It’s that time of year – Q1 budget planning! If evaluating marketing automation platforms is on your to-do list, here’s everything you need to know.
If you’re reading this blog post, you’ve likely heard the term “marketing automation”. 67% of marketing leaders currently use an automation platform, and 21% say they plan to in the next two years. That means you’re either evaluating marketing automation platforms right now, or you might already use one and wonder if you’re getting the best deal. After all, using marketing automation is an easy choice – finding the one that’s right for your company requires some research. Here are the top questions we get from our clients who are evaluating marketing automation platforms (MAPs).
Wait, what is marketing automation and why is it so special?
Marketing automation, just like it sounds, enables you to automate redundant marketing and marketing engagement/activities. It helps generate more leads, nurture leads and existing clients, close more deals more efficiently, and effectively measure marketing success.
There are over 200 MAPs out there. The best platforms are built around inbound marketing principles like using forms and landing pages to generate leads, email marketing journeys to nurture leads/contacts, account-based marketing (ABM) capabilities like personalization, omnichannel marketing, and strong reporting to tie revenue back to marketing.
We get it, evaluating a MAP sounds like another budget line item you have to find space for. But it’s easier to find the budget when you realize that marketing automation increases your profits. It’s not uncommon for MAP users to see a 23% increase in the ROI of their marketing activities. And according to Forrester Research, B2B marketers that implement marketing automation experience a 10% increase in their sales-pipeline contribution. With all that revenue on the line, any expense for marketing automation is easily validated!
Is marketing automation right for me?
We often work with small businesses that aren’t sure they’re “ready” for marketing automation. To which we reply – Anything that saves time and resources is great for all companies, but marketing automation is especially impactful for SMBs looking to become more efficient, close more deals, and scale growth.
How to Assess Your Need and Invest in Marketing Automation Software (via Salesforce)
Every company has unique needs when it comes to marketing, so how do you know if investing in a MAP (or upgrading) would be worth the investment? Savvy leaders begin by assessing what they need most right now. They look at their current marketing programs and ask:
- Are we doing a lot of repetitive, time-consuming tasks, such as building reports by hand?
- Do we need to hire more marketing staff?
- Are we generating enough quality leads for sales?
- Do leads sometimes fall through the cracks when they’re handed off from marketing to sales?
- Are there any gaps in team or interdepartmental communications?
- Do we spend too much time on tedious administrative tasks?
- Do we have a comprehensive method for measuring our successes?
- Could we use more data and insights about our customers, as well as the general consumer?
For companies that struggle with any of the tasks above, or with staying ahead of their competition, it’s time to invest in marketing automation.
How do I go about evaluating marketing automation platforms?
The first thing to focus on when evaluating MAPs is if it has the right features for you. Here are some key features to look for:
- Content planning tools – a calendar, social media scheduling, landing page/email builders, etc.
- Lead gen tools – a landing page builder with the ability for dynamic content is great; Form management for forms on your website and landing page; How does the platform track visitors and leads?
- Email marketing capabilities – can you send automated emails? Sales emails? Nurture emails?
- Automation (duh!) – all the ways the platform can automate tasks like lead assignment, emails, segmentation, etc.
- Data management – what is the cap on your data and is there anything in place to help you clean it regularly?
- Sales support – lead scoring, lead assignment rules, and how activities are tracked can all help your sales team close more deals; are there any supplementary products to bridge sales and marketing? (e.g. Salesforce Engage)
- Event marketing support – is it easy to collect leads at events? Nurture leads after events?
- Account-Based Marketing (ABM) tools – dynamic content, segmentation, lead grading are all great things to support ABM programs
- Omnichannel capabilities – email marketing, social media tools, and any additional capabilities or integrations for digital advertising, SMS marketing, etc.
- 3rd party apps/add-ons – often, no one MAP is going to check all your marketing boxes in one place; if any 3rd party apps are easily integrated (directly or via API) that’s a big plus to get more of your marketing tools in one
- CRM Integration – last but certainly not least, the integration capability of a MAP with your CRM is absolutely critical. If it’s built natively on the same platform, you’ll avoid a lot of headache that comes with two disparate platforms.
Asking peers about their experiences with MAPs is also a great place to start. While the cost and features are certainly an important part of evaluate, things like the UI, support options, and all the unique details will affect your overall experience with a MAP.
There are some great, unbiased resources for technology evaluation that make it easy for you to consider all those details. Some of our favorite places include G2, Technology Advice, and Capterra.
We understand there is a lot to consider when evaluating marketing automation platforms. Now that you have a better idea of how to evaluate a MAP, it’s also time to consider the next step and start planning implementation before you get started. Here are some additional helpful resources as you take the next step: