Marketing automation is amazing. It lets you create marketing campaigns and automate processes more quickly and easily than you could ever imagine. That is, after you set everything up!

The setting-up process itself is one of the most important factors determining marketing automation success, because it's your first and best opportunity to get everything right. I know, because I recently implemented marketing automation software at SiteSpect, where I head up the marketing department.

Having just completed a 60-day marketing automation implementation process, I want to share some lessons learned. So, before implementation...

1. Clean up your CRM

Make sure you clean up your CRM (customer relationship management) database. A clean CRM is important, because your marketing automation software will synch with your CRM, and if you have a lot of duplicates on the lists you import, you'll have a mess on your hands.

Imagine that someone has come to your site and registered for an e-book, and you've converted the lead to a contact. Without marketing automation, when they come back to your site, they have to register again (and again and again), which means the same contact could be in your database, as both a lead and a contact, several times.

Make sure you convert all leads to contacts as appropriate, delete duplicate records, associate contacts with accounts, and clean up all your account names. For example, contacts from FedEx might be in your database as Fed Ex, Federal Express, FedExpress—but they are all the same account.

Merge, purge, delete, convert—do whatever you have to do so that the list you are importing into your marketing automation software is as clean as possible.

2. Validate/verify your email addresses

Even then, before you upload your contacts, make sure you run them through an email appending/verification service. That way, you can weed out the wrong/gone emails before you ever upload your contacts into your marketing automation software. Doing so means you will be able to lower your bounce rate when you run your first email campaign, which is important.

If your database has a higher than 10% bounce rate (not unlikely if you've never gone in and cleaned up the records), you risk email deliverability issues in the future. For example, legitimate email addresses could begin to bounce. Your email sending reputation for your email domain will decrease and possibly lead to blacklisting of the IP used to send the email—so clean up your database and verify your remaining emails before importing!

3. Communicate with and educate your sales team

Marketing automation affects the processes you have put in place and the agreements you have with your sales team, so you need to have a conversation. For example:

  • Will marketing automation change the way leads are assigned?
  • Will marketing automation take the places of sales outreach for inbound leads? If so, when and how? Come to an agreement on what will happen.
  • How will Marketing partner with Sales to create customized drip marketing programs?

You'll have many more questions to answer, and the discussion will be different for every company.

Make sure you do your homework before rolling out marketing automation, because your sales team will have a ton of questions, and they will be looking to you for answers, even if you don't have them yet!

4. Ensure you have the appropriate resources

At the very least, you will need the help of your webmaster/Web developer, IT department, Sales operations/CRM admin, and marketing and creative teams to help you with...

  • Tracking codes
  • Email authentication
  • Tracker subdomain creation
  • Custom font permissions, if necessary
  • Prospect lists
  • Unsubs/opt-out lists
  • File upload
  • Form creation
  • Landing page creation
  • CRM integration
  • Sales training
  • Content creation
  • Automation rules
  • Drip program creation
  • Grading and scoring
  • Lead assignment process
  • Custom redirects
  • Site search integration
  • Dynamic content
  • Page action triggers
  • Keyword monitoring
  • Technology connectors such as Google AdWords and GoToMeeting

I know it's a lot to consider, but those are the basic elements of what needs to be done to implement your marketing automation software. It is much easier if you don't have a lot of infrastructure set up yet.

5. Commit to continually educating yourself

I know so much more than I did 60 days ago, but if I have learned anything it's that I have a lot still left to learn about marketing automation usage, best-practices, integration, and educating others.

Do not underestimate how much time it will take to learn what you need to learn in order to maximize your investment in marketing automation—and commit to taking that time to educate yourself, regardless of how hard it is to fit in.

For the past two months, I've spent 5-10 hours a week listening to recorded and live webinars, scouring the knowledgebase, reading forums, and participating in user groups. On top of that, I've spent another 5-10 hours working in the software—creating templates, uploading lists, configuring settings, adding users, etc.

That's a ton of extra time on top of a normally busy and long work week and commuting schedule, but it's worth it. What you will learn will keep your marketing skills fresh and pave the way toward accomplishing much more success in much less time. Good luck!

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Five Quick Tips for Marketing Automation Success

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image of Kim Ann King

Kim Ann King is the CMO of Web and mobile optimization firm SiteSpect. A B2B software marketer for nearly three decades, she is the author of The Complete Guide to B2B Marketing: New Tactics, Tools, and Techniques to Compete in the Digital Economy (May 2015).

Twitter: @kimannking

LinkedIn: Kim Ann King