Marketing automation providers continue to grow as companies in the B2B and B2C space compete for the limited prospects available today. Go to any Sales 2.0 trade show or marketing conference and you are likely to see major players such as Eloqua, Marketo, Silverpop, Pardot and LeadLife in exhibitor or sponsor roles. They each tout how their tools will increase sales effectiveness and generate more top-of-the-funnel leads that ultimately become the highly qualified leads you need.

The reality is that these tools providers each build robust, sophisticated products that will function properly (assuming certain other conditions are met). In our work with clients to implement new marketing automation solutions, we have seen several key failure points that keep these programs from functioning at their peak. For those thinking of getting started with marketing automation, it’s worth taking note of these “lessons learned.”

  • Content is king. Just as cash is king to a CFO, high-quality, value-add content is king to content-marketing and lead-nurturing programs. Having a well-thought-out messaging calendar is important, but having the right content for buyers based on their roles and where they are in the buying process is a must-have. Many buyers are making decisions based on the educational quality of the content they receive and on resources available on vendors’ websites
  • Website optimization. Getting prospects to visit your site and then losing them because your site is confusing or hard to navigate is a marketing mortal sin. Through the use of quality landing pages and calls to action you can not only engage with prospective buyers but also find ways to stay engaged with them as they go though the buying cycle.
  • Scoring system. All leads are not created equal. Score your prospects’ behavior by establishing a scoring model that’s simple and built to help you understand where a buyer is in the buying cycle. It does not make sense to have a salesperson engage with a prospect who is just kicking tires. Scoring leads properly will allow you to know when a prospect truly has a problem and is seeking a solution.

Marketing automation is not a miracle cure, but with the right tools, sound processes and compelling content you can move to the front of the sales pack.

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Dan Hudson is the co-founder and president of 3forward and has a B2B sales and sales leadership background of more than 30 years. He can be reached at dan.hudson@3forward.com.