This past week we attended the Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources (PAICR) mini-conferences in Boston and Los Angeles.

StoneShot kicked off both events as the keynote speaker – setting the stage for the theme, the good, the bad, and the ugly of marketing automation.

During both sessions, we found ourselves surrounded by a room full of financial marketers (from large and small firms) at different points in their marketing automation journey, willing to share their stories.

After two days of common pain points and great conversation – here’s what you should know when trying to implement marketing automation in your organization:

Be realistic when defining your goals, a manual process needs to exist before automation can occur.

Start small and work your way up – after all, marketing automation is a journey not a race. Know that your process needs to work and be specific for your organization and goals.

Tip: Carefully jot down your goals and how you will measure them. Make sure your process directly relates to what you are setting out to achieve.

Focus on getting your plan organized and approved before jumping into next steps. Don’t try to automate a process that doesn’t exist or worse, automate a process that does not currently benefit your business.

Data, data, and… more data.

We’re all surrounded by it and it basically consumes our marketing lives. In fact, we usually have every bit of information we need to make educated marketing decisions. However, data isn’t always organized in the right place or analyzed correctly – and that is where things can get messy.

Having all relevant data in one location will make all the information a lot easier to handle and analyze. This can be in a CRM system – or better yet a marketing automation system that integrates with a CRM – to make sure your communications are accurate and personalized when they are triggered.

Roadblocks are inevitable – use them as a way to re-evaluate your processes.

Certain manual processes work so why fix them or try something new. Not exactly words to live by, but as a marketer, you may have heard this before.

Budgets aren’t always where they need to be so getting buy-in for something new when a process already exists, may be a challenge – especially in financial services where marketing departments are sometimes seen as the black sheep. But… marketing plans are meant to be readjusted and should never be set in stone at the rate that change occurs.

Regulations such as GDPR can seem to get in the way of marketing goals and cause problems, however you can use them as an excuse for everyone to take a step back and reevaluate a plan that isn’t optimal.

Regulations force marketers to double check that they’re being compliant (or face heavy fines and repercussions). This means certain processes will have to change.

In the process, bottlenecks can be discovered and fixed – or a process can be completely overhauled to something more efficient and correct. Use roadblocks such as regulatory compliance to work for you, not against you.

Have the right ammo in place before you fire (Yes, we mean content).

Content is king, but not all content is created equal. Don’t just push out content to ensure you’re getting your brand out there – make sure what you’re sharing is relevant to your audience.

If resources allow, focus on having the right content, at the right time, to the right people in a tailored and personalized way – as people enjoy feeling like their preferences are known.

Tip: If there are times when content is scarce – know that certain content never goes stale. If needed, pull key nuggets from what you already have and repurpose them.

When gaining buy-in, always ask for more time and budget than you think you’ll need.

The truth is, change takes time, and sometimes may take more time (if not double) what you think you originally needed or were quoted for.

It never hurts to have more time and budget than you think you’ll need, and it will serve as a safety net to make sure you can achieve every reasonable goal you set out to accomplish, with minimal hiccups.

Keep marketing and sales aligned.

Marketing and sales need to work more closely now than ever before to maximize results. Marketing is no longer just a cost center, but part of the revenue stream as the lines between the two functions continue to blur.

In the end, your audience is expecting a seamless, personalized experience – and that involves sales and marketing working in tandem with each other.

Modern CRM systems allow both functions to access the same data and tackle the same goals side by side.

Assign the right roles to the right people.

Don’t get everyone involved at once – as this may result in mayhem. Assign key responsibilities.

Have a person or team trained on the marketing automation platform that can explain goals and the roadmap in a language that everyone can understand, so that everyone actually can eventually understand.

This is important for gaining buy-in from key stakeholders, training others, and keeping everyone up to date on the small wins along the way to keep the momentum (and budget) going.

Lastly, find a vendor that is willing to admit they aren’t the best at everything.

No one vendor works for everyone, and not all vendor offerings are made to be used at once – remember that automation process is all about you.

Find a vendor that is willing to put a plan together that works for your business goals, has the integrations you need to allow your data to be organized and effectively utilized, and offers the support you need to both get up and running, and then to help you along your continued journey.

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When working with marketing automation the good clearly outweighs the bad and the ugly – in terms of personalization capabilities, efficiency and return on investment. Lesson from us, take full advantage of the good, try to control the bad, and work to mitigate the ugly.

Marketing automation is not nearly as challenging as it seems. Figure out a plan that works for your business and start small. Change won’t happen overnight, but with the right steps – you can ditch your manual processes for something a lot more targeted and efficient – and the results will follow.

If you’d like to learn more about marketing automation or talk to us about our marketing automation solution, we’d be happy to chat.