Marketing Automation: Somebody Help Me!

By Christy Hill — Tuesday, December 15th, 2015 at 11:00am
Marketing Automation: Somebody Help Me!

Marketing automation has revolutionized the sales and marketing world over the past few decades. You may not realize it, but it’s likely that your business uses some form of marketing automation, and if not, you may be wasting valuable time and resources by manually duplicating marketing efforts! Marketing automation can be a frustratingly ambiguous term as it is very broad in scope. Almost any marketing task can be automated to an extent. Generally speaking though, marketing automation encompasses a variety of tasks, from regularly scheduled email blasts to lead nurturing drip programs. It also employs a range of tools such as landing page builders, form handlers, and ROI reporting functions.

Another reason marketing automation can be a confusing term is that the ways in which it is used might differ wildly from business to business. For example, a business that sells swimming pools directly to consumers will have a completely different marketing strategy than a B2B technology company. Even seemingly minor details, such as the timing of a scheduled email, would vary depending on the business type. The pool company would do best to send out promotional emails on Friday afternoons so leisure-seekers will have all weekend to daydream about how nice it would be to have a pool in their backyard, especially now that they’re on sale. Send a B2B-oriented email on a Friday afternoon and you’ll be lucky if its recipient even gets to it before Monday afternoon, considering it’s had all weekend to become buried in a pile of more urgent work emails.

Further adding to the ambiguity surrounding the field of marketing automation is that different tools offer completely different functionality sets. Some tools focus on the middle and bottom areas of the sales funnel, which includes converting leads and prospects into sales. Other tools might concentrate on the top of the sales funnel, which involves driving traffic to your site and acquiring leads (such as Hannon Hill’s own marketing tool, Spectate).

So, how will you know which marketing automation tools are right for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating different solutions:

  • What are we trying to accomplish? As mentioned above, there are tools that specialize in driving traffic to your website and generating leads, and tools that focus solely on converting leads to sales. A small college may want to focus on driving traffic to its site, whereas a company selling software may want to focus on lead conversion. Ask yourself what your organization needs most at this point in time, then what type of functionality might it need to execute future endeavors? Identifying these criteria will help you realize which pieces of functionality are most valuable to your organization, then guide you to select the tool that fits your needs.  Be aware that some tools have flashy features that look great in demos, but are actually irrelevant and ill suited to meet your needs.

  • What’s the size of my company? If you’re a smaller company, you might value cost-effectiveness and simplicity over a complex, robust tool. Take into account what functionality your company will realistically be able to use. Do you actually need some of those fancy features? Remember, that while a marketing automation tool can save you time, it will also take time to manage. Decide exactly what you need the tool to do, and don’t pay more for bells and whistles you’ll never use.

  • How will it integrate? If the tool has an API, that’s a good sign and bodes well for a seamless integration. However, you must realize if a piece of functionality isn’t offered natively, it will take time for your developers to create that integration. So, be aware when a sales rep pitches the “That can be customized!” angle, you’re likely going to face an opportunity cost to implement that customization down the road.

  • What are our main concerns? Don’t be afraid to put vendors on the spot by asking questions and bringing up perceived issues or concerns. If you’ve seen something in another company’s demo that their product doesn’t seem to offer, ask them about it. Don’t automatically assume a tool can do something seemingly basic — it could very well lack a key functionality, and you need to be certain of this before making a buying decision.

What are some other important points to consider when selecting a marketing automation tool?

 

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