One of the biggest questions facing companies that are just starting out on their marketing automation journey is how to effectively prepare their business and teams for the changes ahead.

While all marketers have the ability to use these tools effectively over time, every project has a beginning. Planning rollout and training strategies, building systems integrations, updating websites, planning and developing content, cleaning data—these can all be critical tasks in the early days of implementation.

When you’re on this exciting new journey, there are many things to do, but there’s one thing you shouldn’t do—panic! Here are the top five vital moves for getting your business organized and prepared for the road ahead:

1. Get Alignment among Stakeholders

The changes required for marketing automation can’t be done effectively in isolation. Everyone who has a stake in both the implementation journey and in the finished process needs to understand your business goals and timelines. These people also need to be given the chance to agree and commit to a realistic plan for their participation in the process.

Don’t spring this on anyone last minute. Important teams to have in alignment with are sales management, sales operations, the CRM administrator, IT staff, and a webmaster or digital team. Depending on the size of your business, this could amount to three people—or 20! Just make sure to cover all these roles.

Put together a simple document outlining the reasons for and benefits of the change, and distribute this along with a high-level plan for the timing and activities involved in your implementation. If you aren’t sure how to do this, your implementation consultant can assist you.

2. Identify Any Skills Gaps

Work with your implementation consultant to identify the technical skills and operational requirements needed to implement your new systems and processes successfully. If you can identify key skills gaps early in the journey, it allows you the time to either train existing people in those skills, hire new people, or budget for outsourcing tasks if it’s a one-off requirement.

Consider the following skills:

  • API programming for a one-off systems integration
  • Designers who can build you a suite of mobile responsive email or landing page templates
  • Web developers to integrate new demand generation forms in your website

A strategy many teams use is to factor in external help for the implementation phase, and to train your internal team on how to use and maintain the assets and systems you’ve built longer term.

3. Spread the Load Around

There is some upfront effort required in getting marketing automation set up. Don’t put this all on one person! Share the load, and the training, among multiple staff, if possible.

Be cognizant of the fact that your teams are doing this implementation on top of their normal workload, and that decisions that need to be made are often a collaborative process involving multiple people with busy schedules.

Also, if only one person knows everything, they become a risk point for your project success. Unless they have been meticulous about documenting everything, they will have hoarded the information about your systems and processes. This may put a hole in your marketing operations process if that person, say, goes on extended leave or moves into another role.

Think about it this way—marketing automation is going to become one of your core business systems. You wouldn’t dream of operating your business without backup systems for disaster recovery. So why would you not build redundancy within your teams as well?

4. Invest in Training!

Factor into your planning the time investment involved to help your new employees effectively onboard and gain skills in this new marketing automation world, particularly if this is their first exposure to the software. This might seem like a no-brainer, but many organizations see only the line-item cost of this training, and not the long-term benefit that foundational training can give to the team.

Training has the dual benefit of not only giving your teams new and important skills, but also telling your team you are committed to their success (and to them!) Nothing gives marketers confidence like knowing that their company is willing to invest in them to gain the skills and experience required to do the job right.

5. Think Iteratively and Get Quick Wins

Ever heard the expression “they’re trying to boil the ocean”?

When you buy marketing automation platforms there’s so much excitement and promise, so much you can do, so many big dreams and plans across the organization. You need to maintain that excitement, for it’s part of any successful implementation. However, it’s imperative to phase in the project to take on smaller goals to start with, get some quick wins to demonstrate to your team and the business that you’re moving in the right direction, and then broaden your ambitions to do bigger things.

There’s nothing wrong with having a big vision; in fact, every team needs one to succeed. Unfortunately, the tendency to take on too much too fast can derail your hard-won progress and make your marketing team feel like it’s all a bit overwhelming.

Most importantly, don’t forget to take the rest of the business with you on your journey. Communicate your successes. Ensure that others see you moving towards specific targets and that you’re hitting those goals. That will help you maintain the momentum towards where you ultimately want to be.