This is article #3 out of 50 in The Startup Marketing Playbook.
Suppose you have a list of 100 leads. You send a cold email to each one using your email marketing software. A few hours later, 15 of them respond, 20 of them just opened the email and the remaining 65 did nothing. So to continue to nurture those leads and get in contact with them, you personally respond to the 15, and log in an Excel file that the remaining 85 need to be emailed again. You could send a slightly different message to the 20 leads that opened the email, but that would be a lot of work.
That is the reality of a marketing and sales organization that lacks an automation system. Let me tell you from experience: that reality sucks.
If there is one product that every B2B marketer MUST have, it’s a marketing automation system.
A marketing automation system is software that you’ll use to carry out marketing tactics. Specifically, you’ll use a marketing automation system to:
- send email marketing
- track contact’s activity reading emails, visiting your website and downloading content
- publish blog posts
- manage your website
- post to social media channels
- track website visitors
- manage your contact database
- create trackable URLs
- create call-to-action buttons
- publish landing pages
- host inbound content
- conduct SEO and keyword research
- track marketing campaigns
- access campaign and marketing qualified lead (MQL) metrics
- create drip email campaigns
- automate marketing tasks
A marketing automation system is the ultimate all-in-one marketing tool and a requirement for successful B2B marketing. It is what enables you to effectively execute an inbound content marketing strategy. The system also enables you to do closed-loop marketing – to track a lead’s true original source and multi-step journey through the funnel.
Let’s walk through how to launch a marketing automation system from scratch:
1. Select a vendor
There are many providers that have built powerful marketing automation systems. They include Hubspot, Marketo, Pardot and Eloqua. Personally, I use Hubspot because of its robust functionality, usability, and exceptional support. All of these vendors provide trials that enable you to explore the system and ensure it is the right fit for your team.
Marketing automation systems are SaaS platforms and typically cost around $1,000 per month to start. While this may seem expensive, the value your team gets out of the system delivers clear ROI.
2. Configure settings
Once you purchase a marketing automation system, your first step is configuration. This is a big software system so there are quite a few settings to customize. Your vendor will likely walk you through the process. It often involves:
- Connecting your domain name and subdomain names (e.g. blog.yourwebsite.com)
- Entering company contact, time zone, and billing information
- Choosing default templates for email marketing and landing pages
- Creating custom fields for your contact records
This can be a tedious, time-consuming process. The good news is it only needs to be done once and is the foundation for future marketing activity.
3. Import data
Once your settings are configured, you are ready to import data. The data is likely your existing contact list (customers, leads, other vendors, etc). This data may come from your former email marketing software, or it may be an early list of subscribers you met at a conference. Once your data is formatted with proper fields, use your system’s import tool to populate your first set of contacts. You’ll continue to build your contact list using inbound content marketing.
4. Connect your website
Your marketing automation system ties closely with your website. Remember, the website is where you draw visitors to download content, learn about your product and convert to leads. All of the lead collection forms and landing pages on your website will be powered by your marketing automation system. With closed-loop marketing, the system also tracks when leads visit certain pages of your website. You’ll need to paste a tracking code onto each website page to enable that functionality.
5. Connect your CRM
The Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) works closely with the marketing automation system. Once MQLs convert to opportunities, they enter the sales pipeline and are engaged by sales reps in the CRM. All marketing automation systems integrate with popular CRMs. Some solutions actually have CRM products built right in, such as Hubspot CRM. This integration is critical as it allows you to see how a contact moves through your funnel from lead > MQL > opportunity > customer.
6. Create email and landing page templates
Once your CRM is connected, website tracking code is installed, contacts are imported and settings are configured, you are ready to start using your marketing automation system! To send email marketing campaigns and create landing pages, you’ll need to configure templates that can be used over and over (for example, you may want to include your logo at the top of all emails). This often requires a bit of HTML and CSS knowledge and can be done in the admin portal of your marketing automation system.
7. Document rules of engagement
Now that your system is up and running, it’s important to document details like campaign naming conventions, team permissions, etc. A marketing automation system can get cluttered quickly as you create weekly email campaigns, blog posts and content offers.
This post offers a brief overview of what you should expect when launching a marketing automation system. The process often gets more intense as you customize parts of the system to match your business (e.g. creating automated email workflows, form fields, etc). Future posts in this series cover more detail on each of the customizable components of a marketing automation system, such as email templates and workflows.