With the advent of the internet and the rapid change in the media landscape, we have seen a shift in how IT buying decisions happen.
Online media options like websites, social media, influencer content, etc., have allowed buyers to research before they get in touch with your salespeople. The buyers of today are defining their own buying experience based on the stage of their buying process,
If you can deliver contextual and relevant experiences throughout the buying journey, you are more likely to convert those prospects into leads and, finally, into customers.
But you can do it for 10 prospects or even 50. How do you provide relevant experiences at scale?
This is where you need a Marketing Automation Platform
According to Pardot, “MarketingAutomation allows marketing and sales department to manage all prospect and customer interactions and create, deploy, and manage online marketing campaigns– all from one central platform.”
In simple terms, marketing automation is just like your sales team infused with unlimited resources and lots of intelligence.
As the buying behavior has evolved, so have the Marketing Automation platforms.
From the early days of personalizing direct mail, they are now offering a whole new dimension in the form of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.
As with the number of vendors, we have gone from 150 in 2011 to 4000 in 2016.
So, how do you ensure you choose the right marketing automation platform for your needs?
The right marketing automation tool not only entails a significant investment of time and resources but also impacts the productivity of the sales and the marketing team.
In this post, we'll discuss the step-by-step process you can use to build your marketing automation stack.
Assessment and analysis of what you currently do to engage your customers can be a great starting point.
You need to ask the following questions at this stage:
- What are the current marketing strategies that you employ?
- Are you using lead nurturing?
- What role does e-mail play in your marketing strategy?
- How extensive is your database?
- How are you leveraging social media?
- How do you manage and create your forms and landing pages?
- What are the key metrics that you consider?
- What other customer-facing software is used by the organization?
- How do you manage lead handoff from marketing to sales?
Smart Tip: Marketing automation is only a tool/platform that can help you solve your challenges. You should start with identifying your challenges and then move on to deciding which vendor is the best suited to solve them.
Your organization might be planning to grow inorganically, diversify its offerings, or open more customer touchpoints. In either case, the requirements from a marketing automation platform would be different.
You need to ask the following questions at this stage:
- What ratio of sales engagements currently results in a closed deal? What steps can you take towards better-qualifying leads and improving the ratio?
- If you are using a website for lead generation, how can you expand it?
- How can you incorporate cross-channel marketing into your strategy?
- What KPIs are valued by each department?
- What short-term and long-term goals do you want to achieve with marketing automation?
- Finally, who will take ownership of the success of the platform?
Once you know your current situation and future goals, it is time to evaluate the different vendor solutions. You can do that by requesting demos.
While marketing automation platforms would differentiate themselves on a lot of different parameters, here are some of the most critical ones that you need to keep in mind:
Once you have understood your requirements, you can match them with the features offered by a marketing automation platform. The use cases might range from simple email marketing and content marketing solutions to multi-channel campaign management, lead scoring, and social listening solutions.
You need to identify what all features are critical for your organization.
Even though surveys indicate increased investments by marketers in Marketing Automation Technologies, you need to be particular about the price charged by the software. It could range from $50 to $2500 a month.
There would be two types of solutions that would be available in the market. One is the point solution offering only a single functionality, while others are marketing suites.
Marketing suites are usually expensive solutions meant for enterprise companies with a database of <100,000 contacts.
Point solutions are cheaper solutions offering limited functionality. You can save a significant amount of money by buying relatively inexpensive point solutions and then integrating them with each other.
Apart from that, you might also be using some CRM and Event Management softwares that you would want to integrate with your Marketing Automation platforms.
Hence, it becomes essential to check what all integration options are being provided by a solution.
Marketing Automation Platforms have a learning curve attached to them. It takes some time to incorporate them into your day-to-day work. Hence, a significant feature that differentiates these platforms is their onboarding and learning support.
Marketing technology is evolving at a critical rate. It is essential to check their history and current policies on continuous improvements and upgrades.
Some vendors offer yearly subscriptions, while others offer plug-and-play solutions where you pay as you go, and it is easy to scale up and down concerning features.
You need to define your commitment levels with a vendor.
Smart Tip: Give a marketing automation vendor enough time to prove its worth to your organization.
Another important consideration is your ability to define user roles within each platform. While enterprise softwares have these functionalities in-built within its platform, softwares meant for SMBs usually does not focus on this.
Nowadays, every marketing automation platform provides drag-and-drop e-mail and landing page templates that marketers can use to create content. The difference lies in their quality, their relevance for your industry, and how easy it is to customize them.
Some companies like Unbounce have differentiated themselves through their landing page templates and the ease of customizability.
Finally, it is highly critical to look at the platform's reporting capabilities. Some platforms provide advanced reporting capabilities that combine data from all the channels, scores the lead, and predict the next move, whereas other platforms only provide fundamental campaign-level analysis.
Apart from the functionalities mentioned above, there are other things that you can look at, such as workflow design, lead management, segmentation, campaign management, and marketing management capabilities.
Smart Tip: Think about what your customers and prospects would consider as ‘must haves’ for you; invest in that first. Once the basics are in place, you can keep adding and growing your portfolio capability and complexity with time.