Join us in Boston for the best tactical B2B marketing conference on the planet. Get your ticket by August 31 to save $$$

A guest post by Lisa Cramer of LeadLife Solutions.

We hear marketers constantly discussing their need for nurturing, metrics, and getting more quality leads to sales. However, it’s interesting how marketers don’t seem to realize that marketing automation is no different from any other marketing initiative. Planning, detailed execution, and a thorough analysis are key to success. It’s not magic. You can’t just snap your fingers and “poof"---all your marketing campaigns and drip sequences have been put into place.

Now, we aren’t saying that you need to take months to map out every part of your marketing to sales process, but any new process (e.g., lead nurturing) takes some upfront thought and strategy before being implemented. This can be done in phases where you can get some value immediately.

But let’s be real and understand some resources have to be spent to do something new and of value. Technology is not magic, and you can’t put it in place and just turn it on. Technology doesn’t know your business, and technology doesn’t understand how to sell to your prospects or what makes a quality lead in your organization. However, I’m also not saying that you need to spend hours and hours just to get some benefit from marketing automation. We understand marketers are all resource-constrained today, and that technology is only one part of our solution. Applying the technology to your specific sales and marketing process is what will determine your success. Having the time and experience to do that quickly through augmented specialists can help you get a leg up on your marketing automation return.

You don’t need to take advantage of all the marketing automation features right at the beginning and develop a huge process map to get some benefits from lead management. You can start out small, improve on what you are doing today, and get immediate benefits. What we need to do is walk down a well-designed and realistic path of steps so you can start reaping the benefits of lead management while understanding how to grow with your lead management system and process over time. It’s time, particularly in marketing, to be pragmatic and figure out what levers you can move to maximize marketing impact on the business. However, we aren’t saying keep everything you are doing the same and just start sending out emails every seven days or so. If that’s all you are thinking about, then I suggest you save yourself the effort of getting started because that won’t make a difference in the number of qualified leads and revenue generated (which should be your ultimate goal with marketing automation).

There are ways to get started simply with marketing automation that will have impact on revenue without overwhelming your marketing department.

Assess your current lead to sales process. You can start with a basic process that’s tracked and change as you go, based on feedback and what you learn.  Remember, lead management means many different things based on your application to your business. You can get an immediate impact without changing your entire marketing to sales process or building hundreds of pieces of content.

Set realistic goals: short-term, mid-term and long-term. If nothing else put together some short-term goals that will help you measure short-term value received.

Get sales buy in. You need to make sure if you (marketing) hands off more qualified leads to sales that you both buy in to what defines a qualified lead.

Identify an initial campaign. This step is critical to driving near-term value and starting to understand the implementation of marketing automation. Where can a little tweak (e.g., better targeting, implementing nurturing basics, implementing scoring and prioritization, etc.) have an impact within 30 to 90 days? Make sure you do something with inbound leads, too---those coming off your website. These leads aren’t necessarily specific to an inbound campaign (maybe SEO), but these suspects should be cared for in some manner, as well.  Make sure when leads hit the “sales ready” definition agreed to by marketing and sales that you have a process for flowing them to sales and that you can see the progression of the leads through the pipeline. We so often hear about marketers that seem to be sending more qualified leads on to sales but don’t really know where they go from there.

So how can you ever decide if what you are doing is working or not? That takes us to analytics---make sure you can track basic analytics (not simply opens and clicks), so you can see what kind of impact you are having on revenue.

Implementing marketing automation is not magic---but it shouldn’t bring your marketing department to its knees, either. We’ve seen that the reality of where companies are today and where they can go can be a wide divide. And you can take small steps and get benefits, but you do need to do something more than sending emails to all prospects every seven days. It takes some thought and possibly some help from augmented sales and marketing specialists who’ve done it before over and over again.

Lisa Cramer is president and co-founder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of on-demand lead management software with embedded best practices that generates, scores, and nurtures leads for B2B marketers.

Sign up for free to read the full article. Enter your email address to keep reading ...