Marketing Automation Best Practices: For the Beginner

  |  May 1, 2014   |  Comments

In this first part of a three-part series are tips and best practices for beginners in the marketing automation field.

Ever feel like a dummy? I have, and still do on a regular basis. Maybe this is why the For Dummies brand asked me to write Marketing Automation for Dummies - they knew I could relate.

While writing the book, it became apparent to me there are many levels of marketing automation best practices that people need to know, but we all need to start at a basic level. Marketing automation is unlike any other marketing you have done before, so having a solid foundation will be paramount for implementing more advanced best practices later on. Let's take a look at a few of the basic best practices that users should have a thorough understanding of before moving on to more intermediate-level best practices.

Marketing Automation Best Practices for the Beginner:

1) Understand That Everything Is Connective via a URL

The ultimate goal for a marketer is to have all of their programs tied together, so they can see the full impact of every marketing interaction on a lead and provide the return on investment (ROI) on their time and investments. This means combining social channels, email channels, online marketing channels, and any other marketing efforts in one central place. This can seem like an overwhelming task at the beginning of your implementation, but the real trick to tying everything together is very simple: it's all about URLs.

If you send an email, post a tweet, or promote content online, you are using a hyperlink. When you host a piece of content or send emails or social postings through your marketing automation platform, a link will be automatically generated and engagement with that link will be tracked within the platform. But what about hyperlinks going from one site to another, where there isn't content being hosted; for example, what if you want to drive people from Facebook to your website? Marketing automation allows you to generate shortened, customizable links so you can track these interactions as well, and gain insight into all of your marketing efforts.

2) Understand the Art of Conversion

Marketing automation does not work without conversions. This means you need to understand the importance of content marketing, and the value of protecting this content with forms to capture information. Furthermore, you need to understand the value of the continued conversions a person will have over the course of their lifecycle across different channels, which can tell you a lot about their interests and needs. But first and foremost, you need to know how to increase your conversions with forms, and here are a few basic tips:

  • Keep your forms short. Don't ask more than three questions at a time. 
  • Learn to use progressive profiling. This is where your form will dynamically change each time a person sees it, allowing you to ask different questions at each engagement. 
  • Provide value. People will only fill out a form if they value the content they will receive in exchange. This concept comes from Seth Godin in his book on permission-based marketing.

3) Nurturing Isn't "One Size Fits All"

The number one thing that beginners fail to realize is the concept of lead nurturing versus automated email spamming. Nurturing is a one-to-one marketing methodology, which is vastly different from standard email marketing (one-to-many). The goal of a nurturing campaign is not just to automate communications, but to build rapport with a lead, and guide your prospect to information that will help them do their job better.

Here are a few best practices for the beginner to create better email nurturing programs.

  • Use rich text vs. HTML in nurturing emails 
  • Remember to always be helpful! 
  • Always provide a hyperlink to your content rather than attaching your content to the email.

4) Sales Must Get Involved Early

Marketing automation does not operate only in the marketing world. There is a lot of input which needs to come from sales, and early on in the process. Sales can help you learn how to make better nurturing emails from your sales drip programs, they can help you learn how to score your leads better, and they need to have buy-in to your programs so that they will use them. Here are three easy best practices to get sales involved early:

  • Ask sales to help with lead scoring. Use these leads to help you determine the correct level of scoring for key marketing assets. Remember, just because it's your "number one most downloaded white paper" does not mean those are good leads. Sales will be able to clue you in on the real sales-ready actions. 
  • Sales email templates are nurturing fodder. Your best salespeople have great emails. You need to get your hands on these, and understand why they have decided to use these tactics. You'll notice these emails can be directly dropped into a sales nurturing program, saving you tons of time and making your nurturing program more effective. 
  • Gain buy-in. Asking sales will also get their buy-in on your programs. You'll need buy-in from sales if you expect them to use your lead nurturing programs. Remember, you're going to be evaluated on how much revenue you drive from your new tool. If you can get sales to buy in and use your lead nurturing programs, you'll easily prove the value of your marketing automation tool.

This is just a small sampling of many of the best practices you'll need to know to be successful with marketing automation, but these best practices should help the beginner to get a good footing for more advanced techniques. If you'd like to learn more, pick up a copy of Marketing Automation for Dummies, and feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments box.

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Mathew Sweezey

Mathew is the head of thought leadership for B2B marketing at Pardot, a Company. A consummate writer, he has been featured in numerous publications such as Marketing Automation Times, DemandGen Report, Marketing Sherpa, ZDNet, and is the author of Marketing Automation for Dummies (published by Wiley February 2014). As a speaker Mathew speaks around the world at events such as Conversion Conference, Dreamforce, SugarCon, and to companies including Microsoft, Investec, NetJets, and, to name a few.

Follow @msweezey.

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