Marketing Automation – 10 Points on What to Do First

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I was recently asked – “We have 3 months until we turn on our marketing automation system (in this case, Marketo). What should we do before we set it up?”

First off, don’t wait for anything to turn on marketing automation.

You don’t want to wait one more day because the moment you turn it on, it’s going to provide you with visibility into who is engaging your web site and you’ll begin building an activity history that will later be associated to an individually named prospect (as soon as they click on one of your emails).

OK, so now you have your marketing automation turned on, what’s next?

To help you ensure that you fulfill on the promise of marketing automation and meet the expectations of your management team, the below list are must-have components of anautomated lead management and lead nurturing program powered by marketing automation.

These are not optional.  If you overlook them, you will feel the pain later!

Depending on how fast you want to accelerate your outcomes, you will want to create and execute a plan over the first 30-90 days whereby you explore and document each of these components.

This 10-point plan is grouped in three categories: Customer Buying  Process (as you’ll see, this is really the key to everything), Content and Design/Layout.

Customer Buying Process

1. Lead Stage Definitions (reviewed by Sales & Marketing) -– What defines a Marketing Qualified Lead? What defines a Sales Ready Lead? This will be vital for the underlying process that you setup in a marketing automation system. By defining and documenting this, you will remove the confusion, wasted time and even animosity that will result from a lack of clarity around a joint process.

2. Segment Definitions — How do you segment your database? By role, by industry, by topical interest?

3. Ideal Customer Profile — What information would you like to collect on leads, to help you best complete an ideal customer profile? This will inform progressive profiling questions that you will ask customers over time, in small batches, as they consume your content. The more you know about your prospect, the more relevant you can make your communications; and the more relevant your communications, the more effective they will be.

4. Customer Buying Questions — What questions do customers require to buy your product or service, by stage? This will inform how you structure nurturing, content creation requirements, call to action and tracking. You will be creating content to address these questions, and you will use these questions to help you determine the customer’s buying stage and what information will be relevant as a next step to move their buying process forward.

5. Disqualification Criteria — What would disqualify a lead as one that would never be a good prospect for you? This can often be overlooked, but if you ensure you are removing leads that would never qualify for your services up front, it will keep your process and reporting of the funnel as clean as possible – and again, save you time.  Consider what company names (or words that may appear in a company name), titles (or words that may appear in a title) or email extensions would never be a prospect for you.


Content & Data

6. Clean Contact Data –- Clean & tag your data (based on your above segment definitions) to allow yourself to best target your marketing. There may be significant data clean up required. Marketing to a “dirty” database will yield inaccurate results and cloud your ability to focus your go-to-market strategy, not to mention yield unnecessary spam-related issues. Ensure customers, partners, vendors are tagged, and based contact info is standardized and complete.

7. Content Inventory — The points above, especially customer buying questions, will inform the content requirements. You’ll want to start by creating a content inventory to tag your content by buying stage and the aforementioned customer questions. This will help you identify the content gaps which you will need to fill when setting up lead nurturing.

8. Keyword List — What is your keyword list? This will be a resource to tag your content, landing pages and microsites, and a key part of your content marketing strategy which is the sibling of your lead nurturing program.

9. Content Publishing Process — Design a continuous content publishing process. Rather than get into the details here, you can read more about how to create content like a publisher.


Design & Layout

10. Templates –-  Create templates for emails, landing pages & microsites… and then make even more specific templates for content registration (for middle stage content), webinar registration, etc.  Landing pages should be laser-focused, while microsites will be richer in content to allow prospects to go deeper into your content. For email templates,  you’ll want to consider marketing emails vs. sales emails. Creating templates up front will enable consistency and save time later.


Automated lead management and lead nurturing programs require both preparation and documentation to maximize their success. Allocating time to do this immediately after turning on marketing automation software will pay off in a big way by helping the program reach desired outcomes faster, and with greater opportunity to measure and continuously improve.

Resolving the number one unconsidered cause of low B2B sales and marketing performance, and revenue growth …
… the inability to deliver effective knowledge, conversations, and situation-specific information (content), in context, at scale
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