If you’re in marketing, there’s a good chance you’ve heard some buzz about ‘marketing automation’. For the past five-plus years it seems like most marketers (and sales reps for that matter) have been dazzled by the concept. And for good reason — it’s intended to make marketing and sales efforts easier and more impactful.

For almost everyone else, the term is probably somewhat familiar but also quite vague.

If that sounds like you, here’s the (very condensed) scoop:

Marketing automation is the use of software to automate repetitive marketing actions (like social media scheduling and campaign emails) with the goal of making those actions easier.

Should You Do It?

While marketing automation continues to gain even greater traction — pushed along by smarter and smarter technology — it’s important to note that it isn’t for everyone.

On the plus side, marketing automation can provide enormous gains in scalability and ROI. But it can also minimize your impact elsewhere by consuming too much of your efforts, or worse yet, damage your customer relations if executed poorly.

So, before you start setting up your marketing automation system, take a run-through this decision checklist:

Marketing Automation Decision Checklist

#1 “You Have the (Automation) Dream, but Do You Have the Team?”

Do you have the people and cash? Sure, automation is meant to make your life easier, but you still need actual humans to put into action.

Be reasonable in what you and your team can put into action. Perhaps automating every single marketing task isn’t reasonable, but a few are. Look at your big time-consumers (perhaps a webinar or event email list) and look for tools that can help you automate that one task.

Also remember that many automation tools require a subscription fee. Shop around and find the tools that are best suited to your needs and budget.

#2 “Show Me the… Lists!”

Do you have enough leads for segmentation? A small lead list will make it impossible to create segmentation for your automation programs. As a result, the same small group of leads will be the recipient of every single marketing automation you send out.

(Spoiler alert: bombarding your leads with email after automated email will quickly earn you a spot on their spam list).

So, rather than investing in automation just yet, spend your time building up that lead base. Once you reach a base that’s large enough to segment by customer persona you’ll be ready to put those automation efforts into action.

#3 “You Say You Know Me and but Do You Really Know Me?”

Do you understand your customer base? According to Microsoft, customers are exposed to as many as 600 messages every day (in the form of emails, ads, text messaging and so on). For brands, having the right messaging is therefore critical to getting noticed within this sea of noise.

But getting that messaging right means you need to know a bit about your customers in the first place. Remember, customers expect personalized experiences these days, and customized messaging is a huge part of that experience. One thing that could help you with that is a customer service software.

Tailored messaging that speaks to your customer’s needs and journey will get noticed. Boilerplate, one-size-fits-all content — well, you can guess how that’ll do.

If you don’t know enough about your customers in order to create authentic messaging in your automation efforts, your best bet is to hold off until you do.

Last Thoughts

Marketing automation can be a powerful ROI tool, but it isn’t right for everyone. Before diving in, be sure to fully evaluate where you’re at in terms of resources and lead base. And don’t be afraid to start small. Not every marketing task has to be automated straight out of the gate. Have fun and good luck!

About the Author: Dean Ara
Dean is the Principal and co-founder of Total Product Marketing — a B2B marketing agency specializing in channel marketing, positioning, and branding for technology clients.

Posted by Miley Dowling

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