If you work in the marketing world and you haven’t heard about or considered marketing automation, you’re missing out. While traditional marketing avenues are still viable, interactive and digital strategies have moved in as big players. The challenge now lies in setting yourself apart in an ever-changing, expanding digital world. How do you gain the trust of your target audience when a hundred other companies are using the exact same methods to target them at the same time? The answer is through marketing automation.

Let’s break it down. Marketing automation is defined as:

“software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks.”

We define marketing automation as:

“the software designed and integrated with your strategy to help you better target your leads. Marketing automation presents you as your industry’s thought leader through multiple touch points and engagements.”

You can have the software, but the most important thing is knowing how to use it.

Your first step in marketing automation should sound familiar; define your marketing goals. Are you focused on awareness or lead generation? Marketing automation requires you to have leads in your database. You can create pieces designed to capture leads, such as form-based landing pages. But you can’t use the automation tools without a defined audience and their email addresses. So, if you are considering marketing automation, build a plan with lead generation as the primary goal and awareness as secondary.

Once you decide to move forward and add automation to your yearly strategy and budget, you need to look at your lead database. These days, people seem to be moving positions or changing companies every few years. This being the case, it’s likely your lead database is out-of-date. Your campaign is only successful if the right people are seeing and interacting with it. A clean lead database is key before importing it into your marketing automation platform.

Now that you have your goals defined and your leads imported, you can start the fun stuff. This means defining your lead scoring system. This includes how you move and qualify your leads as they begin engaging with your campaigns, landing pages and website. You will need to attribute a score to each activity a lead engages with. Leads will gather scores as they move through your programs until they reach the “magic number.” Once they arrive at this number, the lead will push through to your sales department. For example, a lead visits your website and receives 1 point, or maybe they download a brochure and receive 5 points. Your scoring system is completely up to you, but you should give careful consideration to it. Scoring is how you will qualify your leads. We recommend working on your scoring system with both your marketing and sales team. This ensures you qualify your leads on both sides of the equation.

The last piece of the puzzle is content. Marketing automation is not sending one-off sales email blasts over and over again. You should use this program to engage your leads personally and nurture them along the sales funnel. This means sending relevant, interesting content, such as case studies, video links or infographics. By sending content like this, it positions you as a thought leader. It encourages leads to consider you as a partner and ultimately reach out to you. If you don’t think that you have enough content in your library, don’t worry. You can develop all of these pieces with the help of your marketing team.

Remember, when considering marketing automation, review four things: your goals, lead database, qualification system and content. When you have these in order, go ahead, take the plunge and see where marketing automation takes you.