You’ll probably hear the term “Marketing Automation” enough times to make your head spin in the coming months,  if you haven’t already. All the cool marketing kids are talking about it, and we believe the hype. Even with just shallow implementation, it’s a valuable tool capable of unifying your marketing and sales teams, gaining insights about your site users and to identify which lead generation efforts work and which don’t. All while turning more leads into sales.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Not so fast, my friend.* While I’d argue most businesses can benefit from marketing automation, it’s not the best fit for everyone. Determine where you and your business fall by asking these questions before you invest in marketing automation.

Do we currently have a steady stream of leads coming in?

streamThe ideal answer is “Yes.” Marketing automation success is dependent upon a steady stream of leads coming into your funnel. Whether you collect leads through forms on your website, face-to-face interactions with your team or other sources, you need a sizable amount of leads to nurture through your funnel. If you don’t have leads, you honestly won’t have enough to work with to make marketing automation worthwhile. If you aren’t sure you have the leads to sustain marketing automation, then focus your efforts on inbound marketing, lead generation and content creation first. Once you’ve got a solid base of content and a steady stream of leads, you can revisit the marketing automation discussion.

Are we doing enough content marketing?

Content marketing consists of blogs, white papers, case studies, Google Hangouts, social media marketing and more. When you boil it down, the end goal is to attract people to your website through proactive marketing efforts. You should assess how much of this your business is already doing and how well it’s working. Marketing automation-driven efforts like drip email campaigns depend on quality content. Without a large pool of strong content or the ability to ramp up quickly, you won’t have the ammo you need to keep your company top-of-mind for quality leads that come along. If you think you’re behind the curve in this area, create a content calendar to help you commit to producing content that can power your automation efforts.

Is my team prepared to do this in-house?

You’ll need to establish a resident marketing automation expert on your team if you plan to bring marketing automation in-house. One person should be responsible for overseeing the initial implementation phase and for guiding the marketing and sales teams while you establish processes. A team of writers and designers should also be involved to create quality content.

Alternatively, you can hire an agency to guide you as automation software is set up and as you establish processes for your sales and marketing teams. An agency can also help you create content without utilizing your own internal resources and pulling them away from other projects. Unless you take an extremely hands-off approach to marketing automation (which is not advised), you should still plan to have someone on your team who can approve content and campaign suggestions made by an agency.

piggy bankHow much time and money should I budget for marketing automation?

If you take marketing automation in-house, you should plan for at least 1-3 employees to spend most of their time on management and content creation. If you decide to use an agency, you’ll spend less of your time internally, but you should expect to pay a relatively high cost. The benefit of an agency is that you get access to a team of experts at a relatively lower cost than hiring more talent, and your own team can continue to maintain their current responsibilities.

Do I know my audience?

I’ll answer for you on this one: No.

Ok, that was harsh. You probably have a pretty good sense of who your audience is, but a critical step before you start churning out content and targeting people through marketing automation is creating customer personas so you know you are interacting with the right people in ways that will resonate with them. The more research you have to back up your decisions for segmenting audiences and delivering content the more success your marketing automation efforts will reap. So take the time to reevaluate your businesses’ audience, how they like to consume content and what kind of content they like to consume, as well as what they need to know to make a purchasing decision.

Marketing automation will take significant commitment from the top down in any organization. If you invest the time and energy required, you’ll see the many benefits of unifying your marketing and sales teams and nurturing quality leads into customers. No more burning out prospects with shotgun-style content, and no more burning out your sales team with leads that aren’t ready to convert.

So like I said: a real no-brainer.

*Is it time for college football yet? [Ed. – No, it’s World Cup time, and you’ll enjoy it.]

Image Credit: Brian Hillegas and

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