What you’ll learn about choosing the best marketing automation platform:
- Marketing automation platforms help to streamline marketing operations and increase their return on investment
- As you choose the marketing automation platforms that make sense for your team, there are four steps you should take:
- Understand the basics of the software available to you
- Know the benefits of marketing automation—and make sure they align with what you need
- Make a list of selection criteria
- Identify the right technology for your team
As marketers, one of the things we learn early on in our careers is that we have to stay on top of the rapid and constant changes in our industry. Whether it’s a new social media channel, evolving customer expectations, or new technology capabilities changing the game in terms of how we engage with our audiences, there’s always something new to learn.
Staying ahead of these changes—and addressing them proactively—takes time, money, and resources. The problem? Marketing teams are often burdened with tactical tasks that are both cumbersome and inefficient. This is where a marketing automation platform can play a role. With the right tool, you can help your team remain competitive; even in the midst of rapid changes and disruptors transforming what your sector looks like.
However, not all marketing automation software is built the same. As you know, depending on their market and customer type, marketers have different priorities that they address with carefully crafted strategies and plans. So, as you debate which marketing automation tool is best for your team—whether it’s Hubspot, or Marketo, or Pardot—take these four steps.
1. Understand the Basics of Marketing Automation Software
Before you get started with your search, make sure you’re caught up on how the industry defines these technologies. Marketing automation platforms are tools that help streamline your marketing activities and deliver targeted messages to your customers and prospects. Messages are sent based on a prospect’s behaviors and preferences, and are meant to encourage them to continue down the path to purchase.
For instance, some marketing automation tools will track user actions on your website, app, emails, and webinars to determine the best way to communicate with them next. This information can also inform how you deliver custom experiences such as personalized landing pages, ads that reflect recent browsing history, or emails that introduce products aligned with the prospect’s interests.
Marketing teams can also set up custom workflows in their marketing automation platform. This allows them to automate tactical, time-consuming tasks and instead focus on more strategic and creative work.
2. Research the benefits of marketing automation software
Beyond making your team more efficient, marketing automation platforms offer a number of benefits. Perhaps the most important is that they make it easier to craft targeted and customized marketing campaigns. Today, 80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product from a brand that creates personalized experiences. As a marketer, you need to be able to anticipate what someone wants to buy, and when. It sounds like an impossible task, but it isn’t.
For instance, if someone has just bought a raincoat from your brand, they shouldn’t be sent more emails or social ads promoting that product. It’s rare for someone to buy more than one raincoat, right? Instead, you’d want to deliver ads for rain-proof sneakers or a thermal layer. This is a workflow that can be built into your marketing automation platform, keeping your existing customer engaged and more likely to make another purchase.
This concept also applies to a B2B setting. If an IT leader has purchased one of your products, you should be thinking about how you can continue to engage them and sell through complementary products and services that will help them succeed. A timely email with a product demo can do the trick here. On the other hand, if they’ve explored your site and offered up their email address, but haven’t made a conversion, sharing an impactful case study could nudge them closer to a conversion. Again, this is where a well-equipped marketing automation platform can shine.
It’s easy to see where the return on investment comes in terms of efficiency and customization. Other benefits include:
- Marketing and sales alignment
- Added support for your marketing ops team
- Better conversion rates
- Improved reporting and visibility
- Access to lead scoring capabilities
- Streamlined data management and sharing
- Scalable processes
- Impactful lead nurturing
3. Build a list of selection criteria based on your needs
When it comes time to start evaluating your options, you’ll need to outline a list of criteria you have for the automation platform. This will help you weed out the tools that aren’t right for you and your team. Remember, choosing and adopting a new automation platform is an expensive and timely process—it’s worth taking the time to find the one that will best meet your needs and help you reach your goals. Below, we’ve outlined some of the considerations you should keep top of mind.
- Features: What are the things you need your automation platform to do? Will it be responsible for lead nurturing? Email automation? Analytics and reporting? Or all of the above?
- Price: How much money do you have available in your budget for a marketing automation platform? Remember, a lot of these tools are priced out by the number of users or the size of your audience. If a price tag looks too big, make sure to reach out to a sales rep first to get a clearer idea of how they cost out their offering.
- Scalability: If you’re looking for a marketing automation solution that will set your marketing team up for success, it’s likely that you have a clear roadmap for where you want to go as a business. Is the tool you’re evaluating able to grow with your business as you move forward?
- Ease of use: Is the user interface simple to navigate? Would it be easy to teach your team how to use it? Make sure to request a demo so that you can test out how the tool works in practice. If your tool is too complex and hard to adopt, it will take a bigger upfront investment to launch.
- Customizability: While it will be useful for the platform you choose to have templates and sample workflows for you to adopt quickly, you may have complex processes that are custom to the way you do things. Does the tool you’re looking at allow for these processes to be set up easily?
- Integrations: Does the platform integrate with your CRM platform or project management solution? Find a tool that talks to your existing systems. What you don’t want is a new technology that operates in a silo and adds more work to your team.
- Customer support and learning resources: Does your platform vendor have robust materials to help your team learn how to use their tools? Will they be there for you after you’ve signed the dotted line? A good way to look into this is to check out the number and types of channels they have on offer for customers. If you can only access customer support via a chat bot—instead of by email or on the phone—your issues might not be solved as quickly as they should be.
These are all elements that will be key to landing on the right platform for you. As you build this list, choose which elements are must haves and which are nice-to-haves. When all is said and done, you’ll want to land on a platform that meets as many of these criteria as possible—but you should go into the conversation knowing where you’re comfortable compromising.
4. Find the Right Marketing Automation Platform for You
Now, you’re ready to go exploring and pick the right platform for your team. Some of our favorites include Hubspot, an all-in-one SaaS marketing automation tool that includes email marketing, landing page creation, and a built-in customer relationship management system. We’re also fans of Pardot by Salesforce, which is ideal for B2B businesses looking to generate and engage high-quality leads, and Marketo, a B2B email marketing platform that helps sales teams get clear visibility into the status of each lead.
If you’d like more insight into what tool might be best for your team, get in touch. We’re true marketing automation geeks here at Umami Marketing, and we’d love to chat with you about it.
Photo by: Domenico Loia