When I graduated college, I thought I had a pretty good idea about the marketing landscape. But, when the marketing department at my first job implemented Marketo, I realized something was missing from my education: marketing automation.
This article shares my career growth story, working in Marketo, then HubSpot, and now Act-On for marketing automation. I’ve made it through several layers of learning on this, and I’m still standing, and here to share with you how I now use marketing automation to create better B2B buying experiences.
I knew I needed to add to my education with operational and strategic experience in marketing automation as the foundation for campaign execution.
My Introduction to Marketing Automation
If you have ever done any sort of manual data entry, you’ve probably asked yourself, isn’t there a faster way? Well, that’s what I distinctly remember about my time using Marketo.
About six months after I started my first job as a marketing coordinator, the company implemented Marketo as its marketing automation platform. Only a small group of people had licenses, meaning I needed to find a compelling reason to join the team. Which turned out to be a job doing manual data entry.
Long story short, there was an issue with how the lead scoring was set up. My job was to go into hundreds of records and add a ‘1’ to the score sheet. And two weeks and countless hours of work, I was fully initiated into the world of marketing automation.
Over the next year, I got more experience with core functions like building emails and landing pages and creating list segments, which all seemed equally as manual and tedious as the data entry. I also remember how difficult it was to learn or ask questions as we were restricted to one hour a week with our implementation consultant. Without access to support or training resources, married with constant frustration, marketing automation wasn’t shaping up to be at all what I expected.
In retrospect, I learned from my introduction to marketing automation that working with automation strategies and technologies is ultimately a skill that young marketers have to fight for an opportunity to learn. And even as we do, there will always be this idea that it’s a “specialized skill,” something you hire a contractor or a specialist to manage instead of developing the knowledge as part of a generalist skill set.
Upskilling, Implementing and Asking the Right Questions
In my next role, I traded in Marketo for Hubspot – the household name in marketing automation.
The platform and correlating experiences couldn’t be more different from my expectations. Whereas Marketo was rigid, Hubspot was flexible. Ultimately, HubSpot’s inherent flexibility made it hard to find success. Let me explain.
When I first logged on to the HubSpot platform, I was blown away by the impressive user experience and easy-to-navigate interface. I quickly learned how to get around without much training. I was building and sending emails in no time, but it wasn’t long before the initial shine wore off.
Our emails were all batch-and-blast, there wasn’t any lead scoring, we weren’t capturing first-party data with forms, and worst of all, there was no connection with our CRM. We were so deep in the weeds I couldn’t see a way out.
Admittedly, this was partially an internal problem, but as an enterprise customer, where was the support from HubSpot to ensure we were using the product to its full extent?
Another frustration was the constant need to upgrade our subscription to get our desired features. Transactional emails, extra. ABM, extra. Adding sales users, extra.
HubSpot is considered a leader in the marketing automation space and is a thought leader in many other areas, but as an actual user of their product, I was experiencing daily frustrations and obstacles that meant I couldn’t do my job.
Gaining Autonomy With the Right Marketing Automation Fit
First of all, it is very cool to be a marketer marketing marketing automation. (Read that again if you need to). My ideal customer profile? Me.
Based on my previous experience with Marketo and Hubspot, I was eager to get under the hood when I started as a Campaign Manager with Act-On. But there was also a definite (self-imposed?) pressure to be a platform expert and do everything right, so I was a little nervous to start building.
As it turned out, my apprehension was completely unwarranted. I created my first automated workflow within six weeks of joining Act-On. In eight weeks, I launched two more.
Here are a few of the highlights of what I have now learned to do in Act-On:
- Nurture workflows by industry with relevant content and messaging
- Contact entrances and exits based on CRM data
- Lead scoring by firmographic conditions and digital behaviors
- Real-time Hot Prospect notifications for SDRs for MQLs
- Workflow hierarchy based on prioritization of data validators
- Automatic updates to contact and lead lists from organic and paid campaigns
Now for the reality.
Was it hard? Yes. Did I have a million questions? Yes. But as a marketer who never moved beyond batch-and-blast and one-off emails on Marketo and HubSpot, I now understand why fully-realized automation is so much better.
To start, creating an automated nurture sequence allowed me to take prospects on a journey. The first half of the workflow focuses on connecting pain points to solutions, while the second offers high-value content and more direct calls to action. I can now review and analyze the campaign as a whole to identify where prospects are resonating with the content and where they drop off.
Second, once my workflows were up and running, I could spend more time on lead generation. Whether it was a webinar, syndication, or content download, I knew that new leads would automatically be nurtured with relevant content and messaging until they hit MQL status. Not only does automation save me time, but it also creates a much better and more consistent experience for the prospect.
Last, but certainly not least, I can be more agile in my marketing. Now that the programs are built, I can quickly and easily swap out content, change messaging, test subject lines, and CTA copy. The ability to pivot without starting from scratch is, in my opinion, the most liberating part of finally embracing automation.
Why Act-On Made the Difference
You might be wondering why I attribute my success to the Act-On platform. Maybe you think I’m really benefiting from the expert and technical support I have access to as an employee. Or that my other companies just chose not to use the platform to its fullest capabilities. But I have a feeling there are a lot of marketing teams out there with marketing automation software that’s more powerful than they know what to do with – and so they do nothing.
Maybe I’m drinking too much of the company kool-aid. Still, Act-On’s commitment to empowering the marketer as an individual truly resonates. And as a user and marketer, I see the difference in my own ability to run campaigns without an army of consultants.
Marketer Autonomy is One of Act-On’s Best Benefits
At the end of the day, any marketer should be able to execute advanced marketing automation without feeling like they need to fully specialize in a certain platform. After all, marketing automation platforms are meant to help, not impede, your everyday workflow.
Having always worked with smart, supportive, and savvy marketing professionals, my recent success has to be attributed to the Act-On platform. Reaching this level of autonomy in less than a year has helped me rediscover just how fun marketing can be.
If you’re in a decision-making role at your company, I would encourage you to set your marketers up for success, help them grow their skillset, and be aware of challenges and frustrations within your team. A change in marketing automation software may just make the difference in turnover, and the overall success of your automated programs.
So what’s next for my marketing automation journey? Testing, analysis, and optimization! While not the most glamorous part of the job, automation is what frees up our time to get into the details of applying data, trying new things, and, ultimately, creating better experiences for our buyers.Want to read more Act-On in Action? Check out this epic workflow improvement project from my colleague Becca Fischer.