Where to Start? Choosing the Right Marketing Automation Platform
There’s no way around it: choosing a marketing automation platform is a major decision. Selecting the right marketing automation platform will affect critical parts of your sales and marketing operations for years to come, so you want to get it right. The decision requires an investment in time and money – often at the very moment in your business when you don’t have a lot of either.
What is Marketing Automation?
At its base level, marketing automation can refer to a system that replicates any marketing task in an automated manner. But more often than not, when people talk about marketing automation, they are referring to an enterprise method of identifying and nurturing qualified website leads through automated steps.
For example, imagine that 10 people fill out a website form. Thanks to the power of marketing automation, the system automatically generates 10 emails, one for each of those lucky people. Ten email addresses go in the database. Somewhere in your organization, a business development specialist’s eyes light up when she receives an alert about the 10 new leads.
The great thing about the automation aspect is that be it 10 or a 10,000, the system responds efficiently and predictably.
What Exactly Gets Automated in Marketing Automation?
In general, most platforms automate similar tasks:
- Trigger-based email sends
- Database contact capture and record updates
- Internal communication alerts
- Lead scoring / qualifying attributes
- Campaign attribution
- Blog and social media post scheduling
- Personalization of pages and emails
...and, of course, the payment you make to your platform provider is automated, too.
But here’s what is not automated:
That may seem like an underwhelmingly simple statement, but you know those assemble-it-yourself items, like a jigsaw puzzle, a model airplane, or a set of book shelves from Ikea? Have you noticed that they never show you a picture of a 1,000 individual small parts scattered across your living room floor? (Or the little plastic baggy of leftover parts.)
There are lot of parts to marketing automation.
Take the time early on to figure out all the components you’ll need to have in place to feed your new marketing automation machine. It will take time to plan and develop the:
- Personas and user journey paths
- Database migration
- A/B testing set-up and monitoring
- SEO optimization
- Automated workflow steps
- Contact record and form fields
- ...and all that shiny new content you’ll need for emails, thank-you pages, landing pages, and offers.
Yes, many platforms have outstanding resources and training available (like the Hubspot Academy) to guide you through the set-up process; however, selecting any marketing automation platform will not be “plug and play.” You’ll need to roll up your sleeves and clear a space in your schedule (if not on your living room floor) for all of those pieces.
Develop Marketing Automation Requirements
There’s probably a marketing automation platform out there that’s just right for your business, but not every platform is right for every situation. You first need to define what it is that you think you need, and why, or else fall prey to the vendors’ slick sales demos and end up with a less-than-ideal result.
Here are some questions to help you get started:
- What objectives are you trying to achieve that only marketing automation can solve?
- How will marketing automation integrate into your current sales and marketing operations?
- Do you have an existing sales CRM? Should it integrate with the marketing automation platform?
- What internal resources are available to support the ongoing administration of marketing campaigns, list hygiene, and the like?
- What’s your budget for marketing automation?
- What will your business look like in five years? Ten years? (And will the marketing automation platform change with you?)
Your answers are crucial in narrowing in on a platform that can deliver what you need within your budget.
For example, some small business just dipping a toe into the marketing automation waters may just want to automate a few emails to a list of hundreds, not thousands. Larger businesses may want to organize 20 unique, ongoing campaigns and have very specific source-to-revenue attribution reporting.
Their needs are different. The solutions are different. And the price tags are different.
What Are Your Choices for Marketing Automation Platforms?
Once you have a clearer idea of your requirements, you can dive into your vendor research. While researching specific vendors, you may encounter platform features that you hadn’t considered as you built your requirements, so test those nifty features against your objectives before adding them to your list of “must-haves”.
Having been through the marketing automation selection process several times myself, I found that having the undiluted and informed opinions of real-life users was extremely helpful in finding the right platform.
For example, you can find a nifty list of marketing automation platforms on TrustRadius. You’re going to see the usual suspects listed, like Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua, and Pardot. But you’re also going to see the next-generation contenders on there, too. More importantly, you can see side-by-side comparisons of platforms based on peer reviews. That’s right: people like you and me who have ‘lived and learned’ through the buying process.
Need Help Deciding on Marketing Automation?
If you need help determining the best way to integrate marketing automation into your business to achieve your growth goals, let Denamico help!
We are a certified Hubspot partner that helps you find the right solution to fit your requirements. We help businesses like yours make the transition into a new platform with a full inbound marketing perspective. Our services include full content planning and execution, database migration, platform set-up, and ongoing administration.