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4 Ways to Take the Confusion Out of Your Marketing Automation Platform

Communications Strategy // Here are four tips for taking the confusion out of marketing automation. Figuring out the full benefits of your platform is the key to your success.

Shayna McGroggan
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I am definitely one of those people who loves and needs to have the latest gadgets. When it comes to new smart phones, operating systems, gaming consoles, and audio gadgets, I covet them until they are mine.

However, more than once I’ve lusted after the latest tech toy, only to get home and let it die of loneliness in a drawer or on a shelf somewhere, because I couldn’t immediately figure it out on my own and gave up.

I like to think of myself as pretty tech savvy, but sometimes one just needs to bite the bullet and actually go through a little training or a tutorial to fully reap the benefits of a new gadget, technology, or upgrade. I grew up with a father that shunned owner’s manuals, and that apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so I understand this may not be what everyone wants to hear.

Research is an absolute truth if you’re shopping around for a new marketing automation platform. More than once, I have encountered organizations eager to jump onto the marketing automation bandwagon for the first time, or upgrade from basic automation features, only to see the platform be left for dead, because they didn’t know what to do with it once they had it.

It’s not that any of them couldn’t figure it out –  I refuse to believe that. I will say they didn’t figure it out. There’s a big difference there. Whether it’s the design of automated campaigns, the setup and use of web tracking, or the implementation of scoring and personas, figuring out the full mechanics and benefits of your marketing automation platform is going to be the key to your success.

Here are my four tips to make sure you get the most from your platform, instead of letting it wither away with your other trendy tech’s best intentions.

1. Learn Before You Buy

If you are still shopping around for a new marketing automation platform, one of the best ways to serve yourself and your team is to learn about that platform before you seal the deal.

A full training may not be necessary or possible, but there are a couple key things you should investigate ahead of time:

Don’t be bamboozled by a demo. Make sure if someone shows you the end results of a campaign or any special marketing automation features, that you can make connections to what you need and how you got there. If they jump right into a nicely wrapped package, and you aren’t sure what it took to get to that point, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It may require a follow-up call with someone besides the sales rep if you want to see more involved or technical aspects not allotted for the demo. But it’s usually worth the due diligence.

You should know your team better than anyone, and you should know exactly what they can and cannot handle. It’s important to make sure you understand what goes into the proper use of the platform to get the results being demonstrated to you. If the platform is too complicated for your team or will require more resources or time than they have available to them, find out before you sign a contract.

Know what kind of training and support resources come with the platform. Is there live training available? Do you have the option to attend onsite or online? Are there self-guided training options like videos and/or text tutorials? After you do your initial training, where can you go if you still have questions or still feel murky on some things? What is the cost of any training or support?

It’s not enough to just know if training is available. You need to make sure the training available is compatible with the learning style of your team. You can’t expect them to use and love what they do not understand.

2. Spread the Knowledge Around and Take Advantage of Training…Forever

Once you complete your initial training and get your platform up and running, make sure you have a plan for any changes in staff. If only one person on your team has gone through a full training and knows the platform intimately, what happens if that person leaves or changes roles? It’s a good idea to make sure the knowledge of the platform is spread around the team. Not everyone has to commit every detail to memory, especially for features they won’t regularly use. But it’s a great idea to make sure everyone learns the basics should the need arise.

Also have a plan for new staff members that join your team. Can they receive training from your platform provider, or is there a member of your staff that can train them? It’s a great idea to ask your provider if they have a train-the-trainer guide. They will know their product better than anyone else, and at the very least should be able to provide you with tips or a strategy for getting new team members up to speed.

3. Let Your Knowledge Evolve with Your Platform

Technology evolves, and so will your marketing automation platform. Software of any kind will try to remain relevant and competitive by updating or adding new features. It’s definitely a worthwhile endeavor to stay informed about platform changes.

Some platforms provide regular release updates via email or maybe a section of their website that posts their release schedule/notes. If you are in tune with this information, you won’t be surprised when things change, and you’ll also have the opportunity to get the jump on exploring any exciting, new, and beneficial features.

Even if you went through the initial training when the platform was purchased, it’s helpful to ask your vendor about any product refresher opportunities from time to time. If features in the software change, then their training classes, videos, or documents probably reflect that as well. You want to use current, not outdated, marketing automation methods.

4. To Know Your Platform Is to Love Your Platform

You don’t know what you don’t know. The best way to find out what it is you don’t know yet? Partner with a marketing automation platform that offers the kind of training and support resources that keep you informed.

Keep in mind: usually you are expected to pay the full amount for your platform, even if you are not using all of its features. The goal should be to invest in marketing automation and get the biggest possible return on that investment. Sure, you may not use every single feature right away, because some of them just aren’t part of your marketing plan. That’s fine, but make sure there aren’t features going unused because your team didn’t understand or even know they were available.

I have yet to meet a marketing team in love with a platform they fail to understand. It is frustrating if your platform was just too complicated, or platform training wasn’t a priority.

Put the effort into learning your marketing automation platform, and that is truly the first step to being successful with it!

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Shayna McGroggan

Marketing Automation Manager

Shayna is a former Marketing Automation Manager at Higher Logic. In her role, she provided automation strategy for clients, while developing campaigns and assisting with persona development. She delivered quality coaching in marketing automation strategy to a growing list of at least 7 individual organizations, acting as a subject matter expert by providing guidance on the creative design of client emails/landing pages and the integration of email, web tracking, community, and CRM data for campaigns.

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