In a panel discussion at today’s Revenue-Driven Marketing Summit hosted by Aberdeen Group in Boston, MA, “Unlocking the Secrets of Marketing Automation Success,” four marketing executives with experience in successfully deploying marketing automation technology shared their experiences and offered some first-hand advice on what to do and not to do when introducing marketing automation to your organization.

Alignment with Sales is Critical

Brian Mullins, director of marketing communications for Imprivata, a provider of sign-in/authorization solutions for the healthcare industry, said sales alignment is crucial to the success of marketing automation, especially for a smaller company.

“First the EVP of sales needs to say ‘I understand what this is and how it works,’ and then get that commitment throughout all the sales levels in your organization,” advised Mullins. As an example, he said Imprivata connects its marketing automation application to a Salesforce CRM tool, but without salespeople properly entering leads from the marketing automation tool so they can be tracked, the solution will not work.

“The salespeople will usually go the shortest distance between point A and point B, and marketing automation is usually not part of that,” he said. “It will be garbage in, garbage out if leads are not tracked properly.”

David Liloia, associate director of life sciences firm PerkinsElmer, said his company uses a gamification strategy to help ensure compliance with marketing automation technology and goals. “We hold contests around key attributes like open and click-through rates,” he said.

Identify Marketing Process to Improve

Liloia said when his organization first implemented a marketing automation application, it was like the company “bought a shiny Ferrari and handed out keys to everybody, but nobody got any driving lessons.”

Liloia recommended that marketers first identify processes they want to speed up and improve through automation. “You can wind up doing the wrong thing quicker and losing money faster,” he said.

Eric Rabinowitz, VP of marketing for workflow management technology vendor GorillaToolz, said companies that put in a new marketing automation solution first and then try to change their processes to adapt to it can “destroy their business.”

Rabinowitz said as an eight-employee company with a one-person marketing department (himself), GorillaToolz made sure it obtained a “set and forget” marketing automation solution. “We nurture customer support based upon their behavior profile showed on our site,” he explained.

Liloia said ElmerPerkins’ marketing automation plan includes a shared services strategy implemented nine months ago. “Shared services is part of the CMO staff,” he said. “Every business unit is under its umbrella. We tap into the expertise of every business unit and transfer employees into the marketing team. They have domain knowledge and can share resources and best practices.”

For example, Liloia said the marketing team instituted a “10-day rule” requiring that no single customer receive more than one promotional email every 10 days. “It caused some problems, but unsubscription rates plummeted,” he said.