Marketing automation – which replaces separate technologies with a single, integrated system – sounds like a busy marketer’s dream come true. However, if you’re like most busy small business owners, you’ve probably looked at marketing automation technology and thought, “This looks awesome, but I have so much going on right now – how would I ever find time to implement a marketing automation system? And I just can’t afford to bring all my marketing activities to a full stop while we implement something that could take a long time to ramp up.”

Implementing marketing automation can be a particularly daunting task, especially for small marketing teams. Like any successful marketing strategy, having a plan can help make your transition to marketing automation run more smoothly – and can also help you take full advantage of the many tools marketing automation has to offer.

In David Raab’s “Marketing Automation: One Step at a Time” white paper, he outlines a practical way to get started without a lot of stress, pain, or downtime. The process is so simple that it can be done in six steps:

Step 1: Pick a system that’s easy to deploy, easy to measure, has high potential, and provides a gateway to change.

Step 2: Deploy the marketing automation system. Start by duplicating existing marketing programs, such as a “Hot Leads Outreach” program, a tradeshow campaign, or your customer newsletter.

Step 3: Identify improvements that can be made to the programs that you duplicated in Step 2. From this group, select a set of changes that use different features of your new marketing automation system, such as list segmentation, landing pages, or reporting.

Step 4: Measure the results of the changes you’ve made by comparing the results to the goals you set before implementing marketing automation.

Step 5: Implement the more complicated marketing automation features such as lead scoring, process improvements, behavior-driven nurture programs, and revenue analysis. While using marketing automation to improve basics like email marketing is important, getting the full value from your marketing automation system requires implementing these tools as well.

Step 6: Keep looking ahead. As you continue to integrate marketing automation tools into your marketing programs, marketing automation will become part of your marketing planning process.

Tips courtesy of Act-On Software (www.actonsoftware.com).