For our recent Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation launch, I interviewed several marketing automation experts to get their input on key questions such as how to be successful with marketing automation and how to sell the technology to internal stakeholders. I had so many awesome answers from thought leaders, that I wanted to create a blog series that showcased their advice and opinions.

First up, Joseph Zuccaro Founder and President of Allinio LLC, a marketing automation professional services firm. Joe has over 25 years of experience in marketing and sales, and is a fantastic expert resource for everything marketing automation.

1) What are the most important things you have to keep in mind in order to be successful with marketing automation?

Before you even touch a platform, make sure that Marketing and Sales agree upon the processes necessary to get a raw lead down the sales funnel. Understand that it is a time consuming task to transform into a network-centric, aligned organization. Skill sets must be developed that are more left-brained than right-brained. Do not assume that the platform only is the solution – it is a tool and takes teamwork to manage. There are a lot of “moving parts” to launching a campaign, from knowing your buying personas, to the value propositions you need to communicate to them, to the content strategy you will employ, to the scoring model you will utilize, and many other factors.

2) What are some benefits of marketing automation that you would point out to someone who is considering switching from their Email Service Provider (ESP)?

I help clients understand the move from and ESP platform to an MA platform with an analogy – still photographs versus video. ESPs are like still photographs – you can get great stats from using one, but each campaign is effectively a snapshot in time. Marketing automation platforms are like videos – you can see the behavior of people in multiple campaigns over time, taking all the snapshots and connecting them together to make a “flip movie” or video out of them.

When you automate your marketing, you are able to understand short instances of behavior over time, thus getting a better understanding of how to interact with an individual and perhaps predict future behavior and actions. Obviously this allows you to better allocate a salesperson’s time when it comes to giving them the green light to engage with a customer.

3) What are the most important things to look for in a marketing automation vendor?

Ease of use and support. At this point in time, people who know how to use marketing automation platforms are scarce and hard to replace, so ease of use is paramount. As marketers come and go, how are you going to steward the processes and data you need to operate?

How reputable is a vendors“onboarding” process to get you to regularly using their platform? How extensive is their ecosystem of consultants and partners that bring more to the table to help you succeed?

And of course, how well does the platform integrates into your existing CRM? While many use Salesforce, there are other flavors out there that require forethought before you try to plug them in. Make sure you know how your data is going to flow from platform to platform.

4) What should you focus on when selling marketing automation your executive team? What are some things that might resonate with a CEO, CFO, or sales?

Any executive team should understand that this is the same as other “IT implementations.” It can fail like any other implementation they have tried in the past, so there needs to be executive buy-in, mid-level management design of processes, and proper end-user training. For CEOs, they must understand that data is now a strategic asset of their firm and the window into their pipeline needs to be more accurate. In the future, acquiring firms will be doing more due diligence regarding revenue pipelines and the ability to show such pipelines with accuracy will affect valuations. For CFOs, compliance with financial reporting, including Sarbanes-Oxley, will depend more on the integrity of the sales funnel, along with the processes that support it and the underlying data infrastructure. For Sales, it is convincing them that the quality of leads will be better in the long run and the quantity will be decreased. This will mean less time wasted by expensive salespeople “barking up the wrong tree.”

Want to read more thought leader interviews and learn more about marketing automation? Check out our brand new Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation.