As marketers continue to face loftier goals while still down a player or two, many of them have turned to marketing automation (MA) as a way to accomplish more with less.

MA software, which streamlines and automates marketing activities, has been a focus of many marketers for some time. Using a single system, marketers are able to manage prospect and customer databases, track individual activity, and personalize their messaging.

In most cases, a series of impressions precede a prospect's taking action. Thus, marketers are building more and more complex programs with a variety of activities to generate and convert new leads. Implementing MA software has allowed marketers to run—despite their limited resources—a variety of segmented, multichannel campaigns.

So, how can you continue to capitalize on your marketing automation investment and kick your efficiency into high gear? The following five steps will help you do more with less, and get the most out of your marketing automation software.

1. Build a welcome campaign
Estimated time required: 10-15 hours

You've probably heard of a welcome campaign, and you likely have auto-responder emails in place to "greet" or thank someone who submits a form on your website. Welcome campaigns, which expand on the basic auto-response, usually consist of 3-5 emails sent during the 30-60 days after the initial signup.

Welcome campaigns are completely automated, delivering emails intended to set communication expectations with new prospects, determine what prospects are interested in, and gather information to tailor future messages.

A welcome campaign will help you gauge each prospect's interest level based on her behavior (e.g., website activity, email clicks), and allow you to pluck sales-ready leads from the bunch and pass them over, thereby removing a large portion of the lead-qualification burden from your plate.

2. Automate your webinars
Estimated time required: 3-5 hours

Webinars have become a staple in marketers' strategies. With a compelling topic, a good speaker, and a brief time slot, webinars allow you to easily reach a huge number of prospects at once—without ever leaving your office. Though webinars tend to carry a relatively low cost-per-lead (CPL), they require a decent amount of time invested to be effective.

The content must be informative, the speaker enthusiastic, and the presentation engaging. Not to mention... invitations, reminders, and follow-up emails must be sent to make webinars successful.

Almost every marketing automation tool on the market has the ability to integrate with webinar software and many do so seamlessly. That integration allows you to manage invites, send reminder emails to registrants, follow up with "thank you" and "sorry" emails after the event, and sync all prospects with your customer relationship management (CRM) program.

With all the time you will free up, why not try some A/B testing on your webinar emails?

3. Run a lead-scoring program
Estimated time required: 15-20 hours (including testing)

One of the most commonly communicated features of MA software, lead-scoring programs allow you to assign a numeric value to each lead based on her contact information and behavior. Those values, then, determine which leads are ready to be contacted by Sales, and which leads still need to be worked. The amount of data reviewed by a good lead-scoring system would easily require a full-time employee to review. Luckily, with MA, we can set up a system that will do the work for us.

Review what information you want to assess—both contact data (title, company, etc.) and behavior (pages viewed, email opens, etc.)—and then work with your sales team to determine how much of that information is enough to warrant a phone call from Sales.

A lead-scoring program helps Sales identify whom to call, and it fills the pipeline with "hidden" leads that Sales wouldn't see otherwise, thereby alleviating some lead-generation stress.

4. Send Sales website visitor reports
Estimated time required: 1-2 hours

Sending website visitor reports to your sales reps allows them to see who has been active on the site at various timeframes, and helps them further refine their call list.

Website visitor reports can include "known" contacts (actual prospects who have visited your site) and "anonymous" visitors with basic information pulled from their IP Address (e.g., location, company name). Identifying both types of visitors can be useful for determining where to focus cold-calling efforts, specifically, but also for marketing, in general.

Have a regional tradeshow or event coming up? Run a report that searches for website visitors from the geographic region of the event, and pass that information to your sales reps to use to schedule meetings at your booth.

Another benefit: Website visitor reports are set up only once; they then run on an automated schedule, allowing you to deliver valuable information with little or no ongoing effort.

5. Run a data-cleansing program
Estimated time required: 5-10 hours

Do you concede to sending mass emails to your database instead of segmented blasts because you question the accuracy of your CRM data? Considering that many marketers run at an expeditious pace these days, who has time for database cleansing? Marketing automation allows you to build an automated data-cleansing program to keep your CRM database fresh and segmentation-ready.

The key to an effective data-cleansing program is to put control in the hands of your contacts. Build a program in your MA software to prompt your contacts to update their contact information, subscription preferences, and other vital data at least once every six months. Don't expect 100% participation, of course, but a contact-empowered data-cleansing program will enable you to start trusting your CRM data again and stop spending hours cleaning data. You will also become more effective in your database marketing by segmenting and targeting your campaigns.

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Whether you implement all of these steps, or just one of them, you will free up time to focus on other aspects of your marketing plan. Understand that each of these actions requires a certain amount of upfront time, but if you commit the time and implement some of these steps, you will reap the benefits in the long run.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kim Roman is senior marketing automation consultant at Astadia, a provider of cloud-based marketing consulting solutions. Reach Kim via kroman@astadia.com.