When a customer implements marketing automation, she tends to focus on specific marketing goals like — getting the first email out the door, building a lead nurture campaign for the first time, or building a lead lifecycle. But another important goal she should think about that doesn’t often get enough attention is educating the marketing team and others within the organization.
A typical customer chooses to have a day of marketing automation training as part of their on-boarding, which can be where education stops for many. Education is important for marketing automation success and an education strategy should go beyond a typical 1 or 2 day training.
What does education mean?
Education, to me, is broader than just being able to “use” the marketing automation platform you selected. Beyond being able to learn how to use your marketing automation platform, there are more subtle concepts that you and your team need to learn.
- New processes: For example, there likely was not a lead lifecycle prior to having a marketing automation platform.
- Evolve the way marketing is run: For example, because your marketing automation platform allows you to be more precise about the content you deliver and to whom, it may make sense for your team to consider delivering very focused and relevant content to prospects instead of a newsletter with bundled content.
Given that education is so broad and so critical, education of yourself and your team needs to be a priority and a constant journey rather than just a box you check.
To make sure this education happens, your team needs to be engaged in a variety of ways. A strategic, comprehensive education plan needs to consider a portfolio of activities.
Here are some critical elements that can enhance an education journey:
- Group education: This should happen as one of the earliest education elements. It’s recommended for anyone that does not know his or her marketing automation platform. This forms a great base for further learning, and provides an initial orientation with basic functionality. This can be on-demand or onsite. At Marketo, early group education is called Foundation Training.
- Consulting workshop: This element often comes after group education and allows a user to move beyond the basics of marketing automation. This session is usually a 2-day onsite meeting that is run by consultants. A workshop is ideal for getting everyone on the same page and helps to define how your team will use the marketing automation platform. A recommended output of this type of workshop is a document that shows how the marketing automation platform will be architected to match your business. At Marketo this is called a Discovery Workshop.
- Build Sessions: This element often takes place when your team has an intermediate understanding of your marketing automation platform and can articulate how they will need it structured. Assuming you have build specifications, it is great if the actual build happens together with a consultant. If core members of your team are involved in the build as much as possible, they understand what has been built and can properly execute moving forward.
- Testing: Your team should participate in user acceptance testing (UAT). This is a chance for your team to use their marketing automation platform and experience first-hand what was built. Several rounds of testing will not only surface any issues, it will reinforce exactly how everything works for you and your team.
There are a few more education elements that you have at your disposal, and they can be powerful, but they are mostly self-service so rely on personal discipline:
- Online videos: Your team can watch online videos at any time. To get a higher utilization of this great, free resource, offer a focused selection of videos and incentivize your team to watch them.
- Vendor webinars: Concrete how-to webinars from the vendor often offer important insights and tips and are free to view at any time.
- Community: Encourage your team to leverage the collective knowledge of others. Sometimes hosted by marketing automation platform brands, communities are a place where thousands of questions are asked and answered by other users.
- User groups: Depending on where you live, you may have access to an in-person meet-up to share and learn from.
- Attend vendor event: Vendors typically have yearly gatherings, like our Marketo Summit, where they gather the best of breed industry thought leaders and share best practices, the latest technology, and provide a space for networking.
An effective education strategy is often a mix of paid and free elements but the key is to find a mix of components that work for you and your team. The more components you can include and complete, the better!
If you’re looking to create an awesome education strategy and plan, consider these drivers of success:
- More components in your portfolio
- More time spent with each component
- More team members involved
A good mix of education elements and a plan can help keep you and your team on track for success. Here is an example of an education plan that encompasses some of these components at a high-level:
Consider this the plan for the core team that uses your marketing automation platform. To get started, give each role a plan with detailed information on each of the components they must complete. Consider that you may need to create additional plans for other stakeholders in your organization, like field marketing or sales.
Getting executive buy-in is critical in driving your team to follow-through on the education plan. In fact, you may have executives that need to be educated on your marketing automation platform as well.
Incentivize team members for hitting their training milestones. Certification can be a part of such an incentive combined with recognition.
And finally, keep the momentum going once you start because skills degrade if there is too much time between the elements. For example, if team members go through training and then they pause — 6 weeks later they will often not remember most of what was learned. That learning needs to be converted to muscle memory — each week — until there is critical mass and marketing automation becomes second nature.
How has your team thought about education and continuing education? What worked for you? Please share in the comments below.