Yet at a recent Econsultancy event, Digital Cream Sydney, it seemed that many organisations were just getting started with marketing automation. And of those who had a few years of experience in the field, most felt they had only scratched the surface of what was available from major platforms like Adobe and Salesforce.

Fortunately, roundtable discussions allowed marketing automation experts, such as table leader David Arcidiacono, marketing effectiveness manager at Qantas Loyalty, to offer some tips, best practices, and things to watch out for to those who were just getting started on their marketing automation journey.

Here are the top 10 tips from the day:

1) Start with a marketing automation strategy

As with all marketing initiatives, the implementation of marketing automation must be strategy-led to be effective.

Attendees noted that the strategy needs to answer a few key questions such as:

  • What are you trying to achieve with marketing automation?
  • Which segments are you targeting?
  • How will you know whether the programme is a success or not?

2) Marketing should own marketing automation

Although marketing automation has a significant technology and integration aspect to it, marketing should own the overall implementation of the strategy.

This will require involvement and support from IT, external consultants and perhaps even agencies, but marketing, and not the business sponsor or other project manager, should coordinate the initiative.

3) Have a solid data foundation

Experts insisted that the quality of your data is key to the success of a marketing automation programme. Because of this, they warned those getting started that marketing automation projects shouldn’t be slowed down by sorting out single-customer view or getting new, unfamiliar data in the right formats.

Instead, marketers should plan to do those data acquisition projects separately and get marketing automation started with the data that they have worked with for some time.

4) Understand the costs up front

Implementing marketing automation requires much more budget than the cost of the software contract.

Integration and implementation effort must be considered as well in addition to unforeseeable costs due to the complexity of such a project.

5) Get buy-in from the business

Because of the costs, both external and internal, it is essential that the people who sign off on budget are on-board from the start. 

Those who had completed marketing automation projects also said that having a business champion helps a great deal when trying to secure additional resources once the project takes off.

6) Prove value early

Putting points three and four together, marketing automation is going to be a big line item on the budget and there will be someone in the business who will be putting themselves on the hook for your strategy.

So, the recommendation from the experts was that marketing automation initiatives should start with the intention of proving return on investment (ROI) as soon as possible.

7) Solve small problems first

The best way to prove ROI quickly, another added, was to ‘pick off’ a few key business problems to solve rather than trying to ‘boil the ocean’. This means that marketers should look for small, yet significant problems in the current customer experience and automate only as much as you need to fix the problem.

This might include a simple welcome programme which ensured that new sign-ups understood the benefits of their new account or what was required to progress further as a customer.

8) Train up resources

Those who had implemented marketing automation said that securing experienced resources was hard, and getting harder, even through vendors. What tends to happen, they said, is that teams end up with ‘unicorn’ employees, or those who can do everything but are always in demand and stretched thin.

To prevent that from slowing down progress, experts said that marketing teams needed to train up internal resources on marketing automation straight away to make sure skills and the implementation workload were widely distributed.

9) Start with ‘reportable’ campaigns

To add to points six and seven, regarding proving value early and solving small problems first, the initial marketing automation campaigns should be easy to measure and report.

Be deliberate about what you report as well so that the reports are easy for those outside of marketing to understand. Nuanced figures about improvements to the checkout funnel may not offer your business sponsors the backup they need to justify the costs. Instead report figures like ‘new revenue’ or ‘increased order value’.

10) Fail fast and pivot quickly

Finally, not all marketing automation projects will work and few will demonstrate ROI from day one.

Experts said that when an automation project is not showing clear improvements, that efforts should be pivoted quickly toward another marketing automation initiative.

Having appropriate forums to report wins and lessons learnt back to the business are important in such cases, so that all of the stakeholders are always aware of the status of their hefty investment in the programme.

Marketing Automation Best Practice Guide

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day and especially our Data-Driven Marketing table moderator, David Arcidiacono, Marketing Effectiveness Manager at Qantas Loyalty.

We hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!