Actionable advice and learnings: Building a foundation for Marketing Automation

Save time, scale sales and deliver targeted personalized communication — all at once. Isn’t that a wet dream in any business? Very simplified that’s exactly what marketing automation enables you to do.

In all its basics, marketing automation is software helping you deliver the right messages to the right leads at the right time throughout your funnel. It’s about targeting, attracting, converting and nurturing leads with automated content adapted to their behavior and stage in your funnel from sparking interest to upselling or improving customer satisfaction (it varies where the line between marketing automation and customer success is drawn — to us the two has to work together at least).

Living up to the image of wet dreams, Marketing Automation is as hot as it gets in the startup world at the moment. Therefore, it was of course at the top of our topic-list in our 2019 program at PreSeed Academy. And we invited two experts to help next gen founders leverage the benefits of automating marketing processes: May Laursen, partner and advisor at T-Bone SaaS Growth Advisory, and Caragh Kennedy, Growth & Partnerships Manager at HubSpot.

They both started by deflating the hot balloon: As good as Marketing automation may sound, it’s not a walk in the park. Early stage startups shouldn’t aim to have a detailed marketing plan with every marketing automation system in place, but rather build a solid foundation for developing a full automation system when they have matured. The big question is where you started and how you build the foundation for automating your marketing one step at the time. That’s why we’ve collected the key learnings from our ToolTalk#1 in 4 actionable advice to get your startup started on a marketing adventure:

Do the dirty work first

Until you’re familiar with your marketing processes and know exactly how they work automation should be completely off the table. You need to do all the ground work manually, and preferably several times. It’s important to understand the processes that you eventually want to automate. Otherwise, you’ll end up sending out content blindfolded with minimal effect, unless you strike a lucky punch. Doing the dirty marketing work manually will help you figure out what works and what doesn’t. This is a highly important prerequisite for success in this matter as marketing automation is no “one size fits all”. Once you’ve got your hands dirty, you’ll be able to understand what processes to automate and hand over the hard-earned experience to the robot.

A marketing automation system is not plug’n’play

When you’ve decided to go down the automation path and have identified the appropriate software system(s), you shouldn’t lean back believing all your marketing issues have vanished into thin air or they’re now solving themselves. It’s not something you just turn on and then leads will come to the tune of Geri Haliwell singing it’s raining men. May Laursen compared marketing automation to a factory: It’s a set of variables and constants, human interaction combined with robots. If the factory isn’t delivering the results you’re expecting, there’s probably something in the machinery needing to be oiled. If you have set up the process right and supplied it with the necessary data and content, you’re well on your way. However, automation is only a tiny part of a bulletproof marketing plan. For the automation to work well, you need to have the rest of your elements in place, such as a market analysis, pricing, packaging, and most importantly segmenting. You need to know who you’re doing this for — besides yourself — by knowing who you’re targeting in and out.

Know who is getting your message

It may sound obvious and it may be written in neon everywhere you go, but it doesn’t change the fact that many companies fail to spend enough time defining their customer segment. This also accounts for marketing automation. It’s an absolute necessity to know who you’re trying to target and it’s especially vital to know their behavioral characteristics. It’s the essence of being able to target users with ‘personalized’ messages sent in bulk. One way to do this is by creating personas — Dividing your segments by certain character traits and assiduously develop custom-made content for each persona. There are great tools available to build your personas, Hubspots Build my persona is highly recommended by many founders. Especially in B2B markets, you would want to target the ones with the most decision power. There’s no need to convince the marketing intern that your product is just what they need, when it’s his/hers superior that’s sitting on the gold mine. Watch Academy talks by CEO at Forecast Dennis kayse and CEO in Omnio Mikkel Sørensen to learn more about how they approached this topic.

Nurture your leads

In the end, marketing automation all comes down to generating leads, nurturing these and eventually converting them into customers (the right customers, but that’s another discussion). Grabbing your hot leads by the hand and guiding them through your sales funnel all the way down to Funky Town: Sales, is key to your business. A crucial point in nurturing your leads is communicating in an appropriate and timely matter. Timing is everything. Whenever you successfully create a lead, make sure you respond to the lead ASAP. There’s a high correspondence between how quickly you respond to a lead and whether the very same lead drops off. A quick response improves your chance of converting your lead to a customer.

Note that marketing automation is a process. Don’t expect results from day one but consider it as a long-term investment that improves your customer’s journey and your sales funnel. It’s a way for you to deliver one to one communication to many and with the appropriate content to the right audience in an automated and time-efficient way. But remember: Don’t take it for granted — it requires that you nurture the system just like you nurture your leads and customers.

Next up at PreSeed Academy is StartupTalk #9 on measuring product/market fit in early stage startups — a topic most investors and experienced founders can agree on is extremely vital, as product/market-fit is the startup heaven everyone wants to be in, but many think they’ve reached before they’re even close to it. Join us or stay tuned here to read the best pieces of advice subsequently.