The adoption of marketing automation is growing like a weed in a well-watered August lawn. Yet research suggests that three out of four organizations do not use their marketing automation systems to their full potential. That’s too bad, because as they mature, marketing automation platforms are becoming the multi-tools of digital marketing, rich with services such as multichannel campaign management, marketing analytics, budget tracking and forecasting, and social media management applications.

The key to getting more from your marketing automation system lies in three things: people, processes, and tools.

Let’s start with the human part of the equation first.

People

If you are new to marketing automation or are looking to expand the use of your current system, plan on investing in training for both your marketing and sales teams as well as recruiting and hiring new employees with marketing automation expertise. Look for candidates who are comfortable working with social, mobile, and digital technologies.

One critical role to fill is that of the market development representative or MDR. Sometimes referred to as inside sales or lead development, MDRs are the concierge of marketing, ready to reach out by phone, email, or social channels. The role of an MDR is not to sell but to engage with prospects and help keep the conversation going. The right MDR team can help shore up the critical gap between marketing and sales.

Processes

If your sales and marketing teams can’t agree on what defines a qualified lead or how to follow up with promising prospects, your marketing automation initiative will be handicapped from the get-go. Make sure your sales and marketing processes are documented and working smoothly.

Align your revenue model with your marketing automation processes, mapping the path that a prospect takes from initial contact through to close. Think of this as a state diagram – no lead can be in more than one place at any one time. Document and get agreement on all the business rules for each state, including how a lead moves from, say, marketing qualified lead (MQL) status to sales accepted lead (SAL) status, who is responsible for taking action at each step, and what service level agreements govern each state. This facilitates reporting and paves the way for predictive analysis as well as process improvement.

Tools

Consider what other technologies and systems your marketing automation platform needs to integrate with for optimum results. At the top of the list is your customer relationship management (CRM) or sales force automation (SFA) solution, plus any other customer databases. You may also need to integrate your marketing automation solution with your back-end financial systems, social media management tools, and your content management system (CMS), as well as service providers such as webinar vendors. Be prepared to re-evaluate what tools you currently use and be open to changes.

The good news is that for many organizations, adopting marketing automation can reap rapid results. According to a recent study sponsored by B-to-B magazine, two-thirds of organizations that adopt marketing automation report showing a positive return on their investment in less than a year. While your results may vary, aligning your people, process, and tools will give you a good head start.

Want to learn more about how you can realize a greater return on your investment in marketing automation? View our on-demand webinar Build a Blueprint for Marketing Automation ROI now.

Image credit: matsuyuki