September 22, 2016

4 Steps to Get Started with Marketing Automation

Getting started with marketing automation doesn’t have to be hard. 4 proactive steps to make onboarding marketing automation more organized.

Getting new software up and running can be intimidating. All of that upfront work is daunting, and it can be hard to know whether you’re doing it right. And, frankly, it can burn up a lot of your precious time.

We understand your pain. But when it comes to marketing automation – if you know what to plan for and what to expect, it doesn’t have to be so painful. Let’s walk through the steps so you know what it should take and what your options might be.


What is it you want marketing automation to achieve for you?

Open up your marketing plan (just fyi: if you don’t already have an overall plan and a few processes in place, you’re not ready to automate anything). Take a look at the goals you and your management team have already set; which of them lend themselves to applying automation? Here are three samples of goals people often consider:

The first goal is a soft goal, hard to measure and tough to prove. The second and third are classic SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound. You might say, for example:

  • I want to get 15% more leads this month, over last month

SMART goals are the best to begin with. They are easier to measure and easier to prove, so you can show your management team exactly what results you’re getting.

The other key point: don’t make new goals. Marketing automation should serve the goals you and your management team have already defined and agreed on.

Start simply. Pick the most important three to five manageable goals and define what you want the outcome to be. It’s useful to break these options down into one of five different categories: attract, capture, nurture, convert, or expand. This will help you see whether you’re balancing your goals out over your customer lifecycle or not.

  • Attract: Do you want more well-qualified potential customers to your website? To reach this goal, you might try improving the SEO on your webpages, or test an advertising program, or try to get more press, or ramp up your social media marketing. These tactics will help you build your brand.
  • Capture: Are you getting web traffic, but your traffic is all anonymous? Maybe your goal would be to get more conversions (a number), or to have traffic convert at a higher rate (a percentage) Try creating really good landing pages that offer something a visitor would be willing to trade their contact information. Offer a webinar they must register for, or a video, or an eBook that speaks to them and their concerns. Make your forms easy to understand and work with, and don’t ask any more information than you have to. Do make it clear that people are opting-in to receive your marketing messages.
  • Nurture: If your average sales cycle is six months, your goal here might be to keep more prospects engaged all the way to the end. Nurture those leads with a variety of great content, and help them keep learning. Once you set up a nurturing program it will run on its own, and scale as much as you need it. You can set up a lead scoring system so that the people who are most interested have things to do that you can score. Then once they reach a certain threshold, they can be automatically handed to sales. (Tip: Have sales help you decide which actions and attributes to score, and how much. They will trust the leads more if they help define them, and usually do a better job of following up.)
  • Convert: This is a goal we all have in common: close more customers! By now your marketing automation system should delivering more, better-educated leads to your sales team for closing. Here’s how marketing automation wins over your sales team: When a sales rep can look into their own Act-On tab and see the activity history for a lead they are about to call. They see every email clicked on, every web page visited, every webinar attended, every eBook downloaded. So they know what that lead cares about, and what to say. Or: your salesperson is working hard to close a particular company. Set alerts so the rep gets notified when a specific person or company visits your website.
  • Expand: Maybe your goal is to keep your customers for three years, not just 18 months. Or maybe your goal is to get your retention rate up by 5%. Send newsletters, hold customer webinars, do surveys. Set up a behavior-based drip campaign to help your customers using your product, platform or service. Stay in touch, and remind your customers how much they like you. Keep your current customers fully engaged.

Whether it’s optimizing a web page’s SEO or setting up a complex automated program, you need to think about the whole scope of your marketing plan, and narrow your goals to what will have the most impact … or to what will get you started the fastest. Or a mix of each.

Make your plan. And then take the next step.


All marketing automation companies should have people dedicated to helping you use their tools most effectively. Before you commit to a company, make this part of your research. Know what support they offer, for how long, and what happens after it runs out (some companies end free support at 90 days, others do not). Talk to some of the vendor’s customers and ask how onboarding went for them. Check them out on review sites (like G2 Crowd or TrustRadius).

