Marketing automation systems—and the solutions they promise—can hold a magnetic appeal for B2B marketers. As Liz McLellan describes it at the BtoBlog, "We were going to have fewer but more meaningful touch points with prospects and send only highly qualified leads to sales. It sounded great. I was ready!"

But the reality fell short of the anticipated glory for McLellan. "What someone should have told me," she notes, "is that the first year of implementing a new platform is rough and that the first year is just a sampling of the hard work involved for years to come."

Based on her experience, McLellan identifies three key steps to choosing the right marketing automation platform:

  1. Be realistic about seeing results and then add six months. Lower expectations about when you'll see a boost in results. Although you might think that a year is enough, "18-24 months is a more realistic timeframe," McLellan says.
  2. Define your reporting needs before committing to a system. "Some systems are easy to implement and manage but don't offer robust reporting," she writes. Get input from your sales team and execs about what level of data they expect to see (conversion rates, ROI) from a new system.
  3. Prepare for expanded asset creation. Make sure you have all the assets (e.g., customized content) you need to effectively support your boosted lead-gen results, McLellan advises. "Outsource asset creation if you need to, but good assets are one of the main keys to using this tool effectively," she concludes.

The Po!nt: Be prepared. Identify your organization's specific goals and apply them to your search for any new marketing automation platform. Then make sure you have the tools in place to respond to your boosted results!

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