The benefits that come with utilizing marketing automation tools are vast. Automation software takes a lot of the guesswork out of running an effective inbound marketing campaign and frees your schedule up to focus on more strategic tasks.
Marketing automation software also helps nurture leads, puts a central focus on sales, and creates a more personalized customer experience.
To truly reap the benefits of marketing automation software and tools, you need to find a platform that complements your company's process. A few factors you should look at include price, ease of use, and product integration.
Follow these seven steps and you'll be armed with all the information you need to select the digital marketing automation software that's right for you.
1. Know Marketing Automation
Marketing automation, as defined by Technopedia, is "the use of software and web-based services to execute, manage, and automate marketing tasks and processes. It replaces manual and repetitive marketing processes with purpose-built software and applications geared toward performance."
Most automation software operates from a central platform, giving you a clear overview of your company's marketing practices and statistics. Usually encompassing everything from email marketing to social media marketing and lead nurturing to on-the-spot analytics, marketing automation helps streamline mundane marketing processes, giving you more time to focus on your brands strategy, goals, and long term vision.
It's important to have a clear and complete understanding of marketing automation before moving on to further steps.
2. Know Your Business
You need to understand your company and what it plans to gain from marketing automation before you start looking at different platforms. You need to have an estimate of the number of people who will use the tool along with the number of contacts you predict to have within the coming year. Doing this helps you factor in potential costs, since many automation platforms use different pricing levels based on your team and/or audience size.
Now you need to write down your marketing automation wants and needs. Most automation tools will provide the same basic features, but each one will come with its own strengths and weaknesses. Do you need an automation platform large enough to handle all your business's campaigns? Are real-time lead alerts important? How about post randomization—do you need that, or do you want to be able to control your social schedule?
After you've written down automation must-haves, it's time to start to recording which platforms fulfill your demands.
3. Determine Budget
After you have a thorough understanding of your business and what it plans to accomplish with marketing automation, it's time to address your budget. Most marketing automation platforms charge customers monthly, sometimes annually. Typical costs can range anywhere from $10 a month to thousands a month, depending on what you need.
Number of users and contacts, integration options, and special features are usually what separate price levels. Know your comfort level beforehand so you only look for automation tools that your business can afford.
Since the variety of automation options are nearly endless, you should have little trouble finding a provider that falls within your budget without sacrificing the automation elements your business needs.
4. Search And Read Reviews
Honest customer reviews can reveal features and downfalls not listed on the products website. Every automation tool will focus on its own strengths, but in order to uncover weaknesses or drawbacks, you need to do a little extra digging.
Look for reviews from companies that are similar to yours. Are the tools and features working for them? Is the software giving them valuable insight into their marketing efforts? Chances are if it doesn't work for your competitor, it won't work for you.
5. Build A Short List
After you have a good understanding of your software options, hone in on a couple of the platforms that stand out. Create a short list of five marketing automation tools that are within your budget, have the features you need, and allow for any needed software integrations.
Be careful during this step. The end goal is to purchase one of these platforms, so don't hastily put together a list based purely on the first page of Google. Consult your sales and marketing departments along with anyone else who will be using the automation software. Use their input and advice to help you narrow down your options.
6. Ask Questions
Throughout all these steps, and definitely before you make your final buying decision, ask lots of questions! Pretty much all marketing automation platforms have ways to contact them with any questions or concerns, and you should definitely send their support team a message if you're iffy about any of their tools.
Since these automation tools will be used by your marketing department nearly every day, it's important to find something that will work for everyone. Any and all questions and concerns should be addressed before making a final decision.
7. Make Final Decision
After six steps, you've reached the most important one. It's time to choose the marketing automation platform that will improve your inbound marketing strategy by capturing and nurturing leads, and one that quickly calculates your results.
All of the above steps should influence your final decision. You need to have learned something from your business and how automation tools can improve its strategic processes. Pick the marketing automation suite that fits all your criteria, works with your budget, and complements what your organization is trying to achieve.
Marketing automation tools save businesses valuable time and resources. Help your company's team members understand why marketing automation is important and how it can benefit your brand in a multitude of ways. Hopefully with this marketing automation buyer's guide, you know exactly to what look for in a software that can deliver you measurable ROI.