One of the most effective ways to scale a world-class demand gen program is through marketing automation. Today, as more and more brands are investing in online strategies to grow their business, there is a growing need to automate marketing programs at scale.
While marketing automation platforms are great, they are simply tools that help brands to do specific tasks such as lead scoring, running nurturing and win-back email campaigns, and measuring the efficacy of marketing spend through end-to-end channel attribution. . These platforms help to automate multiple marketing tasks, but the roles of digital marketers cannot be erased.
It is clear that generating demand for any product or service is no easy task; choosing the right marketing automation platform that perfectly solves your marketing issues can be more difficult. This is true because of the numerous organizations rolling our multiple marketing automation platforms by the day. So, you must choose what works best for your business right from the onset.
Before we discuss the tips to look out for when choosing a marketing automation platform, it is crucial first to review standard marketing automation features. It is not uncommon to have these features in diverse forms on different platforms, for instance, access to send mail to a certain number of leads on a free trial. Still, the general features are important.
Let’s check them out:
Popular features of marketing automation platforms
1. Social media
An ideal automation platform should give its user access to a dashboard that shows organic social media campaigns across major platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You should be able to gather feedback and target specific hashtags. This is important because it’s hard to measure social media KPIs against hard business metrics such as revenue and lead gen.
A basic SMS automation system is another common feature an ideal automation platform should have. The system will be used to send text reminders to customers and other promotional text-series.
Regardless of how you structure your marketing campaign, you would need an email sender system on the marketing platform to help you respond to triggers and send emails according to how your leads are behaving within your funnel. .
4. Digital Ads
An ideal marketing automation platform will also help you run digital ads with ease. You should be able to track and display ads as well as to measure click-thru rate and performance. The platform must facilitate ROI measurement.
Often time, you will also get to easily make transactions between your brand and your affiliates through your marketing automation software. This way, you can speed up the vetting process and pay for the affiliate’s revenue contribution..
Other features you should find include e-commerce, blogging, contests, event, direct mail, SEO, drag & drop, landing pages/forms, lead scoring/tracking, website/ app tracking, segmentation, A/B testing, and so much more.
Having a clear idea of what features to expect, how then do you choose the exact software that suits your purpose?
8 tips for choosing the right marketing automation software
Without a doubt, pricing is often a deal-breaker for most businesses; the case does not change with automation platforms too. You should know that pricing is not always transparent in this setting, so you should be careful before agreeing to use any software of this nature.
Most marketing automation software includes a setup fee, however that fee can consist of things like on-site team training to ensure the maximum and best use of the platform. This eventually leads to a faster Return on Investment (ROI).
It is also possible that there are different levels of features available for various tiers, and then a monthly usage cost is charged. So, to be sure what you are dealing with, be sure to ask for a price breakdown from your sales rep. . Do this for each marketing automation platform you come across and intend to use.
If you are interested in your business or organization’s growth, then you should also find out the scalability of any software you will use. Most marketing automation platforms, or modern software, run on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. That means that you have to pay each month to have access to the tools and your data on the platform. Oftentimes, it is also browser-based, so there is no need for downloading any external software.
For software like this, you will want to find out about its scalability to aid in adding and removing members of your workforce who will have access to the platform. So, the robustness of the platform should be known before hoping in. Some robust platforms or software may not run the browser-based model, be sure to understand the implications on your business when scaling up or down.
3. Feature set
Marketing automation software generally falls into three types or categories. They are either channel-specific, middle/bottom-funnel, or full funnel.
The channel-specific, as you must have guessed, is focused on one type of activity. It could be social media ads management or email creation and sending. The way it works is that you have to integrate them with other solutions to aid your marketing efforts. The channel-specific platforms are cheap when compared to different categories.
The middle/bottom-funnel are platforms that are poor at creating initial demand and growth. However, they are great for capturing leads and messaging them. The full-funnel are fully-fledged platforms; they incorporate SEO and organic customer acquisition rather than a hard sell. They can be costly.
Now, the question is, which is suitable? Choosing a category of software or platform will depend on your present company size and most important features. If you are a medium-sized organization, and you use a particular medium predominantly to target your audience, then it is wise to find a marketing automation platform that falls under the channel-specific category. However, ensure it is one that is quite easy to migrate or export your data when you want to in the future because that will happen as you grow.
This is an essential part of any marketing platform. Evidence of a reliable platform is customization to particular needs and preferences. If you would like to work in a specific manner or expect that your data is rendered in a specific style, it is good to find out the level of customization you have access to before committing to a platform. Customization is essential, be sure of that before purchasing.
5. Ease of use
Ease of use comes hand in hand with customization. While determining the ease of use of any platform could be challenging from upfront, you should be aware of the requirements for learning to use the platform effectively. You should also find out beforehand how to train your team and be sure it will be easily incorporated into the working process of your organization.
6. API Access
These days, many organizations use different software incorporated together with ease. What makes that possible is API access that enables their developer to create the “magic.” Now, it is rare to find marketing automation software these days without API access, but it is still safe to ask or find out upfront. That way, you are not caught off-guard and have to migrate your data after spending resources in procuring the platform.
7. Data security
This is where many SaaS companies don’t exactly spill the truth. As integration with multiple platforms become possible and popular, data security must be given intense attention. When you check the pricing pages of many SaaS companies, you will find out that their highest security channel is found in the most expensive plan. You will not be told that other plans won’t give maximum security for your data, but that is more or less the case.
While the level of security on those lesser plans might be enough depending on the kind of data you intend to save, it might not meet some corporate standards. So, here is the deal, if you run with specific corporate standard, ensure the platform meets or surpass that standard. Anything less is never in your interest, and you shouldn’t go ahead with that platform. Ask questions when in doubt.
8. Customer support
The importance of customer support cannot be overemphasized. In comparison, most top marketing automation providers have a readily-available customer support team, the level of complexity of the platform, and its importance to your organization matter a lot. If it is such a sophisticated software or your team is new in using marketing automation platforms, then you should pick the one with the broadest hours, has direct phone support and quick email responses.
One principal deal breaker for many businesses is choosing a marketing automation platform that does not precisely solve their most urgent marketing issue. While there are numerous platforms around nowadays, not all of them can serve your purpose.
First,highlight the things you need in such a platform before searching. And when searching, ensure you go for the one that most suits your purpose. Marketing automation platforms have made the work of digital marketers easy, but choosing the right one remains a significant factor for success.