As your company grows, your lead management system requirements grow. Without a system in place, your ability to target leads within the buying cycle will fall apart – as will your ability to understand and respond appropriately to customer’s interest manually. Using a marketing automation system takes out the stress, and ensures you are responding to customers with the right email, at the right time.

The setting up process of this technology is the most important factor in determining success, because it is your first and only chance to get everything right. If this type of technology is uncharted territory for you, fear not. I have put together a list of tips to ensure that your marketing automation journey starts off without a hitch:

1. Clean up your CRM

Make sure you clean up your CRM, or customer relationship management database. This is key, as your new software will integrate and use the emails provided for inbound marketing. If you have duplicates when you import, the new list will be a mess.

Make sure to convert all leads to contacts as appropriate, delete duplicates, associate contacts with accounts, and clean up all account names. Combine, delete, convert – whatever you need to have a clean list.

2. Validate/verify email addresses

Before you upload your email list, run it through a verification program. That way, you can weed out wrong/gone emails before you even start. This leads to lower bounce rates in your first email campaign, which helps in the future. If you have a higher than 10 percent bounce rate, you risk deliverability in further campaigns. Healthy emails could start to bounce, and the reputation of your IP address will suffer – possibly leading to blacklisting.

3. Reflect on your lead management process

Even with the finely detailed benefits to marketing automation technology, many businesses are not using the processes to their maximum usefulness – which means they are not reaping the profits. To rectify this, you need to analyze and implement a lead management process. Use a whiteboard to discuss with the company as you develop your unique procedure.

Consider the following:

– Identify your leads: Create your buyer personalities and their questions.
– Create a scoring structure: What makes a five star client?
– Map out supportive campaigns for each personality.
– Recognize when marketing will pass a lead to sales. For example, when they reach a certain grade or score.

4. Team skills

In order to grow a team of automation marketing specialists, you need to find the right type of person: someone who understands the technical terms but can still speak the marketing language. I suggest looking for persons with the following skills or qualifications while forming your team (or if you are a small business, finding the employee to run your automation system):

– Sales: understands customers; understands the buying cycle; help with grading leads.
– Analytics: deep comprehension of analytics process; understands and translates results; evaluates practices and makes recommendations.
– Marketing: knows and understands audience; manages campaigns and messages.
– Managerial: pulls it all together; in the case of larger companies, manages staff of specialists (i.e., works with design team to create website, landing pages, inbound emails, etc.)

5. What is your content strategy?

What are you going to send your leads? You will not have a successful campaign unless you develop relevant content for each step of the buying process. Quality content shows your customers that you are professional and knowledgeable, that they can trust you, and, preferably, start them down the buying funnel.

My advice? Start with what you know. Begin small, and then grow your content as you get more confident and find out what works with your audience.

6. Plot your goals

Marketing is a revenue driver, and should be treated as such. Before you purchase or activate your automation system, be clear as to what you hope to get out of it. List and prioritize your marketing goals and objectives from a revenue perspective, and use automation accordingly.

Once you implement, record and track benchmarks and metrics to be sure you are staying on track.

7. Everything at once!

As you consider buying an automation system, keep all of the above in mind. A marketing automation program is only as good as the people, processes, and content behind it – so make sure that everything is aligned before install, or you will be paying for a service you are not using to the fullest potential.