Finding the right tool for the job: Choosing the right Marketing Automation platform

We’ve talked a great deal previously about how difficult it is to get Marketing Automation programmes off the ground, and how it’s even harder to keep the momentum going. For many marketers, the problem is not lack of buy-in from management – the benefits of Marketing Automation are well-documented. The inability to move forward with Marketing Automation can come down to a more fundamental issue of not having the right tools to fulfil your strategy.

It’s easy to get enthused about the features of any marketing platform as many are designed with intuitive tools that can get marketers off to a roaring start. Graphic dashboards and ‘consumer style’ implementation can make it easy to get off the ground and produce simple management-pleasing reports, but time and time again, after an initial honeymoon period, users become disheartened with the results they are achieving.

The problem of choice

Why is it so difficult to get Marketing Automation to stick? It could be that your marketing team simply needs more training to unlock further features and optimise how they are using the platform. But often the issue is that the needs of the business have exceeded the capabilities of the platform. For example, it does not integrate with other systems such as your CRM or the reporting function does not offer granularity or end-to-end visibility of the marketing funnel. More often with SaaS-style marketing platforms, businesses start off using an entry-level service, then discover that the cost of upgrading to the next level of subscription, to unlock further capabilities, is prohibitively expensive.

Unfortunately, these are common pitfalls when selecting a Marketing Automation platform. According to the latest MarTech 5000 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic there are now over 7,000 marketing technology solutions on the market globally. While not all of these offer full marketing automation, it makes choosing the best option a minefield. Added to this, the marketing messaging used by many vendors can be a bit generic, so it can be difficult to understand what the platform is really offering and how easily you can access the tools you need, before you sign up.

Once you have implemented the platform, created the email templates, integrated your social platforms and set up website forms, you have invested a great deal of time, as well as money in trying to make the platform work for you. If after a few months the platform stops being useful to your marketing team, it can be hard to justify moving to another platform or spending more – and this is when the ‘digital transformation’ project starts to fail. Do dont get caught on the hook of low entry pricing.

5 things to consider when choosing your Marketing Automation platform.

So how do you find that needle-in-the-haystack perfect Marketing Automation solution? The one that will link all your marketing touchpoints together and tell you all you need to know about your customer journey? The solution that will evolve as your business grows, meeting every strategic and tactical requirement? While we can’t promise that the Marketing Automation platform that you start out using as a 6-person start up will continue to fulfil your needs when you have a team of 600, there are some things you should consider when selecting a tool that could help you save time and money and ensure the longevity of your Marketing Automation project.

  1. Align tools with business strategy

It may seem obvious, but many choose a Marketing Automation solution without really planning what they will use it for. Consider how marketing automations will fit into your marketing strategy, and how will it help you achieve your business objectives? List out the tools you typically need to use in order to fulfil your marketing plans (for example email, scheduled social posts) and consider the longer term strategy – for example you may not have a significant amount of sales or marketing collateral right now, but will you want to gate this in the future? Plan out your requirements for now and anything you might use in the future, then do your research. You can then build a comparison table of the different Marketing Automation platforms to see how they stack up against your business needs.

  1. Where are your customers?

Another factor which will be informed by your marketing plans: how can Marketing Automation help you reach your customers at key points in the buying cycle? Where do your customers research the products or services you sell? How could Marketing Automation help you engage their interest and capture leads? What is their motivation to purchase? The Marketing Automation platform needs to deliver triggers at key points in your customers’ journey that help you close a sale.

Also consider how you will gather and manage data. If you are still building a customer database, email marketing may deliver limited results at first, but you should still aim to keep these existing customers engaged with relevant content that encourages repeat business – this is something else your Marketing Automation platform should support. You also need to ensure that you store your customer data in accordance with legal requirements.

  1. What data do you need to see?

What is useful in one business or industry (such as social followers or email list growth) may not be relevant in yours. This is another area where careful consideration must be taken to ensure your chosen marketing platform delivers the goods. Research the relevant metrics for your industry and gather requirements from key stakeholders before your investigating how these are tracked by different Marketing Automation software. It’s an unfortunate truth that not all Marketing Automation solutions offer straightforward reports, so your platform may need some specialist configuration to ensure you can extract the data you need to deliver relevant insights.

  1. How quickly will you grow?

Many marketing teams initially pick the most affordable Marketing Automation solution but could this be a false economy? While you may initially only need one user account (or one shared user account), as you grow this can have an impact on usability, security and accountability. Additionally, solutions which offer a free or inexpensive basic subscription can be great when you only need to use this limited functionality, but you should also consider what the next level of subscription offers and whether this will fit your needs in the future: picking a solution which allows you to expand your Marketing Automation activities could make it easier to grow your team’s skills over time, without needing to change platform.

  1. Does it integrate?

Incredibly, this apparently basic consideration is all too often missed if certain departments don’t communicate. Effective communication between Marketing and Sales is of course essential in any business, especially B2B where the core purpose of marketing is to drive leads into the sales funnel. While today’s SaaS Marketing Automation platforms tend to be designed with built-in easy integration with other marketing tools and platforms (such as ERP), you’d be amazed at how often we’ve seen businesses choose a marketing platform that doesn’t properly integrate with their existing CRM!

 

Therefore, when considering which Marketing Automation tools you need, you should also investigate whether other parts of the business could benefit from a fully integrated approach. As well as Sales, Finance and IT, your Customer Support Team may have suggestions for different departmental tools that could integrate with Marketing Automation. For example, Customer Support may benefit from automating certain aspects of their job with marketing collateral- an obvious example would be renewal cycles. And finally, don’t forget that information security could be impacted by the use of Marketing Automation, and you will need to implement data protection processes.

 

For more advice on selecting a Marketing Automation platform, get in touch with the Cremarc team today.

 

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