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The 5 Steps to Choosing Your Marketing Automation Platform

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In a world crowded with marketing communications, many businesses are turning to marketing automation platforms so that they can do more and reach potential customers more effectively.

Marketing automation software enhances the marketing manager, enabling them to create high-converting sales funnels and then set them to run, significantly reducing the amount of ongoing attention they need.

The aim is to increase the effectiveness of your business's marketing communications, nurturing prospects so that they become customers and building great relationships so that existing customers stick with your company.

It's not about spamming messages; marketing automation systems enable businesses to send highly targeted content to prospects. By automating these processes, marketing managers are able to spend less time doing repetitive tasks and more time in areas where they can add real value.

There is no shortage of choices - HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, ActiveCampaign - to name just a few. So how do you choose the right software? We've developed a five-step process that will help you choose the right software:

Step 1: Why Do You Need Marketing Automation Software?

As when purchasing any software, it is important that you gather and document your requirements before investigating individual solutions. Requirements gathering isn't just about what you're doing now; it's also about planning for the future.

How would you use marketing automation software in an ideal scenario now? What marketing channels would you be using? What about if your business was ten times bigger?

When you think of marketing automation, you probably immediately think emails and landing pages. Think beyond these and consider other channels - what about online chat, social and mobile? You might not be using them now, but you could be - with the right software. How would that work for your business?

Step 2: What Integrations Do You Need?

Key software that your business uses, such as your CRM, will need to be integrated with your marketing automation software. Examine all your sales channels: what software are you using?

Some of it may be replaced by your marketing automation solution, while others will need to integrate. In some cases, you may decide you need to change another piece of software to enable integration.

 

iStock-836594648.jpgCreating a list with your team on what software and features you're currently using will help you when researching what platforms will work best to service not only your company, but also your clients. 

 

Step 2: What Is Your Budget?

Unless you're blessed with unlimited resources, you'll also need a budget. You will need to pay any upfront costs to get the system running, plus ongoing costs every month (or annually). You may also need to factor in money for consultants if you need help setting the system up and migrating your data.

Many businesses decide on a platform and then start thinking money. The result? Going vastly over-budget.

Step 3: Research Your Options

Once you know what you're looking for, you can begin to look at your options. There is a wide range of options on the market, so you should start by ruling out options based on non-negotiable factors such as budget, key integrations and key channels you want to work with.

You will need to compare each option to your requirements list to arrive at a shortlist. Here are some questions that will help that process:

• How scalable is the software? Can it handle a quick growth in company size?

• What features do they have? Is there anything critical missing?

• What channels does the software work with?

• Are they full-funnel, or do they focus on just one part of the sales funnel?

• How much support do you receive from the vendor?

Scheduling a short demonstration with a sales rep can be an effective way to get the answers to your most important questions without committing to a full trial. Aim to narrow down your selection as much as possible before proceeding to the next step.

Step 4: Test Against Real-World Scenarios

Once you've got your shortlist, it's time to start testing. Nearly all marketing automation platforms provide a free trial, and by taking advantage of it, you can quickly and cheaply decide which is the right solution for you.

The key is to be strategic. It's tempting to start a trial and just start "playing," but that will provide you with very little apart from a feel of how good the user experience is.

Instead, plan for your trials before you start them. Create a test team made of users who will be using the software once it has been purchased, and then create several real-world scenarios that reflect how you want to use the system.

Next, systematically trial each system by trying to implement these scenarios. By trying the same key tasks on each system, you'll get a true comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Reach out to the vendor if you need more time to test. Many will extend your free trial at your request rather than risk losing the sale because you couldn't complete your testing.

 

iStock-473497300.jpgWorking with your team, validate, rank and rate each platform you sign-up to use or view as a demo. Does it have all of the features you need to be successful? Is the interface and backend of the software make sense? How much training will your employees need? All are important!

 

Step 5: Make Your Selection

If you've collected your requirements thoroughly and tested strategically, you should now be ready to make your selection. All other things being equal, choose the system that is easiest to use; the time you save on-boarding and training new employees in the future will be significant, and it'll be easier to get buy-in from employees if they find it easy to learn.

 

97 Degrees West is a Hubspot certified agency.

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Vera Fischer

By Vera Fischer

The visionary of 97 Degrees West for more than thirteen years, Vera has served as the CEO and President since 2004. During Vera’s tenure, the agency has achieved steady growth while surviving both economic recessions in Austin, Texas. Vera began her advertising career at GSD&M where she worked on accounts: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Houston Rockets, Dollar Rent-A-Car, Pearl Vision, SeaWorld and DoubleTree Hotels. Her next stop was the nationally recognized T3 known as “The Think Tank.” While at T3, Vera spearheaded the Dell Computers launch of the Preferred Accounts Division and lead national projects for the ESL and Enterprise Divisions. Other notable accounts included Quintiles Oncology, Austin Lyric Opera and St. David’s Hospital. In 2001, Vera left the agency world to embark on the client side as Director of Marketing for Forgent Networks, the software spin-off of VTEL video conferencing. Vera managed an annual multi-million dollar marketing budget, developed online lead generation programs, managed the inside sales team and consistently delivered high-quality MQLs to the sales team. In 2004, after a company wide re-org, Vera was laid off while on maternity leave. Within the day, she founded her agency, 97 Degrees West. Vera’s weekly podcast entitled, “System Execution”, launched in mid-2016 with notable guests like Ari Weinzweig, Jeff Smith, Gary Bizzo, Dr. Alan Pitt, and other business and thought leaders. Vera is the first woman to host a podcast devoted to systems and processes of successful companies. She is quickly becoming one of the country’s leading authorities on the topic of execution Vera is a member of the Austin University Area Rotary Club, an advisory board member for the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Texas State University and a Mentor at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas. Vera is completing her Master’s in Strategic Communications at Texas State University in May 2018.