‘Marketing automation’ is software that automates repetitive marketing actions like emails, social media and on-site actions. It should make your life easier and help you prioritise and execute your efforts – provided you know how to put it in place and follow through, that is. If systems are put in place well, your marketing department will run more efficiently; if not, you end up with more work, higher software costs and a headache.

So how do you begin to approach it all?

Mark Jones, head of marketing at Clout, joined us on the 7 Stage at Publish Or Perish: The Content Conference to help our guests get their heads around laying the foundations for effective marketing automation.

Here are his key takeaways: 7 necessary steps to successfully implementing effective marketing automation, broken into best practices and benefits:

Best practices

1. Set KPIs to measure your ROI

Setting your key performance indicators from the beginning will allow you to measure your return on investment. To use a simple example, take web traffic or leads, using Google Analytics to monitor. Equally, a CRM tool like Salesforce Pardot will automatically track email or qualify leads.

2. Build a content calendar

Your content calendar will dictate when you post your content and on which medium, in order to maximise your return. In the early stages, be mindful that a steady stream of content output is needed in order to effectively analyse and figure out which mediums perform best for you, at what times of day and on which days. Monitor and refine the calendar over set period a time and once you’re satisfied, you can now schedule your posts in bulk, saving time.

3. Publish content of value and set a CTA

Making use of marketing automation tools does not lessen the need for editorial and creative input in your content. The content itself cannot be automated – this must offer value to your audience. Before you publish, as yourself the question “so what?”. If you’re drawing a blank, then it’s time to rewrite or scrap the content altogether. If you publish for the sake of it, or the content has no merit, the audience will stop engaging with it, rendering it a fruitless exercise. Be sure to tell your audience what you want them to do as a result of engaging with your content by including a call to action (CTA) – for example, visiting your website, watching a demo, filling out a form for more information.

4. Clean, segment and nurture

As you publish content over time, you’ll collect data about your audience, allowing you to build audience profiles. If you’re collecting data using forms, be sure to keep the data clean. Often times people will use dummy/false data to get past the gate. A good marketing automation tool will flush this out but it’s always worth checking over at set intervals – particularly if you using this data to send newsletters or invites out for events. Don’t be that business who sends a ‘personalised’ email that reads “hi, Sdfjnjsn! I’d like to invite you to…”.

Segment this data into different groups to personalise further. Use cases include different types of products or events in different cities/countries. Beyond this, particularly if you’re in a business where the product has a long sales cycle, consider sending additional information to your lead/prospect/opportunity at key intervals. Create a kind of ‘nurturing journey’ to keep your brand top-of-mind while your audience members make their decisions. It’s crucial to use clean, segmented data here.

Benefits

5. Optimisation

Setting KPIs and measuring your ROI accordingly enables you to optimise the process by continuously monitoring and tweaking. Creating better content means creating more value, which will keep people coming back. You should always be testing – the holy grail of digital marketing! The feedback and data you get will enable you to keep improving and ensuring your content of campaigns deliver the maximum return.

6. Personalisation

Clean data and segmented audiences enable personalisation. Personalised messaging – for example in email, addressing the receiver by their first name, outperforms generic, mass email messaging.

7. Choose the right marketing automation tool for your business 

Not every business is engaged in all facets of digital marketing or marketing automation, after all, there’s no need to buy a Ferrari if you’re only going to drive as far as the shops! There’s a myriad of marketing automation tools out there – varying in cost from free to the other, very expensive, end of the spectrum. Evaluate which tools fit your business needs, and try to future-proof this – perhaps you already know you’ll be doing more advanced marketing automation down the line. For example, check if there are basic packages of the product you can avail of, upgrading when the time comes.  Does it integrate with your other IT systems of CRM systems? Cruciallycan you export the data from it if you need to move to another system in the future? This is the most important question to ask as some tools lock in your data and you may wind up back at square one.

Mark Jones is head of marketing at CLOUT and also lectures on the MSc in Digital Marketing at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

You can follow Mark Jones on Twitter here