, but it's nothing without swift execution. Dwelling forever about theoretical challenges instead of testing to see whether your assumptions were right or wrong.

Step 6: Evaluate results, refine, reduce or expand

When your flow is live, remember to monitor progress. Evaluating the data coming in to understand what is happening is the only way you can progress over time. Perhaps the results are even better than anticipated, or maybe you are scratching your head thinking about what is going on. Either way, you are doing your job! Using the data, conclude and make new assumptions to refine, reduce, or expand your flow. 

Questions to ask: Were the goal(s) met? What happens throughout the marketing automation flow? Where are the hurdles? What are the most popular and least popular stages, and why? 

Typical errors: Not looking at the data, simply using a "build it and forget it"-approach. Forgetting that automation does not bring traffic into the flow. 

Hopefully this has given you some valuable input if you've got an upcoming implementation - for more knowledge, make sure to download our guide to marketing automation below, or take a look at the how, what and why of automation in the Learn section.

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Stellan Björnesjö
Online Strategist at Zooma since 2012. 15+ years of experience as a manager, business developer and specialist within online and e-commerce.
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