You should have, at a minimum, a planned onboarding and training sessions. Talk to your vendor’s implementation team regularly and ask questions so you’re getting the most out of your product right away. They’re there to help answer questions and help you meet your goals, so don’t be shy.

Hit the ground running, engage your marketing automation implementation team, and start deploying those tactics. Within a few weeks, your programs should be up and running!


Got a CRM? Social media platforms? Analytics tools? You might be looking at marketing automation to begin with to reduce the number of different systems you’re using, or to leverage a tool you already have, or to provide a platform for new tools you’d like to try. There are a lot of options out there.

Integrate your CRM

CRM integration is often a first priority, and for most companies, it should be! If you’re using a CRM, you’ll appreciate the expanded view you get into prospect and customer behavior. The increased data gives both programs extra oomph – and helps foster a solid alignment between your marketing and sales teams. Some integrations are painful; some are just plug-and-play. It all depends on which CRM you’re integrating, your marketing automation vendor’s technology, and your vendor’s integration specialists. This is another capability to check out on review sites or ask existing customers about. Are the two systems known to work well together? Or not so much? Make sure the data sync can be set to run automatically; it’s way too much trouble to do it manually.

Other integrations to consider

One of the best parts of marketing automation is that you can see how a campaign is performing across all of your marketing channels. No more quilting together information about a campaign from a bunch of different information streams. Now you can see how a specific campaign did across all tools in one place. Here are a few examples of what you might choose to include:

  • Webinars: WebEx, On24, GoToWebinar are the most popular. Webinars are a very good way to further your brand’s trustworthiness by sharing your expertise. You also gain contact information through registration forms, and you can cement your relationships with your existing customer base through product and feature webinars. Your marketing automation system makes it really easy to promote your webinars, and to follow up after.
  • Social media: Your marketing platform should make it easy for you to listen and publish on the most popular programs. (If you choose Act-On, our platform will even help you track attributions so you know how well social marketing is working, beyond just likes and shares.)
  • Measure it: Your platform should sync with Google Analytics, Adwords, and your other measurement tools. This will help you understand how your outbound campaigns affect your inbound ones. If you use, or plan to use a business intelligence (BI) tool, make sure your new marketing platform will work with it.

From webinars to a full suite of social media response and measurement tools to cloud integrations, you can start pulling in all of the tools you use now to get a full picture of how your marketing measures up. Point, click, begin.


Most companies get started with email, and then start turning on more features. Throughout this process you’re bound to have questions. Marketing automation software has a multitude of options, programs, and integrations to choose from. How do you know which to use and where to focus? This is another place where your vendor’s implementation specialist should help you go from first steps to a full-out run.

“It’s essential to have help and be able to ask questions or get tips and tricks from an expert” said Dan Demas, Vice President of Customer Success at Act-On, speaking about the Act-On customer community. “Attending lUse Iive, instructor-led training with our experts is essential for new customers who want to make the most out of a marketing automation program. But we also believe that each customer has different preferences when it comes to learning. So we provide as many outlets and formats as possible for getting you the information you need, exactly how you want to consume it.”


So how do you make the most out of your onboarding time? First, make sure you understand the level of support that comes with your marketing automation platform. (At Act-On, we provide whatever support you need to get going and keep growing. It’s part of our service. Our team walks you through programs so you feel comfortable; they’re also there to help when you get a little stuck or even if you want to try something new.)

If your vendor charges for extra time, make sure you do all of your upfront work first and use all of the other resources made available to you. Register for an instructor-led training class; take advantage of customer webinars and videos available through your customer portal. While you’re at it, see if you can ask other customers about their experiences or attend an in-person user group to learn best practices and successes other customers have had within the program.

Know what to expect

Some marketing automation solutions are complex and take months to implement. Others (Act-On, for one), are faster and less trouble. The majority of our customers have several campaigns up and running in less than two weeks, and build additional programs out from there.

Interested in learning a bit more about the benefits of integrating your platforms with marketing automation? Read the full Rethinking the Role of Marketing report from Gleanster and Act-On to learn how Top Performing marketing teams are integrating their technology for more effective marketing and taking full control of the customer lifecycle.