A Common Sense Guide to Selecting Marketing Automation Software

Roberto Mejia
by Roberto Mejia on July 18, 2014 in Strategy
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marketing automation quesitonsDigital technology has changed many things over the past decades, not the least of which is how much data can be collected and how quickly changes can be made. It can seem like the best thing to do is to invest in the marketing automation software solution with the largest feature set and most capabilities right off the bat figuring you will eventually need it all.

What happens to most marketers instead is that they become overwhelmed with choice, with the need to learn about marketing automation software tools and with the feeling that they are in over their heads. Thus purchasing the solution with the most everything becomes an expensive white elephant taking up disk space on your server.

The key to getting the right marketing automation software is to sit down and decide exactly what you need it to do right now before going out and falling in love with the splashiest application.

First Principles

If you don’t have a marketing process already in place there will be nothing to automate. The software should support your strategy by automating tactics; without an overall process there is nothing to work with. And you need to have enough leads to make automating worthwhile. If you have only a few leads at any given time then investing in marketing automation is a waste of time and money.

Marketing automation also needs enough input to appropriately manage and guide lead generation and nurturing activities. There must be plenty of content to run it all. Software can make content creation and publication physically easier but it can’t produce it on its own.

Essential Capabilities

Marketing decisions are made these days with metrics in mind. The current campaign is analyzed for strengths and weaknesses in order to inform the next or even make changes on the fly. Determining the number of conversions, setting targets and triggers and managing marketing tasks in a multi-persona project would be impossible to do manually once a critical number of leads and a critical mass of content has been reached.

You need marketing automation software to manage the various daily tasks so you can get on with your business. It needs to integrate with:

  • Content creation and publication
  • Lead generation
  • Lead nurturing
  • Lead management

The right marketing automation software integrates these areas to provide critical reporting and conversion assistance.

Content Creation and Publication

Automation software must be able to integrate into your content management system to draw on your website, blogs and social media activity. This is where SEO lives and provides keywords for analysis and optimization.

Inbound marketing means using multiple channels for brand awareness and lead activity. Managing the metrics from all these channels would be impossible for an individual with a spreadsheet. Marketing automation is the engine of multichannel marketing management.

Lead Generation

Integration into your email marketing tools is essential for management of A/B testing and optimization for landing pages and calls to action. These landing pages and CTAs are integrated in to your CMS to gather and pass along data for automated analytical crunching.

Lead Nurturing

This can be the most difficult part of email marketing to manage without digital assistance: responding to the differing needs of each lead depending on where it is in the funnel, what step of the buying cycle it is on, and how that lead is reacting to the nurturing process.

Targeted email for lead nurturing quickly spawns multiple workflows. This is the type of manual activity that quickly bogs down with extensive losses due to leads falling through the cracks and a reversion to one-size-fits-all approach out of sheer desperation.

Lead Management

Marketing automation software integrated into lead management means more effective lead scoring and life cycle change monitoring with easy customization at higher speeds. With automation powering the process, creating segmented lists based on lead behavior and contact data is a snap.

Integration with CRM makes gathering this information and plugging it into email marketing even easier. Automated importing and exporting of lists with APIs to connect automation with other business systems or application development enhances both reporting and the understanding of customer needs for future products or services.

The Human Touch

Marketing automation needs something else that may seem counterintuitive: more people to run it. Part of your decision must include an analysis of the staffing levels needed to leverage the full effectiveness of marketing automation software.

Upon installation you will need to train the marketing staff in the various capabilities of the new system. This training will become part of the onboarding process for new marketing team members as well. Once training is complete there will still be a period of time before results will be seen as the various functions are integrated into the new system to provide the data.

As with any software application your company will also need to provide IT support with additional infrastructure, training and software version/update management. Taking on this level of financial and employment commitment can easily scare away all but the largest businesses. However, there is a better option.

An experience agency that knows its way around marketing automation software can eliminate the need for increased staffing. By outsourcing all or part of your marketing process to those already familiar with marketing automation software and its integrated applications your need for additional staffing, training and infrastructure disappears.

Without the staffing commitment, outsourcing to an agency frees up the time to plan ahead and the money to invest in other parts of the business. A good agency already has people with the skill sets to make the most of marketing automation software and to guide you in the best way to take advantage of only those capabilities you need.

Marketing automation software is a critical business requirement in today’s inbound marketing world but it can overwhelm smaller marketing teams and businesses that may not have the skills and experience to hit the ground running with numerous new capabilities. As your business expands staffing needs will increase as well. Why not let the people who already know how to leverage marketing automation to the fullest do all the busywork for you.

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Roberto Mejia

Roberto Mejia

While specializing in web development and inbound marketing, Roberto Mejia prides himself in always learning and improving as much as possible.