What Role Should IT Play in a Marketing Automation Implementation?

This was a question asked recently on a marketing automation forum. I think it deserves a good answer because many executives think that IT is the first place to go for an initiative like this. Certainly IT should be involved. But it will take a lot more than that for a successful roll-out.

I think the IT department can be of assistance in helping to integrate various tools because although many marketing automation vendors claim to be a one stop shop, I’ve observed that this is mostly not the case. There are CRM vendors like Salesforce.com and Sugar CRM that have capabilities not present in many marketing automation products and vice versa. Often however, they can be linked using APIs and other code.

IT departments also are going to be integral to the integration with internal systems such as accounting, payroll or commission systems, and ERP systems since they will likely understand them better than outside vendors.

Good IT departments may also facilitate methods of making the systems available in formats that are easier and more accessible for non-technical sales, executive, and marketing personnel especially if they are trained in good user interfaces.

That said, I’d suggest beginning with an audit of your existing marketing practices. Much of this won’t necessarily involve your IT department, but rather your marketing and sales departments (hopefully with the support of your C-Level). Here are some suggestions and ideas of where to start.

Gather and compile a list of all your existing physical and digital marketing collateral and knowledge assets. A brief look at your website indicates to me that your company seems exceptionally capable of delivering valuable content at different levels all throughout the customer cycle from awareness to deep engagement.

Work with your sales & marketing departments and possibly with a few trusted customers to build customer profiles. Answer the questions about who your various customers are and what they care about as they become involved with your products and company. Also, think about how they like to be contacted (email, direct mail, phone, fax, etc.).

Identify the various steps they go through as they learn about and engage with your company and then consider what types of content will matter to them at each stage in that process. Match it up with your existing content and decide how you can re-purpose it and deliver it in useful new ways and at appropriate times.

Build a flow chart that delivers the right messages at the right times to your prospects and potential clients. Consider using more than just email to deliver the content. I’ve always preferred multimedia (email, phone, fax, direct mail, etc) methods to deliver content so that the prospects aren’t being bombarded with one type of media. You touch them in various ways; pique their interest and keep your company name in front of them using all their senses.

I've been intrigued by the use of automation in marketing since 1996. I started this blog to write, discuss, and review programs, applications, and ideas with others. If you'd like to contribute articles, ideas, interviews, reviews, or a how-to about a product or program, please contact me. I can be reached at (951) 313-7200.

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