So you decided to invest in marketing automation. What happens next? Marketing automation systems offer a veritable multitude of capabilities, including email marketing, social media tracking, prospect tracking and nurturing, and marketing analytics. Those features open up a world of possibilities for your marketing campaigns, but they can also make the task of getting started seem daunting.

Here are five ways to jump-start your marketing automation strategy without getting overwhelmed.

1. Basic Lead Generation

Decide on a marketing campaign, or start with one you already have (e.g., paid search, email promotion). Within your system, create a landing page that offers valuable content behind a registration form. That approach will drive prospects to interact with your brand, and it will help you begin to build your database. Decide what a "good lead" looks like, and develop a system to score your leads.

Leads can be scored on activities such as form submissions, pageviews, file downloads, and email clicks. Once your "good-lead" criteria are set, marketing automation allows you to automatically assign leads to a sales rep or keep the leads in your database for nurturing, depending on how well they meet your scoring qualifications.

2. Lead Nurturing for Early-Stage Leads

Lead nurturing, also known as drip marketing, continually "drips" valuable content to leads who are not yet qualified. Personalized email messages are sent over time to encourage prospects to engage with your brand. Doing so frees up time for your sales team to focus on closing hot leads rather than educating early-stage prospects.

Having relevant information is key. So before you get started, decide how to segment your nurturing tracks. For example, you might choose to target people based on their product of interest or area of concern. You can determine that information by observing a prospect's past actions, such as which whitepaper she downloaded or which pages she viewed on your site. Next, determine what content will be most valuable to each type of prospect, and set up a series of relevant messages to send to them, with pauses between emails.

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image of Adam Blitzer

Adam Blitzer is a co-founder and VP & GM of Pardot, a company.

LinkedIn: Adam Blitzer