When a task takes a complicated turn, it’s not uncommon for people to feel stuck and discouraged. And when people feel stuck, they lose sight of their goals. If this wasn’t the case, my friend’s “easy-to-assemble” IKEA dresser would be housing the clothes that are strewn all over her floor, rather than spending its second month collecting dust in an unassembled pile in the corner of her room.
Even with all of the right tools at her disposal, confusion reared its ugly head during the assembly process and she gave up, never reaping the benefits of her investment.
The point? Having the funds to purchase a new IKEA dresser doesn’t automatically mean you have the capability to assemble it correctly without wasting a ton of valuable time, even if it comes with a “handy” instruction manual. On the same note, having the budget available to invest in a marketing automation platform doesn’t always mean you have an inherent understanding of the implementation process to follow.
Launching a new marketing automation platform will inevitably come with its challenges, so it’s critical to do your research and gain a clear understanding of what roadblocks you may face during the implementation process – that is, before you sign on the dotted line and pay the price.
There is power in preparation, so prepare to ask your platform provider some tough questions and don’t settle for answers that don’t address your key concerns.Core Challenges that can Result in Failure to (Effectively) Launch
Our 2018 State of Marketing Automation: Association Benchmark Report recently revealed that 87 percent of associations consider marketing automation an important part of their current strategy. Those surveyed in the report provided the following insight on the core challenges they’ve faced with launching a marketing automation platform:
They also shed light on how certain factors tie into these challenges. While you might assume that associations aren’t investing in marketing automation platforms because they are too expensive, we learned that cost is only one of many factors that can make or break the decision to buy, with ease of use and integration capabilities driving the ultimate purchase (as detailed below).
How Database Integration Can Slow Down Implementation
In order to find a marketing automation platform that sufficiently meets your needs, you must first identify what those needs are. For a successful implementation to take place, the platform provider must work with your AMS/CRM provider to get two pieces of software talking. Sometimes this integration is simple, other times… not so much. If your data isn’t pulled over quite the way you expected, you may need a custom integration. This can be complicated, increasing the cost of implementation over time.
Remember: When shopping around for marketing automation, a provider should be doing the heavy lifting for you! This is why it’s important to ask questions like “Where’s my data going?” up front so that you understand how things, like your member data and lists, will transfer over to the new platform once you break up with your current platform. If security is a concern, you will want to have a rough understanding as to how the data is encrypted. This is especially important for healthcare companies and similar types that may be transferring sensitive patient data or have privacy concerns.
For more privacy information, check out our GDPR video.
Deconstructing Disjointed Strategy: How Will This Tool be Used?
There are lots of strategic maneuvers surrounding implementation that, when combined with poor departmental communication, create the perfect storm. To combat disjointed strategy challenges, it’s important to leave confusion behind and get everybody in your organization on the same page about your goals and strategy regarding the use of the platform in question.
This boils down to a basic awareness about how different departments are going to use the same tool.
While some platforms offer ecommerce elements ideal for commercial organizations who are selling products, an association may want the platform to promote ongoing education, accept donations, or bolster membership.
Let's say there are some rules in your automated campaign that might change the profile of a subscriber and determine if they do or do not now exist in a certain list. Is this common knowledge? Do people realize that others are being stripped out of or added to a certain list they’re using? If not, how does this impact your organization’s overall goals?
Addressing Email Performance in an Automated World
If your departments aren’t on the same page, another issue you may encounter is people sending too many emails. While sending a lot of email is not inherently bad, it can affect progress negatively if there is no logic behind it.
Based on the annual association email volume in 2017, we know most organizations are sending between one and five million emails during the calendar year. However, our report shows that those organizations that sent less than one million emails met what is considered the industry standard benchmark and saw the highest open rate of 39.3 percent.
This begs the questions: Is your organization sending emails for the sake of sending them? Is the same group getting similar content in their inbox week after week? Is there a communication gap amongst departments?
Email performance in an automated world is all about the right content going to the right people at the right time. Avoid duplicate content by implementing a shared team calendar and educating your team on the best ways to segment a list or switch an audience into different groups on the new platform. These little maneuvers go a long way.
Template and Design and Coding Concerns, Oh My!
Since email campaigns are a component of marketing automation platforms, it’s important to understand how the implementation process may impact your current design. For better or worse, will your email templates be affected? If you can’t import them, will the platform you’re considering allow access to tools that can deliver the design aspects you want?
Email template designs aren’t the only implementation concern surrounding a new automation platform, as you may also want to incorporate landing pages with web tracking. If a user fills out a form on one of your landing pages, you should have a clear understanding of how this could automatically change the pathway they’re on within a campaign. Furthermore, will templates and design be consistent across both email and landing pages?
Most tools should just let you import HTML code, though you may not be able to edit it within the platform. For an easier and more modern approach, a great consideration would be a platform that provides a responsive design editor. Responsive design is very tricky to code manually, and very easy to break, but it does provide the most mobile friendly experience. In our experience, the best approach is a drag-and-drop, almost WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) style editor that will generate the responsiveness for you. This allows you to build really nice content that is both desktop and mobile-friendly without touching HTML.
When it’s Time to Put the Pieces Together, Do it the Right Way
Keep in mind that MA is definitely the path to efficiency, but only if you are fully utilizing your MA platform, which you can’t do until implementation is complete. After all, even if my friend had assembled the base of that IKEA dresser, how efficient would it be for storage without its drawers?
If you want a smooth implementation, it’s wise to educate yourself in advance and ask the right questions up front.
Don’t be fooled – in the end, it’s all about effectively utilizing the MA resources at your disposal to try and develop a deep relationship with your members, year-round, that inspires them to stick around.