Overcoming The Marketing Automation Learning Curve (Escalator not Stairs)

By DB Hurley · PUBLISHED August 12, 2015 · UPDATED March 13, 2020

So you’re thinking about implementing marketing automation into your business plan…that’s excellent! It means you are taking your marketing seriously, looking for new outlets and hoping to grow your business by sharing your product or service. With so many options it’s difficult to know where to begin, you may need some help when approaching the topic of marketing automation software.

Marketing automation is a powerful process and can produce tremendous gains for your business or organization; that is...when it’s used properly. Any strong marketing campaign requires the same basic principles: objective, strategy, optimization, and implementation. The rudiments of marketing most definitely still apply when utilizing a marketing automation platform, in fact they are even more important when we consider the number of “moving parts” involved in a well-built automation campaign. This leads us to the first step in addressing the learning curve.

1. Sharpen Your Marketing Knowledge.

Marketing is a catch-all term for the fields of study, processes of engagement, and creation of interest surrounding the message and image of your products, services, and information. It’s all about getting your message to the right ears and drawing interested customers to your brand over your competitors.

"You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere." - Lee Iacocca

Without marketing know-how it is virtually impossible to get the word out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start marketing with what you do know. You’ve created something you think people will want, but why do they want it? What problems does your product or service solve, and what makes it different or better than the others? If you can answer those questions then you are well on your way to creating killer a marketing plan.

That’s just the beginning of your marketing automation journey, the next step is to educate yourself. Find marketing materials, take classes, read books and start simple with your marketing. No one starts off as a guru - we are all learning and growing. What that means to you is that the first step in writing a marketing strategy is to immerse yourself in marketing education, get back to the basics and hone your skills before you implement marketing automation. No marketing campaign, automated or not, can succeed without a thoughtfully written educated strategy.

2. Learn The Basics -What Is Marketing Automation & How to "Do" Marketing Automation

Before you can understand how marketing automation fits into your overall marketing plans, you must first understand what marketing automation accomplishes. Familiarize yourself with the basic principles and features of automation and put that in context with what you already know about marketing.

Generally, marketing automation is a means of taking the tedious or repetitive tasks, like monitoring leads or sending emails, and automating them. While marketing automation includes many other functions such as: social media tracking, lead behavior tracking, scoring, and 1:1 real-time marketing, it is primarily a smarter, faster, and larger means of reaching specific individuals with an automated series of event triggered communication workflows. Of course, you will learn all about the details and how to make the process more effective, but for now check out marketing automation education materials to learn more.

If you choose to do marketing automation research by visiting service providers sites, don’t let persuasive sales reps push you to make a decision, lay out all of your options for your marketing solutions before you commit any of your budget. Find out what features your business requires and determine what means you will use to achieve their implementation. Whether it is you or an employee who will be focusing on marketing automation, training is the most vital element in your future success.

3. Invest in Training

Your real primary investment should be in training and the development of your general marketing skills, alongside marketing automation education. No matter how much money you spend on the capabilities of your marketing automation software, your campaign is only as good as your ability to effectively address every detail of your marketing strategy.

If you do not have the staff to invest in marketing automation training, you might have to find a different course of action. This could mean hiring specialized marketers, increasing your investment in training, or outsourcing your marketing automation to professionals. Regardless of what course you choose, learning the processes is a must.

Whatever your experience in digital marketing, development, or automation, you should make every effort to seek out education through training materials and hands-on development. Some marketing automation providers offer access to learning materials and user group meetings, but only if your pay their exorbitant service rates. Free training resources are available through a nonprofit organization. Mautic is an open source marketing automation community, whose goal is to create community support for marketers, educational resources, and training courses to support their free marketing automation software.

4. Build Your First Campaign

Once you’ve learned the basics and gone through some training, it’s time for you to put it all together and build your first campaign. This is an exciting time as you finally get to put your new skills to work. Start with the most basic of your campaign building skills; the key points of your strategy. From there you can further develop each of your campaign points in the framework of marketing automation. Just remember to start simple.

Remember, it’s your first campaign, so it may not be perfect, but it can become much better if you learn from the experience and use the data you get to make your next campaign even better. With this approach, continued learning, and a positive attitude, you are well on your way to becoming a marketing automation professional.

5. Analyze Your Campaign Results

The feedback you get from your campaigns is what drives marketing automation progress and leads to long term development and success. The most powerful brands utilize the data from every measure of a campaign’s activity and engagement. Metrics help marketers to design better sites, landing pages, keywords, email subjects, and any other measurable factor. These metrics allow brands to interpret engagement and consumer behavior in order to consistently improve every detail of their campaign's design, content, and delivery. The goal is to achieve an optimal level of engagement, by separating your market from the crowd, meeting your leads wherever they are in the customer lifecycle.

As you continue to develop your marketing automation skills, and the ability to interpret your campaign reports, you will find more ways to collect valuable data. One such strategy is that of "split campaigns” or A/B testing. By creating two slightly different campaigns and comparing the resulting analytics in defined element fields, marketers can quickly adapt their content or design to their customer’s preference. These unconscious influencers make all the difference with marketing automation, where customer behavior triggers exactly the action you need to drive your message home and to start turning leads into conversions and revenue. Developing your marketing automation skills even further makes you that much more powerful as a marketer and yields stronger growth, so what’s next?

6. Specialize & Optimize Your Marketing Automation Skills

Once you have acquired a good understand of the things we have just discussed you will find that each campaign element can be more effectively tested and designed. You may have found what you are already good at, whether it’s landing page design, content writing, customer cycle “drip flow” campaigns, or email campaigns, but what about the elements that could be better?

The key to improving individual campaign elements is in optimization. Whether it’s SEO (the ability to influence the visibility of your website or web page to a search engines parameters or "organic reach") or Content Optimization (understanding the way that keywords influence search result, as well as meta-descriptions, alt-tagging, and increased credibility), understanding optimization tactics is crucial to continued development of your campaigns.

One powerful tool that marketing automation provides is the ability to personalize your campaign content. Whether it’s a list, segment, or individual, personalization leads to conversions. Meet your customers with content that applies to them, addresses their unique needs, and caters to their particular buying process. With campaign personalization, you content reach and conversion will see their highest possible levels. So keep collecting that data, continually adapt your content to fit your target’s needs, and never stop looking for opportunities to optimize.

Whether you’re a small business owner, enterprise, nonprofit, marketer or student, learning the skills needed for marketing automation has tremendous power and value. The results you can produce with the right help and a strong strategy will make any and all effort worth your investment.

Find the resources you need to understand marketing as a whole and build a solid foundation with core principles. From that point you can approach marketing automation with context and direction.

Make sure your investment in training matches that of your expectation. Learning the principles and practices of marketing automation is a worthy and attainable goal.Don’t throw all of your money at a service provider if you can do it yourself. Use free open source software to develop your skills, it’s much easier with the right resources and a strong community to offer support.

  • Start building campaigns and practicing your marketing automation skills.
  • Send your “baby” on its way and make sure to analyze the valuable data you from your campaign
  • Specialize your marketing automation skills through optimization techniques and campaign testing
  • Keep learning!

Nothing worth having is easily attained, but don’t make it harder for yourself. Use your new skills to work smarter, automate your marketing, increase your reach and achieve measurable growth. Marketing automation isn’t a system you will perfect in a day, but it is well worth the effort. Tackle the learning curve head on by investing your time, not your budget, and see what do-it-yourself marketing automation can do for you.